13 Digital Gadgets That Make Your Kitchen Smarter
Our tastings and testings team works hard to stay on top of all the latest trends in kitchen equipment. One that certainly isn’t going anywhere is the rise of all things “smart.” For us, a smart gadget is one that makes cooking easier and more efficient—and maybe a little more fun, too. In this week’s guide, we’ve gathered all the digital equipment that lives up to that promise. We’ve included the sleek immersion circulator that pairs with your smartphone for easier-than-ever sous vide cooking, a toaster oven that can handle everything from cookies to chicken (and of course, make perfect toast, too), and the reliable digital triple timer that can help prevent kitchen disasters.
Pair your smart tools with test kitchen know-how from our new book Kitchen Smarts. In this handy Q&A-style guide, our experts answer all your kitchen quandaries. We bust common culinary myths, explain how to make substitutions, dive into the science of good cooking, and even discuss common food and cooking terms that are often misunderstood (and sometimes mispronounced).
This slim, lightweight machine heated water almost as fast as the biggest circulators and was the most accurate in our lineup. Though it doesn’t have a display and requires a smartphone to work, its app was intuitive and simple, and its enclosed electronics meant we didn’t have to worry about getting any part of the circulator wet. Testers loved its magnetic bottom, which allowed it to stand stably in the center of metal pots. (We wished its included clip was a bit wider for nonmetal vessels, but the company now sells a “Big Clamp” attachment for $24.00 that addresses this issue.) It also had the largest distance between water lines, so we could forgo refilling even during longer cooking projects, and it was small enough to store away in a drawer when we were done. The company also makes an all white polycarbonate model with identical electronics and features for $179.
BUY FOR $199
A wifi-enabled update of our former winning circulator, this machine has many of the features we liked in the old model: a sturdy screw-in clamp that can be raised or lowered depending on the vessel height, an adjustable heating port that can be turned to prevent jostling, and easy-to-use, intuitive controls. We liked that its temperature and time could be set directly on the circulator or in the app. However, it lagged behind our top-ranked model on heating speed and accuracy (often overcooking eggs) and was a little too bulky to be stored in a standard drawer.
BUY FOR $129
While the price makes us wince, this well-designed oven aced every test and was simple to use. Food browned and cooked uniformly, whether we were roasting chicken, toasting bread, or melting cheese. Five quartz elements consistently cooled and reheated, producing steady, controlled heat.
BUY FOR $200
This high-priced machine brews ideal tea, thanks to its fully customizable water temperature and steeping time. Plus, it’s fully automatic: It features an autostart timer, a mechanism that lowers and raises the brew basket unassisted, and a keep-warm function that maintains the tea at a level temperature (automatically determined by the type of tea) for up to 60 minutes. It was also the easiest to fill, and its accessories are dishwasher-safe. Our one quibble: The smallest tea leaves occasionally escaped the basket.
BUY FOR $238
This D-shaped robot uses a special set of lasers to scan and map the room so it can chart an efficient path through the space. Because of this, the Neato takes one-third as much time as other robots that cleaned more randomly to thoroughly cover a room. It hardly bumps into walls or furniture and easily navigates from room to room without the help of virtual gates or physical barriers. Testers loved watching this robot’s efficient, grid-pattern cleaning and liked that the robot largely steered clear of major obstacles, though it still occasionally got caught on cords or under furniture. Its unique shape allowed it to cozy up to walls and fit perfectly into corners—key spots every other robot missed.
BUY FOR $327
Our former champion won again for its well-designed, straightforward control panel with a countdown timer that was simple and unambiguous to set and allowed us to monitor progress at a glance. The roomy, heavy stoneware crock cooked gently and evenly and never boiled, so food emerged tender and juicy. We loved that its broad, protruding handles with grippy textured undersides usually stayed cool enough that we could pick up the crock without potholders. Thick insulation kept heat directed toward the crock, and a built-in internal temperature sensor gave this slow cooker extra “brains” to keep the temperature below boiling, which helped guarantee better results.
BUY FOR $80
The most accurate and customizable model in our testing, this unobtrusive refrigerator/freezer probe thermometer not only alerted us when our appliances strayed from the temperatures we designated but also told us when they stayed outside the safe zone for more than 30 minutes. Our only gripes: The display is a touch small, and you must press an extra button to toggle the view from current to min/max temperatures for each probe.
This compact, handheld calculator makes cooking easier by taking care of the math. A protective cover keeps it safe in a busy kitchen. The timer is a nice plus.
BUY FOR $22
This model combines a clock, timer (count down), and stopwatch (count up); has direct numerical entry; and easily toggles between the three settings with a clearly marked mode button. Because it’s oriented vertically, it fits comfortably in hand. It’s also lightweight and slim enough to fit in a pocket, and its 38-inch lanyard is both comfortable and long enough to slip easily overhead.
This squat, sturdy triple timer was simple and intuitive, with a dedicated “clear” button and a full 0-to-9 keypad, so testers entered times by typing instead of scrolling. It displayed all of its timers at once, so we could check everything at a glance, and its stainless face repelled messes. Two quibbles: The buttons for toggling between timers were a bit squished together, and the digits on the display could be more visible.
BUY FOR $20
The Mk4 takes all the accuracy and speed of the Classic Thermapen and adds a couple of nifty features that improve the user experience: its display now auto-rotates, lights up in low light, and wakes up when the unit is picked up. It takes a single AAA alkaline battery and is also more water-resistant than the Classic, capable of surviving a half-hour bath.
Our longtime favorite scale has it all: consistent accuracy; a clear digital display (which pulls out from the frame and includes a backlight); responsive, clearly labeled, accessible buttons; a removable platform that makes cleanup a breeze; and a sturdy, slim body that stores easily. It’s a pricier package but worth the investment.
BUY FOR $50
All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.