Hestan Cue

Two years ago at the Housewares Show in Chicago, I saw the emergence of a new trend called guided cooking. At the show, companies like Cuciniale, Oliso and Hestan Cue showed off early efforts to combine sensors, software, precision heating and content in an orchestrated experience that guides home cooks through the creation of a meal.

As I said of my effort to make salmon with the Hestan Cue, using a guided cooking system for the first time was something of a revelation:

“…this combination of the pan, burner and app and the guidance system they had built that really led me to see the possibilities around this new category. I am not a great cook by any stretch of the imagination, but I cooked one of the tastiest pieces of salmon I’ve ever had in about 20 minutes. The experience was enabled through technology, but the technology didn’t take me out of the experience of cooking. Further, I can see as I gain more confidence using a system like this, I can choose to “dial down” the guidance needed from the system to the point I am largely doing most of the cooking by myself (though I don’t know if I’d ever get rid of the automated temperature control, mostly because I’m lazy and it gives me instant “chef intuition).”

Fast forward a couple of years and the guided cooking trend continues to gain momentum. A number of companies talked up new guided cooking platforms at CES in January, from big appliance makers like Whirlpool and LG to big tech platform providers like Google and Amazon.

And at the Housewares show in Chicago this week, guided cooking was everywhere. Hestan Cue, now shipping, was on display this week in the Smart Home pavilion. iCuisine, a startup that utilizes a modular sensor to connect to everyday kitchen tools to a guided cooking app, had its own take on step-by-step cooking instruction. Vorwerk’s Thermomix showed off their all-in-one multicooker with built-in guidance and talked about the company’s online recipe platform, the Cookidoo.

Over at the Gourmia booth, the prolific maker of low-cost connected cooking devices showed off a variety of connected devices, including a Thermomix-like multicooker with built-in cooking guidance. The company’s head of product told me the Gourmia multicooker will eventually act as a smart kitchen hub that enables cross-device cooking orchestration with other Gourmia appliances. As I left the booth, celebrity chef Cat Cora was performing a cooking demo in the booth and talking about the concept of smart recipes.

Gourmia’s Thermomix clone (currently only available in Europe)

Chefman, another maker of low-cost connected cooking appliances, showed off its sous vide cooking app with newly integrated guided cooking capabilities at the show, and a company spokesperson told me the company plans to add guided cooking to all of their connected cooking appliances this year.

Meanwhile at SXSW (which annoyingly was at the same time as the Housewares Show this year), Innit announced the release of Google Assistant functionality within the Innit app they first demoed at CES. With Google Assistant, a home cook can navigate the Innit app’s guided cooking features via voice. According to company COO Josh Sigel, the release marks the first third party app which is completely controllable via Google Assistant.

Of course, like any new trend, there will be hits and misses as products roll out. Early reviews of the Tasty One Top have been somewhat subpar, while my experiences with some of the early Amazon video cooking skills have been hobbled by lack of YouTube integration and the early stage of cooking capabilities in their Alexa skill API.

All that said, I think we can expect lots more in the guided cooking space as 2018 unfolds. I saw a slew of products in Chicago under embargo that are slated for later this year that offer new approaches to guided cooking, and there will no doubt more guided cooking products being developed in stealth that should see the light of day at IFA and Smart Kitchen Summit.

Bottom line: what started as a trend a couple years ago is fast becoming a central theme for appliance makers big and small, making 2018 a big big year for guided cooking.

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