Nick Orme, the co-founder of new cooking brand Njori, talks about the rise of ‘smart’ tech in kitchen design and how it can help to make consumers’ lives easier.
From TVs that stream the latest on-demand hit series to voice assistant-controlled wireless speakers, to doorbells that enable you to communicate with a delivery driver from the other side of the world, there has been a revolution in smart tech in our homes over the past decade.
But what about kitchens? It is possibly no surprise that during the past year, we have seen people become more adventurous in their cooking. With restaurants closed during lockdown, home cooks have been experimenting with new techniques and recipes in an effort to create the same level of culinary excellence they enjoy when eating out – as well as to relieve some of the boredom of lockdown. The popularity of specialised food kits and delivery boxes has surged during that time and the sale of cookware was up by 40% in 2020 from the previous year. It seems domestic chefs have gained confidence and are looking to expand their repertoire in the kitchen.
If there’s one cooking technique that’s empowering adventurous domestic cooks to achieve the quality of dishes at home that were traditionally the preserve of professional kitchens, it’s sous-vide – the process of vacuum-sealing ingredients in a bag, then cooking at a precise temperature in a water bath.
Because the products are sealed away from the water and cooked at low temperatures, the nutritional content of the ingredients is preserved. This technique of cooking goes hand in hand with the shift we are seeing towards healthier, fresher cooking, also evidenced in the success of air fryers that use a fan mechanism to create the crisp effect of deep-fat frying but with a fraction of the oil.
An important driver of innovation in smart kitchen tech is the desire for more accuracy and consistency. The average kitchen has so many variables at play – hobs with clumsy power dials, pans made from various materials and thicknesses, ovens that take an age to reach temperature – that there is often a fine line between culinary success and a burnt failure. Appliance manu-facturers recognise the demand for precision.
As kitchens and living spaces get smaller and house-shares more common, kitchen gadgets that take up very little space and can be packed away will be of increasing importance. But that doesn’t mean we should skimp on features. Home chefs still want consistency, the ability to cook sous vide, and smart sensors and probes to ensure the food is cooked ‘just right’– even if the cooking has to take place in a small space. And we’re just starting to see new technology that has all these bases covered.
If affordability is the greatest barrier to entry for most domestic chefs, then multifunctional products could be the game-changers, transforming the quality of home-cooked meals over the coming years. Most are keenly priced and pack a lot of features into a small footprint.
The revolution in smart-home tech may have largely evaded the kitchen until now, but as technology brings new possibilities and home cooks become ever more adventurous, our culinary future is an exciting one.
These technologies will make perfect results a breeze for the home cook, with precise control over time and temperature – whatever the task at hand. Connected devices and appliances will be able to communicate with each other, ensuring meals are created and timed in perfect harmony.
We will also start to see more influence from companies developing AI and machine learning, creating devices with smart features that will be able to learn our cooking habits and remember our favourite meals and how we like to cook them.
Environmental gains will help usher these technologies through more quickly. Smart grid technology will help to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions
by avoiding peak-period demand and decreasing reliance on emission-creating back-up power options.
With city populations growing, these smart grids will be ideal for the fast pace and adaptability required by most urban dwellers. Here, products need to be efficient in both size and performance.