7 Indications That Your Kitchen Is Evolving
What’s Emerging in Food and Cooking Tech
The hottest trend in kitchen tech over the past 20 years has been smart appliances. But how smart are they, really? Sure, a high-end fridge can connect with its user to communicate when it needs a new filter, make a shopping list or even take inventory of what’s inside. But the ol’ ice box is not actually doing any meal prep or collaborating with any of its appliance roommates on cooking a meal. Even though investors have been pouring money into “food tech” startups the past decade, there is still no personal chef robot for the overworked average consumer.
Now, however, there is a glimmer of hope that we may see some advancements when combining artificial intelligence with robotics. So far, much of these efforts have been in the development of a multifunctional machine. For example, a device that enables human counterparts remote monitoring of a frozen item evolving into a cooked entrée, and other magical things to make meal prep easier.
Futuristic Tech in the Kitchen
1. A Big Change for Ovens
Miele is the first brand to come out with a radio frequency (RF) oven. Called Dialog, it uses electromagnetic waves to cook food accurately and 70% faster. Traditional ovens cook food from the outside in, making uniformity difficult. RF cooks all parts at the same level at once. Imagine baking where you don’t have to worry about muffin tops getting too brown. For browned buns or the crust on the top of a casserole, simply switch to conventional mode. The oven can also accommodate cooking different dishes with varying requirements all at once.
2 . Multitasking Water Spigots
All-in-one water faucets that provide chilled, boiling and sparkling water from the tap already exist. Expect to see these devices become more popular by 2030. Considering 25 million Americans live in areas with water supplies that do not meet Federal standards, advanced filtration systems and toxic sensors are likely to be developed in the next few years.
Besides poor water quality, lack of water is at a crisis level in southern regions. Genny, a device from Watergen, pulls humidity from the air and turns it into clean drinking water.
3. Multi-function Machines
Devices like Nymble are what bring us one step closer to automated meal prep. Pre-load Nymble with water, oil and spices, and the device can make a variety of dishes with the addition of ingredients the onboard recipe calls for. The device will stir, saute, brown and more, adding ingredients as it goes. The integrated camera keeps an eye on the progress, which also serves as a monitor for users to tap into remotely.
If your blender got together with a high-end mixing bowl and had a steamer for a baby, it would look like the Chef Robot Kitchen Cooking Food Processor. This smart device can cook an entrée while simultaneously steaming side dishes. Through an app on your phone, you can access on board recipes and cooking processes. There is a pre-cleaning pot scrubber to prepare the components for the dishwasher.
Suvie is a countertop kitchen robot system of the future that’s available today. Taking up no more room than a microwave, Suvie uses cool-to-cook technology that keeps a meal refrigerated, then cooks it while you are away, to be done at the time you designate. There is also a rapid cook mode that takes a meal from fully frozen to table ready in as little as 25 minutes.
4. 3D Food Printer
Just like a 3D printer that creates a solid form out of plastic, a 3D food printer creates a solid form out of food. Basically, any materials of a paste or semi-liquid state or could be the right consistency for 3D printing. This could include vegetables, batter, dough, cheese, meat, frosting, chocolate or fruit. Most food 3D printers are used to print fancy dessert toppings and gourmet entrée presentations, but one device, the Foodini, takes a healthier approach.
As developers of the most well-established food printer on the market, co-founders Emilio Sepulveda and Lynette Kucsma saw an opportunity to encourage healthy eating. Their 3D food printer allows businesses and consumers to fill the printer’s capsules with their own purees, instead of buying the paste from the manufacturer or vendors. This means fresher ingredients and no preservatives. Plus, the machine can turn what would be food waste, like leftovers, into viable meals. So, in the future, a 3D food printer could turn yesterday’s unfinished loaf of bread into a set of baked snacks. If scaled up, this concept could have a positive impact on relieving food insecurity.
5. Humanoid Robots
We’ve got a bit of a wait before kitchen robots become more “hands on.” There are robots being used now for basic functions, like delivering trays of food in a restaurant, or a prototype that can even cook a steak on its own. But to have a fully functional humanoid robot at home, we may be about 25 years off, However, a more basic consumer model could hit the market as early as 2030
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6. What’s Cooking In The Lab
Food tech is also evolving along with machines. Notable projects include companies working on vegan cheese that looks and tastes like dairy cheese. One French startup, Standing Ovation, makes dairy-free cheese with lab created components with a similar composition to casein. A protein found in dairy products, casein is also what gives milk its white color, unique smell and texture, such as the lovely, gooey stringiness that happens when you pull a slice of pizza away from the rest of the pie, and “mouthfeel” of the product.
Dairy is not the only protein food tech companies are working on. Expect to see lab created meat and seafood make an appearance soon. And this is not the vegan shmeat I sneak into family recipes (my husband will actually dig through the garbage to see what mystery protein I’ve fed him). Let’s just say products in the past have just not made the grade on taste or texture. However, lab created proteins are not trying to take vegan ingredients and make them look and taste like burgers. The lab clones the chemical composition of the original protein.
Why create food in a lab? Food security for humans is one reason. Climate change is disrupting traditional farming and reducing yields because of conditions like excessive heat, drought, more severe and frequent storms and flooding. Lab created proteins take the stress off over harvested populations in the wild, allowing better resource sustainability. Take fish, for example. Salmon is the number one fish worldwide by value. Yet species populations have declined significantly since 1913. Scientists create cells from fish cultures to grow a healthier fish protein product in less time. There are none of the pollutants plaguing wild fish–antibiotics, heavy metals or microplastics–and no waste. It takes about four to six weeks to grow fish in the lab, vs two to three years to grow a salmon to maturity in aquaculture, and all parts of the lab grown fish are edible.
The vegan food market exceeded $27 billion in 2021. With further advancements in laboratory technology, industry experts expect that number to grow substantially.
7. Apps to Bring Kitchen Tech Together
A major roadblock to a totally automated kitchen is different components created by different manufacturers. There are apps that will allow you to control all your smart devices from one dashboard. There are even some devices that allow input of dietary restrictions and are “learning” consumer preferences in meal ingredients, tracking satisfaction on things like how spicy or saucy a meal turned out. However, robot kitchen machines and appliances don’t work together or communicate through a unified kitchen app, at least not from different brands. Whirlpool revealed their prototype connected device app at CES back in 2014. Hopefully, a unified app will appear as consumers adopt more high-tech kitchen devices.
An Interesting Point in History
In the future, it seems plausible that a kitchen will compose, cook and deliver a perfectly stuffed and basted Thanksgiving turkey, already have the complementary Pinot Noir aerating and the salad ingredients chopped and tossed, when the humans are ready to sit down to dine, served by a humanoid robot. I can’t help wondering if we will look back at 2022 and chuckle over the primitive clunkiness of these early food tech robots and gadgets. Hopefully, engineers are also designing kitchen robots to do the dishes!