The kitchen is actually a great place for a hands-free voice assistant like Google Assistant, but beyond the quick gimmicks of TV spots and ads showing cookie cutter chefs chatting to their kitchen AIs, what can you actually do with it?
The Google Home Mini makes a neat option for the kitchen, if you want something compact and you're not too fussed about sound. You also might want to hold on for a smart display from Lenovo, JBL, Sony or LG. They're coming this summer and offer a screen as well as voice commands. For now though, here's how to use your Google Home as a culinary companion.
1. Find a recipe
This is the oft-quoted use case for the kitchen, but it's up to you how you use it and, as we said above, this should get way more useful when we get the iPad-like smart displays with built in Google Assistant this summer. Because sometimes you just want to see the steps and pics.
Read this: Google Assistant missing manual
You can say "Hey Google, find me a quesadilla recipe" (in the US, UK, Canada and Australia) and it'll grab one of more than 5,000 options from Google's partners, then read it out to you step by step. Recipe partners include All Recipes, Food Network, New York Times, Bon Appetit, Buzzfeed, Martha Stewart and Epicurious.
More useful is finding the recipe on your phone or tablet – one that's hooked up to the same Wi-Fi network as your smart speaker and the same Google account – and hit the 'Send to Google Home' button. This works on the Chrome and Safari apps as well as the search bar in the Google app for iOS and Android. When you're ready, you just say "Hey Google, start recipe."
2. Make a shopping list
Next up, you need ingredients. Now, you might fancy a deluxe, does-everything smart fridge like Samsung's Family Hub which features not one, not two, but three built-in cameras so you can check the contents of said fridge on your phone when you're at the supermarket. But there's such a thing as overkill and we'd recommend going old school, opening up the fridge door yourself then dictating to Google Assistant what you need.
Use commands like "OK Google, add chorizo to my shopping list" or "Hey Google, add chorizo, feta and bell peppers to my shopping list". You can then check the list when you're out and about, or – if you live in the US – use Google Express to online shop from Walgreens, Walmart, Costco and Target etc.
3. Sort out your kitchen tunes
Of course, once you've got all your ingredients you'll want to sort out some music before you get started – if you've already set your default streaming service then say "Hey Google, play David Bowie" or ask for a genre, album, playlist or mood to get going. Be careful, though, if you're barking music commands in the middle of a recipe with Assistant, say "Hey Google, next song" to avoid it thinking you want the next recipe instruction.
We're fans of listening to a 30-40 minute podcast while we're in the kitchen, and with Assistant you can also use voice commands like "OK Google, play Strange Bird podcast". So much less faff and you don't need to worry about where your phone is when you're running out of counter space.
4. Get help while you're cooking
Google Assistant is actually pretty useful for during meal prep and cooking. If you're following a recipe from Assistant, you can ask questions like "Hey Google, what's the temperature?" for oven settings as well as ask quantities of ingredients like "Hey Google, how much feta?" and "Hey Google, next step/ingredient" to keep it ticking along.
You can also set multiple timers by naming them – "OK Google, set casserole timer" – ask for info and conversion on tricky units – "OK Google, how many tablespoons in a cup?" – and find out the calorie details – "OK Google, how many calories are in this recipe?"
Less likely to be useful everyday are the wine and cocktail recommendations and suggestions you can get with a couple of third party actions. If you're putting on a dinner party, try "Hey Google, ask Wine Guide what goes with smoked salmon" (which we guess only works either before you get going or if you've got a cellar full of wine options) or "OK Google, ask The Bartender for cocktails with gin" for suggestions and instructions.
5. Broadcast that the meal is ready
Another neat trick for frazzled cooks – use Google's nifty Broadcast feature to send an audio message to all the other Assistant enabled speakers in the house, letting friends and family know that food is ready. Just say "Hey Google, broadcast/announce/tell everyone dinner's ready".
Note: It doesn't work as a two way intercom (yet) so if your kid or flatmate isn't quite ready, they'll have to broadcast back. And anyway, dinner waits for no man.