It’s time for The Spoon’s first annual holiday gift guide! Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness have passed and it’s really the first year we’ve seen many anticipated smart kitchen devices hit the market, it seemed like the perfect time to roll out our guide. Picking this year’s selections was not easy – the food tech and smart kitchen spaces are packed with great stuff. But we wanted to limit the guide to stuff you could actually purchase (not pre-order or back on Kickstarter, with a few exceptions) and hand to your loved one around or shortly after the holidays.
Now you might be thinking – I’m the one who loves food and tech in our house! The beauty of this guide is that it’s easily forwardable – perhaps send to your spouse or loved ones with a wink emoji and some subtle hints, and you’ll find that smart kitchen gear you’ve always wanted under the tree.
High-Tech Kitchen Help
If you’ve got an amateur chef on your list this year, you can’t go wrong with sous vide. Sous vide is an older cooking technique using warm water to slowly and evenly cook foods like meat, fish and vegetables. Recent devices like the Joule from ChefSteps have increased the popularity of sous vide and made it easy to incorporate into any kitchen.
The Joule itself is a long, cylindrical water circulator and can be easily dropped into a pot of water to prepare food. It looks kind of like a high-tech rolling pin crossed with an Amazon Echo – but the noticeable difference between Joule and other sous vide cookers out there is the lack of a screen. The smartphone app does all the work – including preheating the device to the right temperature. The only thing left for the chef to do is season, seal and place the food in the water. The lack of a screen makes it more lightweight and smaller than other sous vide cookers, an appeal for some who want to minimize space in the kitchen.
Once cooking is complete, the dish can be removed and seared or finished on the stove for a perfect crust. Reviews of the Joule sous vide cooker promise some of the juiciest, most tender (insert food here) you’ve ever had.
Price: $199 on ChefSteps.com
(ChefSteps say they guarantee shipping by the holidays!)
Turn A Beer Fan Into A Brewmaster
Craft beer, spirits and cocktail related gifts are popular for those who like to imbibe around the holidays (…that’s everyone, right?) You could go a step up and get the beer fan on your list their own at home brew system. The folks at PicoBrew created the Pico, a simple pod-based brewing device that allows amateur brewers to customize their favorite IPA, pilsner, stout or pale ale in a week’s time. The PicoBrew PicoPaks and unique system take the mess out of home brewing and fermentation and each contains a different combo of grains, hops and yeast for each craft beer.
The PicoPaks are sold separately but come in over a hundred varieties so it’s easy to pair a few favorites with the system for a killer gift. And unlike older homebrew systems, the Pico’s compact design is ready for prime time – it’s cute enough to sit on the kitchen countertop and has a built-in steam cleaning mechanism. The digital display screen allows the user to adjust alcohol and bitterness levels for any brew and it makes up to five liters of beer at one time.
The Pico is one of those smart kitchen gadgets that will probably win you coolest family member award instantly; you might even get to sample the new brewmaster’s first brew attempt. Check out our complete review of The Pico before you buy.
Price: $799 at Williams-Sonoma
Infuse The Holidays With Perfect Tea
Tea and coffee are common holiday gifts for hot beverage drinkers, but for those who have a special affinity for tea, the smart tea infuser Teforia can create a custom cup of tea brewed to the exact right temperature and strength. The infuser looks like a cross between a traditional coffee maker and a high-tech chemistry set and comes equipped with a propriety technology called the Teforia Selective Infusion Profile System (“Teforia SIPS” ™). Sounds complicated, right? Basically, Teforia has created a device that knows the best way to brew tea, taking into account things like steep time, infusion temperature and the varietal of tea you’re using.
But who really needs a tea infuser? Tea is actually considered most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water and can be found in almost 80% of all U.S. households. Most of us, even avid tea fans (raises hand) use a kettle to boil water and a simple tea bag stuck in a mug. But Teforia claims not all teas are created equal, and consuming tea the typical way actually does the ancient beverage a huge disservice.
So bypass the specialty tea box in the gift shop this year as you’re picking out gifts – chances are, if someone is a fan of tea, the Teforia Infuser, maybe with some of their hand-picked varietals thrown in, will blow their mind.
Price: $1499, starts shipping December 1 if you order on Teforia’s website.
Coffee – Right From Your Phone
Onto the coffee lovers – if you’re a true java fan, you know that there’s not one temp fits all for coffee brewing. What makes a good cup of coffee, well, good, often has to do with extraction, or the process of hot water drawing the flavor from the grounds. It’s a delicate process and water that’s too hot will leave coffee tasting bitter. With the Behmor Connected Coffee Maker, that problem is solved through customizable brew profiles that all coffee drinkers to adjust the brewing temperature and pre-soak time before crafting that perfect cup.
And, as the name suggests, Behmor’s coffee maker comes with a connected smartphone app that allows you to program, adjust and monitor your coffee from the comfort of your bed. The app will even text you when your coffee’s done, thus finally giving you a reason to get out of bed on a cold winter morning. In addition to the custom brew control, Behmor’s actually build in some unique technology to optimize coffee extraction with a pulsed water flow and a grounds basket designed to saturate every single coffee ground.
Pair this with a local coffee blend and you’ve got every java lover’s dream come true.
Price: $234 on Amazon
Give The Gift Of An Oven That Knows Exactly What You’re Cooking
An oven might seem like an odd gift to give someone – unless it’s your spouse and you’re in the middle of a kitchen renovation, I suppose. But what if that oven was packed with enough technology to recognize the food you place in it and know exactly how to cook it? That’s exactly what the June Oven is designed to do.
Early reviews on the June are mixed – and some are even downright harsh – but we still think the June could be an interesting gift for those with money to spare who want the most cutting edge oven tech on the market.
