Easy Ways to Get a Smarter Kitchen
Consider these high-tech upgrades to make your kitchen smarter and more user-friendly.
Today's tech-driven kitchens do more than make cooking easier; they've become state-of-the-art hubs for the home. And it's not the stylish cabinetry, flooring, countertops, or paint colors that are responsible for the transformation. The products that claim most of the credit are those connected to electricity or run by batteries that can claim most of the credit. As you plan your renovation or brand-new kitchen, pay attention to these top smart features.
For innovative features that offer assistance even when the power is out, look for faucets, lighting, and small appliances that operate on batteries to free you from the tyranny of outlets and the unsightliness of cords—a current focus of kitchen designers. Consider choosing new Duracell Optimum alkaline batteries for long-lasting power. Make sure you store any batteries in a dry place at room temperature without the contacts touching.
Touch-activated faucets release their water flow when you touch the spout or handle with your wrist or forearm. (Bye-bye fingerprints!) Some taps include an LED light that changes color to let you know the water's temperature or indicate when a battery needs to be replaced. One clever model, the American Standard Beale MeasureFill faucet, delivers a set volume of water (from 1/2 cup to 5 cups) on demand just by turning and tapping the selection dial.
Wireless task lights illuminate work zones without relying on unattractive power cords. Some systems are easy to install with a self-adhesive base or screws, making them perfect for mounting under kitchen cabinets. Keep an eye for those that turn off automatically after 30 minutes, which helps extend battery life. Battery-powered pendant lights and wall sconces let you put the light where you need it without worrying about hiring an electrician.
Battery-operated kitchen utensils simplify repetitive tasks. Look for automated versions of tools like whisks, salt and pepper grinders, handheld milk frothers (for making cappuccinos), egg beaters, blenders, food choppers, digital food scales, and kitchen timers. Not being tied to an electrical outlet and cord frees you—or your sous chef—to handle select food prep chores anywhere you like.
Refrigerators have come a long way from simply keeping food cold to serving as personalized digital tools for the household. Built-in TV screens are old news (although they are getting bigger). Today's up-to-date refrigerators incorporate streaming services, virtual voice assistants, and Wi-Fi connections to look up recipes, display photos, or timer functions. Detachable screens make recipes portable while cooking. Grocery shopping is easier when you can check your fridge's contents remotely via a mobile app.
Fridge interiors have changed too. Models now feature independent temperature controls for various compartments to allow maximum customization—which lends itself to keeping food fresher for longer. Door-in-door compartments provide quick access to condiments, while hot-water dispensers make quick work brewing tea or making hot cocoa.
Faucets and Dishwashers
Kitchen faucets—those hard-working products we touch every day—utilize improved technology to safeguard our health. Faucets with integrated filtration systems keep fresh filtered water on tap. Motion-activated faucets boost hygiene while conserving water by keeping dirty hands away from often-used surfaces. Even the soap pump has upped its game; one model—the SimpleHuman soap pump—automatically squirts out liquid soap when a hand draws near.
Dishwashers continue to get quieter while featuring customizable designs such as adjustable racks and third-level racks. Soil sensors automatically adjust water use and cycle length based on what's being washed, and half-load settings reduce water waste. Some smart dishwasher models even self-diagnose service problems and use Wi-Fi to schedule repairs.
Ranges, Ovens, and Cooktops
When it comes to ranges, ovens, and cooktops, manufacturers are focusing on speeding up cooking times without affecting quality or energy drain. Many of these appliances now use Wi-Fi connections to offer cooking tips, store recipes, and automatically preheat and set timers for suggested dishes. Some models feature coordinating smartphone or tablet apps for remotely checking the temperature or timer.
Microwave ovens often employ internal sensors to adjust cook times automatically. A smart over-the-range microwave from Whirlpool even has a popcorn setting that uses a sound sensor to measure time between pops. (No more worrying about burnt kernels!)
The latest induction cooktops use sensors to recognize the size, shape, and position of cookware on its surface and transfer programmed settings to the next location. Some even use Wi-Fi to sync with the hood or downdraft system and automatically adjust the fan speed.
Frustrated by a lack of outlets in your kitchen? Integrate kitchen lighting with your mobile device. The Legrand Adorne Under-Cabinet Lighting System can be customized with modular LED puck or linear lights. The system offers power outlets, USB ports, a Bluetooth music system, and mobile charging cradles. A low-profile track plugs into an existing outlet or can be installed with in-wall wiring to eliminate all outlets from the backsplash.