Good collaborations bring out the best qualities in the parties involved: peanut butter and jelly, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, hip-hop and Alexander Hamilton. When compatible partners merge, it's hard to imagine one without the other. I wish I could say the same about the $8,999 Dacor DYRP36D, an appliance that combines a high-end oven with an Android tablet for an unsuccessful union of connectivity and cooking.
The Dacor DYRP36D, part of the appliance manufacturer's Discovery iQ line, is an ambitious dual-fuel range. Its built-in tablet is fully functional, so you can download and access apps right on the range. The tablet also acts as the control panel for the oven, which includes a host of cooking modes and guided programs to help you perfect recipes. The range itself delivers much of what we've come to expect from the Dacor brand: sturdy construction and consistent cooking results. And an accompanying smartphone app makes it easy to preheat the oven and set timers over a wireless network.
But unlike the successful pairings I mentioned earlier, Dacor's creation isn't greater than the sum of its parts. The tablet brings the DYRP36D down. It uses a locked-in, outdated version of the Android operating system. The tablet also failed to send notifications to my phone as the user manual promised. Voice recognition on the oven's phone app couldn't pick up the most basic commands. And unless you just want to pull up a chair and camp out in front of your oven, using the tablet while you're standing makes for a sore neck. Those are a lot of pain points for an appliance that costs nearly $9,000.
I appreciate Dacor's aggressive move into the smart kitchen with its Discovery iQ ovens. But just because a company can put a tablet on an oven doesn't mean it should. Dacor needs to give the DYRP36D and the rest of the Discovery iQ line a makeover that gives as much attention to the appliance's tech as it does to its cooking prowess. In the meantime, you're better off buying a range without the smarts and using your own tablet until Dacor creates a smart oven that adds value to the kitchen.
Tablet gives you a handle on the oven
Let's give kudos where it's due: Dacor started incorporating Android tablets into its Discovery IQ ovens back in 2013, which makes the appliance manufacturer one of the forefathers of smart, large kitchen appliances. The inclusion of a tablet in an oven is an inevitable by-product of the smart-kitchen evolution. We're seeing more connected small appliances that use apps to guide you through recipes. Manufacturers are including hardware like cameras in their appliances to gather more information about the food you cook, along with adding Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) to make it easier for your appliance to talk to your smartphone or tablet. It makes sense that companies like Dacor would skip the middle man of your own devices and just include a connected device on an appliance.
The boldness of being a trendsetter is apparent in the Dacor DYRP36D's design and features. Like other ranges from the high-end manufacturer, this 36-inch-wide model is an all-stainless-steel beast. There are six gas burners on the cooktop that are covered with formidable cast-iron continuous grates. The 5.2-cubic-foot electric oven is average in size, but the slick soft-close door is a smart feature that makes peeking in on your food a gentle affair.
The centerpiece of the Dacor is the 7-inch tablet, which primarily serves as the control panel for the appliance's oven. The tablet runs on Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich), a discontinued operating system. Dacor says the range's hardware doesn't support updating the operating system, a limitation that is evident when you attempt to download apps that are no longer compatible with that version of Android. This includes Pinterest, which would've been a great app to use with the oven.
The oven controls run off of Dacor's iQ Cooking app, which is preinstalled on the tablet. The interactive touchscreen is easy to figure out, no small feat considering that the oven has a dozen cooking modes, a connected temperature probe and guided instructions for basic recipes. The interface explains the oven's cooking modes with helpful illustrations and brief explanations or instructions so you know exactly what heating elements are in play. You can also save settings that you use often, so you only have to hit two buttons if you often bake cookies on convection bake mode at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for example.
Unfortunately, some of those cooking-mode explanations on the tablet are in opposition to the range's use and care manual. For example, the description for the Pure Convection cooking mode recommends lowering the temperature of a recipe when you use that setting, but the manual advises that you first reduce the cook time when you use this cook mode. These discrepancies might not faze folks who disregard any kind of instructions, but it's enough to irk cooks who just want to get it right.
Dacor's oven controls also include Guided Cooking, a feature designed to walk you through cooking a dish. You select from a menu of dishes (such as a roasted chicken or rack of lamb), pick your desired internal temperature, enter the weight of your dish, then hit start. From there, the oven sets the temperature and cook time based on the information you entered. Note that the Dacor settings might differ from how you'd prefer to cook a recipe.
For example, I used Guided Cooking to roast a 5.5-pound chicken. During my roast chicken tests, I cook the chicken at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches an FDA-approved internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. But in Guided Cooking, the oven cooked the chicken at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and a half. The Guided Cooking chicken ended up being slightly drier than the bird I cooked during my roasting test, but it still made for an enjoyable meal. Guided Cooking is a great addition for newbies who want to eliminate as much guesswork as possible from a recipe. However, more seasoned cooks might not agree with exactly how the oven chooses to prepare your meal.
More technology, more problems
The Dacor's tablet interface is intuitive and works well when you're using it to operate the oven and manage its bounty of features. But as a plain old tablet, there wasn't much to cheer about. With the exception of the iQ Cooking app, the tablet feels like an afterthought on the oven.