Price: $1495 for pre-order on Juneoven.com
For The Person Who Actually Loves to Cook
So maybe you don’t want to spend over $1k on a magical oven, but you do have someone on your list who likes cooking and is always on the hunt for new recipes. The Drop Kitchen Scale with companion smart app is a good way to dip your toe into the world of connected kitchen gear without breaking the bank. The Drop Scale looks like a basic kitchen scale, but when paired with the app, provides a basic guided cooking system that walks the user through a chosen recipe and helps them weigh out ingredients along the way.
One of the best features of the Drop Kitchen ecosystem is its adaptability. Within the app, you can find and customize a recipe for the exact quantity or taste preference you’d like and the recipe will adjust portions and ingredients for you. So no more guesstimating how much flour you should use for a cupcake recipe you’re trying to half, Drop will give you precise measurements for the amount you need. With so many people using their smartphones and tablets in the kitchen to read recipes, the Drop Kitchen Scale and app will make cooking that much more enjoyable.
Price: $78.98 on Amazon (product is being end-of-lifed as Drop transitions into platform based technology)
Alexa, Finish My Holiday Shopping
Ok, this might not technically be a kitchen-specific gift, but the vast majority of Amazon Echo users I’ve encountered (myself included) keep the device in the kitchen – and for good reason. Alexa isn’t just a helpful virtual assistant, she can also be a pretty handy sous chef. From the very advanced – enable the Allrecipes skill and get step-by-step walk-through of any recipe available on Allrecipes – to the basic – ask Alexa how many teaspoons is in a tablespoon (1 tbl = 3 tsp, handy when your tablespoon constantly goes missing), Alexa is a hands-free help during meal prep.
The other helpful kitchen-specific feature, aside from listening to a news flash, a podcast or Spotify with a simple request, is the shopping list feature. Ask Alexa to add things to your shopping list as you run out of it, ensuring the next trip to the grocery store will result in a full pantry restock.
The Amazon Echo is usually $179.99, but is often on sale (and out of stock) around the holidays.
Connect To Your Tea
Maybe you have a tea lover on your list, but the idea of 800 bucks for the Teforia Infuser isn’t realistic. Before Teforia, there was a device called AppKettle, a connected tea kettle with less bells and whistles, but an easier price to swallow.
AppKettle is a connected tea kettle with a companion app that allows users to heat water on demand, from anywhere. With a nice stainless steel finish and both app and native device controls, this is a nice little upgrade to your traditional tea kettle. With the ability to control the temp of the water, AppKettle might be a perfect gift for new parents on your list who are bottle feeding. There’s nothing worse than waiting for water to heat up while your new baby cries for milk.
Celebrate The New Year With A Perfect Drink
The season of gift-giving will soon be over which means it’s not too early to be making New Year’s Eve plans. And generally speaking, the most vital part of a good New Year’s Eve at home, whether you’re parenting a toddler and stuck home playing Cards Against Humanity or single and hosting a fancy dinner party with a DJ and a large crowd, are the beverages. And if you’re going to be at home, you want cocktails that taste like they were made by a professional mixologist at a swanky bar, no?
That’s why the Perfect Drink 2.0 Smart Scale and Interactive App make such a great gift – it’s the smart kitchen substitute for an expensive bartending course. The Perfect Drink scale has over 400 drink recipes and walks you through ingredients, letting you know when you’ve poured the perfect amount of each. And if you pour too much, let’s say, gin, Perfect Drink Scale will help you adjust the rest of the ingredients so you don’t ruin the drink. The Cabinet feature lets you keep track of what you have on hand and there are recipes for every season, along with tried and true favorites.
Price: $39.99 on Amazon
Make Spaghetti Out Of….Everything
Tech lover or not, everyone loves a good kitchen gadget that’s useful and helpful without many bells and whistles. I once asked a well-known chef what he couldn’t live without in the kitchen and he said – basically – a good pan and some heat. But the extras can be fun too, which is why we’re putting the spiralizer into our first-ever gift guide.
The spiralizer is one of those low-tech gadgets that has amazing utility and, as a result, has a huge following. It’s basically a handheld device that turns average vegetables into pasta, creating a healthy (and delicious) meal. The spiralizer is best known for its ability to make zucchini spaghetti, but pictures (and testimonials) indicate it can be used to create garnishes and turn other vegetables into a pasta shape, too.
For anyone on your list looking to eat healthier, add this to their stocking and tell them to look forward to a spiralized 2017.
Read Up On The Future Of Food + The Kitchen
One of my favorite gifts to give and receive are books – you can’t go wrong. And there are a few books in the food tech and food science space that would make excellent presents under the tree.
The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt – The Food Lab is a tour de force – the food bible for anyone looking to infuse science through simple techniques to enhance everyday cooking. The 1000+ page plus recipe book is quite a departure from ordinary cookbooks; authored by Serious Eats managing culinary directorJ. Kenji López-Alt, also a James Beard Award winner, The Food Lab focuses squarely on food science. Looking at the interactions between heat, energy & molecules and how they all work together to create truly delicious food. The techniques to achieving better food aren’t necessarily complicated, and for anyone interested in nerding out over the science behind your favorite recipes, this book is a perfect (and heavy!) gift.
Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique for Perfectly Cooked Meals – From Lisa Fetterman, the founder of Nomiku, one of the first mainstream sous vide machines, Sous Vide at Home just hit the shelves in early November. Sous vide is becoming increasingly popular as a technique using the slow heat of a water bath (described above in our Joule write-up) and this cookbook is a guide to creating chef-quality food using any sous vide device at home. It would pair well with a brand new sous vide machine as a perfect foodie gift.
So there you have it – our first annual holiday gift guide! We hope you find something for every food and tech lover on your list.