A computer in the kitchen can mean a valuable piece of hardware is even more susceptible to spills and sticky fingers, but kitchen computers have been making it easier to navigate recipes on the Web as well as those in your own recipe database.
After all, if you’ve ever eaten at your desk at work, you know how easy it is to get crumbs in your keyboard, but thanks to touch-screen technology, following recipes online doesn’t mean you’ll need to cover your laptop in plastic wrap.
And, beyond recipe retrieval, easy-to-use displays on computers and other computerized gadgets in the kitchen could change the way you cook at home.
The Pandigital Kitchen Technology Center
What you get: Adventurous cooks looking for new recipes to test in their kitchens might love the Pandigital Kitchen Technology Center, a gadget with a 5.6-inch LCD monitor that lets you connect wirelessly to the Internet from your kitchen and access any content – not just cooking tips - on the Web.
Kitchen-friendly features: If you’re not sure about the quality of recipes coming from random Web sites and blogs, you won’t need to worry about finding a good one with this device from Pandigital, a company that also makes digital photo frames, scanners, printers and home lighting systems. The Kitchen Technology Center comes pre-loaded with recipes from Bon Appetit magazine.
And for those with kitchens on the smaller side or who just want to have more counter space to work with, the computer comes with hardware that lets you mount it to the wall. And when it’s not in use as a recipe-finder, you can use it as a digital picture frame, which could cut some of the clutter on your refrigerator door.
A Smarter Coffee Maker
What you get: An automatic drip coffee maker with a timer is a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re not a morning person. The smell of fresh coffee brewing can lure you out of bed better than your alarm clock. But this smart Melitta coffee maker goes a few steps further. You can time it to freshly grind and brew your coffee to the fineness and strength of your liking to be ready before you’re even out of bed, but even the groggiest coffee drinkers can get the information they need to know before walking out the door to work. The coffee maker displays the weather forecast, making it a time-saver for those who would rather hit the snooze button than fuss with coffee grinds.
Kitchen-friendly features: Since it’s a coffee grinder and maker at the same time, you’ll save space on your kitchen countertop.
An Easy Touch-Screen PC
What you get: This is a basic touch-screen PC and, while it’s not an iPad, you can use special cooking software which we’ll talk about later that only works with Windows.
Kitchen-friendly features: Though it comes with a keyboard, you don’t actually need it. You can do everything on the touch screen. That means no sticky buttons, just sticky screens (which are thankfully easier to clean).
What you get: Meat thermometers ensure that your food is cooked to a safe temperature, but the older thermometer can take time to get to a final reading and aren’t meant to be left in the roast in your oven. This OXO Good Grips digital thermometer, on the other hand, allows for quick and easy readings and lets you keep the thermometer in your meat while it’s cooking.
Kitchen-friendly features: The temperature sensor on this device is connected to the digital display by a cable, which means you can leave the display outside of the oven while the sensor is in the meat. That means you don’t have to keep opening the oven for every temperature check, and that could reduce the amount of time and energy you’ll use. Plus it can work as a timer and the device will sound an alarm when your meat has reached your desired temperature.
A High-Tech Temperature-Controlled Fridge
What you get: Temperatures in your refrigerator can vary dramatically and storing your food at the proper temperature is a vital part of food safety practices at home. So Samsung has come up with a fridge for those who are particular about cooling their food and drinks to a temperature that's just right. This fridge may be a bit pricey, but the technology could be worth your while. You can program specific temperatures for your fridge, your freezer and a separate drawer and, according to Samsung, this fridge’s temperature regulating system can make the food in your fridge last longer, which means less spoiled food.
Kitchen-friendly features: There’s a quick power-freezing function if your ice cream has melted on the way home from the store but you want to enjoy it right away. A similar function rapidly returns your fridge to the proper temperature if the door has been left open for a while. The fridge door alarm will let you know if you’ve done that.
A Digital Cookbook
What You Get: If you already have a PC in the kitchen, there’s downloadable Digital Cookbook software that provides recipes and even calculates the nutritional content of your meals. And if you’re planning a big dinner party, the cookbook software from publisher InfoStudio will approximate how much you’ll need of each ingredient and estimate how much it’ll cost.
Price: Free trial, $25 to buy.
One More Cookbook Option
The Fundcraft Digital Cookbook software for your PC includes 250,000 recipes that you can search based on the ingredients you have in your fridge, plus a kitchen glossary and a converter that helps you make sense of unfamiliar units of measurement.