It's Friday night. You're out on the town when suddenly the realisation hits: you totally forgot to turn off the crock-pot before you left for the evening. Now, instead of coming home to a delicious beef brisket dinner, you're going to come home to inedible charred mass. But with Crock-pot's new smart cooker, you can set your meal to warm from half a world away.
What Is It?
It's a slow-cooker that connects to the internet, allowing it to be controlled through Belkin's WeMo home automation app on your smartphone, complete with push notifications for when dinner is ready.
Why Does It Matter?
Because slow-cooked meals are fantastic and you shouldn't have to structure your life around being around to change the setting on your slow cooker.
The Smart Slow Cooker (SSC) is a substantial piece of kitchen appliance. Its six quart pull-out, dishwasher-safe stoneware dish is ensconced in a polished aluminium base. The entire unit measures about 14 x 10 x 17 inches and weighs 15 pounds.
Its minimalist faceplate consists of an LED temperature display noting the relative temperature settings (high, low, warm), power indicator, and Wi-Fi connectivity quality. While you're primarily going to be commanding it through the WeMo app, the unit can be controlled manually as well. The app itself is intuitively designed and easy to use -- essentially a digital UI version of the unit's manual control panel.
The hardest, most user-intensive aspect of using the SSC is the initial setup. First you need to plug the unit into a power source and wait for it to discover the local network, then install the app on your phone, and pair the phone to the SSC. This could take less than three minutes, or a fair bit longer, depending on whether or not the cooker feels like discovering the proper network. The strength of your home network signal plays a big part in that so if it's possible, you'll do well to run the initial set up near your router.
Once they're paired, however, the SSC system is just as easy to use as conventional slow cookers -- you're really just inputting temperature and timing settings with your phone rather than a dial on the front of the machine.
It combines the perfect blend of traditional and modern technologies to create a future-proof slow cooker. It produced brisket and pulled pork just as well as my manual Crock-Pot while providing an added level of convenience and control with its smartphone app. Plus, you can leverage the power of IFTTT (the IFTTT channel is "coming soon" according to a Belkin rep) to add even greater functionality -- flashing your hue bulbs when the meal's ready rather than pushing a text notification to your phone, for example.
This is not a cheap internet connection. The SSC carries a $US130 price tag, which is double what you'd pay for a nearly identical slow cooker that relies on an on-board timer instead. Australian pricing and availability is yet to be announced.
Should I Buy It?
Depends on how much you feel you'll need to be controlling your crock-pot remotely. If the answer is "less than constantly" you're probably better off going with the standalone version and saving half your cash. That's not to say that this isn't a great slow cooker -- it is -- it's just that a Wi-Fi signal shouldn't cost $US70.