“Smart” cooking appliances are everywhere these days. But which ones are actually worth the investment?

Don’t be fooled by shiny packaging and fancy ad campaigns. You definitely don’t need a Wi-Fi enabled trashcan, toaster, or espresso machine.

In fact, there are many “smart appliances” you can skip entirely. But you can add a few things to your kitchen arsenal for more efficient or easier cooking.

1. Save Time With a Self-stirring Tool

A self-stirring tool might not sound like a useful gadget, but it can save serious time. The company Üutensil developed their tool Stirr which retails for around $22 USD.

Just think: you can set a broth or other liquid to stir while you do other prep work in the kitchen. It balances itself, so you can set it on a cutting board or paper towel without having to do that weird balancing act like with other stirring utensils (maybe that’s just me).

Moreover, it is easy to clean and store, runs on batteries, and has 3-speed options.

2. Yes, Charging Countertops are Totally a Thing

Charging countertops are not a new thing. In fact, DuPont and PMA developed their charging countertop as early as 2013. The cheesy ad campaign above pits two smartphone users against each other in search of a charging plug. A friendly barista saves the day by pointing out the “charging surface”.

The idea involves placing your phone on the counter to charge it — pretty simple. Unfortunately, current technology isn’t up to par with the original idea.

Though the Corian charging surface is neat, the practicality of it is lacking. As this CNET video showcases, Apple devices struggle with connecting and require an additional connector to charge.

Samsung devices charge more reliably, but there are only two charging stations on the countertop. That means that the whole counter is not, in fact, a charging surface.

Still, incorporating this technology into your smart house can’t hurt. But you might just take the DIY route as recommended in the aforementioned CNET video instead for now.

3. Use a Smart Scale and Recipe app to Adapt Meals

image of Drop Scale Smart Kitchen Scale and Recipe App for article 5 Smart Kitchen Appliances That Actually Help you Cook
Drop Scale Smart Kitchen Scale and Recipe App via NYMag

This device comes with a reasonable price tag of around $36 USD. It includes a smart kitchen scale and a companion recipe app. The product website has more information on all of the features of the Drop Scale.

Of the 5 smart kitchen appliances here, this one may be the most ingenious.

It works by enabling its user to quickly adapt meals for various numbers of people. You can forego measuring cups, making for a more streamlined cooking experience and fewer dishes to clean after your meal.

You can also easily adjust recipes for four people to accommodate for more or fewer guests. All you need to do is pull up the recipe in the companion app to adjust the number of diners. Then, it tells you how much of each product you need to measure out.

The only downside is that, according to reviews, Android users may encounter issues. Chefs and amateur bakers (like me) may also dislike the dependence on a smartphone this kitchen appliance requires.

4. Pick Sous Vide Machines Over Smart Thermometers

There are a few smart meat thermometers out there like the iGrill2 or Meater. While they are somewhat useful, they feel a little unnecessary to have when it comes to smart kitchen appliances.

Thermometers are tools whereas sous vide machines provide an alternative way to cook.

A sous vide machine uses vacuum bags, water, and heat to achieve more even cooking. It also relieves some of the timing stress many recipes can cause.

You don’t necessarily need to get a smart sous vide machine, but controlling the machine from a smart device makes the process even more painless. You can do the same thing with some smart crockpots and slow cookers.

Two main competitors in this space include the ChefSteps Joule (video linked above) and the Anova Precision Cooker. Check out a head to head of them on Life Hacker to see which one might be better suited to your smart kitchen needs.

5. Grow Your Own Herbs With a Smart Garden

image of the Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 for article 5 Smart Kitchen Appliances That Actually Help you Cook
Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 via Indiegogo

Not everyone has access to garden space or lives in a hospitable environment for plant growth. But one of these five smart kitchen appliances can help with that.

Click and Grow indoor gardens can grow a variety of vegetables and herbs. You can even upgrade to the indoor farms with room for up to 51 plants.

The technology works along with smart soil inspired by NASA to improve growth.

The Smart Garden 3 water tank holds a 1-month supply of water. LED lamps use an “enhanced light spectra” to augment plant growth, as well. You can control it all via the companion app on your smartphone.

The company provides a variety of seeds from basil to tomatoes to chilis for all your cooking needs. Of course, you still need to remember to refill the water supply.

What are your favorite smart kitchen appliances?

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