Just like the super-useful USB drive lead to a bunch of wildly unnecessary USB-powered bobble heads and fish tanks, plenty of today’s so-called “smart” kitchen gadgets are more ridiculous than useful. Nobody needs a fork that vibrates to keep you from eating too fast, for instance, because that’s pathetic. Get a hold of yourself. Nor do you need a wifi-enabled kettle—boiling water in a regular electric kettle takes like two minutes.
But sometimes the Internet of Things spits out devices that are truly awesome, and herald a new way to live our lives. Behold, a few of our favorite gadgets that have earned their spot in your MENSA-certified kitchen.
1. Paragon Induction Cooktop
If you’ve ever tried it, you know that when sous vide is good it is very, very good, but when it goes wrong, it’s a nightmare. The Paragon Induction Cooktop (and connected temperature sensor and app) make this tricky process incredibly easy: use the super-simple iOS app to decide what you’re making, set the thing on, and walk away. The Bluetooth-enabled temperature sensor constantly monitors your meal’s temperature and sends this information to the cooktop, which automatically adjusts the burner's heat for anything from frying to poaching. (Not just sous vide, that one just happens to be the most show-off-y.) Plus, it plugs into any normal outlet, so you can make difficult dishes in places you don’t even have an oven.
(Also check out FirstBuild’s Opal Nugget Ice maker, which will make soft, chewable ice at home. The Indiegogo campaign for this one will be launching at the end of this month).
It’s a robot bartender, y’all. Don’t bother learning how to build drinks, because that process is a messy pain in the ass. Instead hit a couple of buttons and let the robot make your cocktails for you. The menu has over 300 different drink options, so you can please nearly anyone. Is this the absolutely most useful device ever? No. Is it kind of super fun and worth it for the novelty value? Yes. The prototype is traveling the country doing demos right now, but will be available for purchase in December.
3. The SonicPrep Ultrasonic Homogenizer
Have an extra 5 grand laying around? It will be money well (if frivolously) spent on this crazy thing. The system basically uses science (and magic?) to make flavors pop: you can barrel-age drinks or infuse booze with fresh herbs in seconds, tenderize meat, make cheap wine taste good and good wine taste amazing.
4. The Range Thermometer
This wifi-enabled thermometer pairs with an iOS app that can set temperature alarms, track cooking progress, and save graphs for learning from your past experiments. Chef Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star in Sonoma, California, uses his constantly. “It helps immensely with our smoked brisket,” Chef Ari tells Maxim. “The brisket that we do that takes anywhere between 9 and 14 hours. The Range allows us to track it and sends an alert to my phone when it’s done.”
5. Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew with Wemo
Cue the joke about a coffee maker that’s smarter than you in the morning. This wifi-enabled device is the kind of thing that just makes everything a little bit easier: you can set up a weekly schedule so that your coffee is fresh for you whenever you wake up, and you can hit snooze on it if you decide. You can also program it from anywhere, so if you end up sleeping elsewhere, you can cancel the order. The app sends you notifications to refill the water, and lets you know when your coffee is ready in the morning. In terms of coffee robots, this is basically as close to Rosie the Robot Maid as you’re ever going to be able to afford.
6. Williams-Sonoma Smart Tools
This three-piece set includes a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, kitchen stand, and screen shield, all of which are designed to make your iPad far more functional in the kitchen. You can hold your iPad at the best angle to follow a recipe, or play cooking videos and not worry about splatter.
7. Logitech Keys-to-GOboard
Pair the above with the Logitech Keys-to-Go Keyboard, which is made from a spill-resistant, crumb-proof material that makes it ideal for the kitchen, and you won’t even have to worry about getting your hands near your iPad screen.
8. The Drop Kitchen Connected Scale
The Drop is an iPad-connected kitchen scale that leads you through step-by-step instructions which will make baking idiot-proof. Open a recipe on the app and begin to follow along. If you don’t have enough of any ingredients, the app will measure the amount you do have and scale the recipe for you, or help you find good substitutions. Instead of having to measure out ingredients like flour and sugar, you can just pour the ingredients in until it tells you to stop. It’s incredibly easy.