Who doesn’t love tasty food? The problem is many of us aren’t able to cook delectable dishes ourselves. The thought of opening a cookbook can be pretty daunting, so we usually leave it to a more experienced member of the family or the pros (i.e. restaurants).
Thankfully technology is playing its part in the kitchen not only to make cooking tasty meals more accessible to all but also more interesting and quicker. This includes a number of smart products which aim to make cooking less confusing and more enjoyable.
They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so BT.com’s hopeless 20-something Jamie Harris has decided to see if he can serve up something half decent that doesn’t come out of a microwave, using Tefal’s Cook4Me and ActiFry Smart XL.
Watch the video to find out how the Cook4Me works and read on below for the full verdict.
Getting started: Finding a recipe
Like most things these days, there’s an app involved, and both the Cook4Me and ActiFry Smart XL have dedicated apps which connect and run with the appliances using Bluetooth.
The apps are pretty easy to set up, and once you’re in there are a huge selection of free recipes to choose from.
I’ve decided to go for a Thai green curry with the Cook4Me and some fries on the side with the ActiFry Smart XL.
With most recipes you can choose meal sizes suitable for two, four or six people. Plus there’s a full ingredients list and space to make personal notes (such as a recommended extra from a more experienced cook).
Launch the steps: Let’s get cooking
When I’ve got all my ingredients together, it’s time to start the step-by-step instructions on the app. I’m using a tablet as its stand makes it easier to read as you cook, but you could use a phone. Alternatively, the Cook4Me has an interface on the pressure cooker itself which can guide you if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, but the detail and images in the app make it much easier for me.
Unfortunately, smart appliances can’t take on all the tasks such as chopping – although that’d be a cut corner too far probably – so you’ll have to follow the preparation steps first.
Once all your ingredients are ready you’ll need to add the oil and brown the ingredients for a few minutes. This is easy enough, although you’d expect a timer on a smart pressure cooker. Instead I have to watch the clock the traditional way.
When the browning process is complete, the machine does take over full timing control and, of course, it knows exactly how long it needs because the app has told it based on the amount of people you’re cooking for. Close the lid, select OK and the Cook4Me gets working. All I have to do now is wait for the beep… is it really this easy?
The ActiFry Smart XL is just as simple - once the chips are prepared and you’ve added the oil, the app tells the machine how long it needs, so there’s absolutely no faffing with times. The only downside is these chips take a lot longer than the Thai green curry so they won’t be ready in time. At least the Cook4Me has a ‘keep warm’ feature though, so the main meal can wait.
Now the beeping has sounded, which means it’s time to serve. I open the lid to a waft of delicious spices and I can’t quite believe I’ve just made this. Perhaps to some people this is a simple meal to make but for an inexperienced cook like me, this is a real achievement.
Verdict: Do smart cooking appliances make you better in the kitchen?
Having tried these two machines for the first time and succeeded, it has given my confidence a real boost - unlike before, when the outcome would often go wrong.
The ability to use an interactive app rather than a book may seem like a slight change but it actually made all the difference. I found it more accessible and the added bonus of Bluetooth connecting to the appliances so that the right timings are set just made life easier.
It would be better if you didn’t sometimes have to switch between controls on the app and then on the appliance itself - preferably it should all be controlled from one only.
But sadly £255 for the ActiFry Smart XL (Amazon) and £299 for the Cook4Me pressure cooker (Amazon) might be a bit steep for some beginners, making the traditional cookbook a far cheaper bet. Having tried a fair few cookbooks and failed numerous times, the smart cooking appliances offer a viable alternative that will surely do even more in the future. Who knows, maybe they will even be able to prepare the ingredients one day…
What do you think of smart cooking appliances? Share your views in the Comments section below.