2016 was the year the kitchen got “smart.” From precision stove tops to smokeless indoor grills, advanced technologies have made themselves at home. At the same time, these inventions are not so ubiquitous — yet — that they’ve lost their novelty, with plenty of room still left for improvement and further disruption.
Running counter to warp-speed innovations, we also witnessed a celebration of the traditional: premium graters, an updated pour-over kit, a ladle that contours to the shape of pots and pans. Below, find 10 of our favorite tools that launched in 2016, running the gamut from futuristic to analog — and brace yourself for even more high-tech, internet-enabled breakthroughs in the coming year.
Click & Grow Wall Farm
A GP100 pick, the Click & Grow Wall Farm brings the garden plot indoors to make fresh-picked herbs, greens and flowers — and small-scale urban farming — an at-home reality. Fitted with grow lights and a precision irrigation system, Wall Farm enables plants to germinate faster, aided by proprietary, pH-regulating Smart Soil. It’s about as local as local gets.
Precision cooking got a user-friendly update this year, thanks to the Joule water circulator by ChefSteps. Controlled through an app, Joule is the smallest sous vide tool on the market, powered by the most efficient heater available. A GP100 honoree, Joule makes cooking restaurant-quality steaks possible at home — with a technique that’s equal parts highly technical and hands-off.
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
The “Grill of a Lifetime” is not a title meant to be taken lightly, but Weber’s charcoal grill-smoker hybrid rises to the challenge. The Summit Charcoal Series earned a spot on this year’s GP100 for its ease of use and quality construction. Double walled for optimal heat retention, the grill is also air-insulated, allowing for rapid cooling and improved temperature control.
Breville x PolyScience Control Freak
Precision tools may seem superfluous to the average home cook. But greater temperature control enables better, more consistent cooking. Created in collaboration with PolyScience, the Breville Control Freak boasts the widest temperature range of any induction stove, from 86 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit (and 397 options in between), all measured in real time. It’s the game-changer you didn’t know your kitchen needed, just as suitable for boiling pasta as it is heating oil to just below its smoke point.
Misen Chef’s Knife
Disrupting a product doesn’t always require reinvention. Sometimes it’s just about the way something is presented, or the price at which it’s listed. The Kickstarter-funded Misen Chef’s Knife is the latter case. Ringing in at just $65, Misen enables better cooking by making quality tools more accessible, constructed from premium, hand-polished Japanese steel, with a sloped bolster for a more comfortable grip.
In redesigning the ladle, GIR set out to make an oft-overlooked kitchen essential better. Constructed from pharmaceutical-grade platinum silicone, the Kickstarter-funded GIR Ladle is heatproof up to 464 degrees Fahrenheit, but can still perform at temperatures greater than that. Its flexible front edge makes scooping from the bottom of a pot or bowl easier, while a sharp edge and angled handle allow for controlled, drip-free pouring.
Ember Coffee Mug
We’ve all been there: too-hot coffee needs to cool, but the ideal temperature window is so brief that you’re bound to miss it, left sipping lukewarm joe. Ember, the much-hyped smart travel mug, sets out to resolve the coffee drinker’s perpetual quandary by maintaining a pre-set temperature for up to two hours (or all day, if Ember stays on its charging coaster). Even better, Ember’s app can determine the best temperature for a particular beverage, keeping you (and your drink) in the Goldilocks zone.
Microplane Master Series
An underrated, must-have kitchen tool made better, thanks to handsome walnut wood and Microplane’s signature stainless steel graters. Designed to be comfortable, look good and get better with age, the oiled, wooden handles give a nod to the Microplane’s origins, wherein woodworking tools were commandeered for zesting citrus, prompting a revelation that, in turn, spurred finer zests and more precise grating.
Philips Electric Indoor Grill
Smoke-free indoor grilling seems like an oxymoron, but, aided by advanced infrared technology, the new Electric Indoor Grill from Philips does just that. Maintaining a temperature of 446 degrees Fahrenheit, it allows for consistent, even grilling — and a perfect sear (grate marks, included), all year long.
Stagg Pour-Over System
Those who swear by the pour-over tend to be traditionalists. But the Pour-Over System by Stagg is proof that good things come from breaking with tradition. The most notable feature of Stagg’s kit is the dripper: made from vacuum-insulated stainless steel, it features a steeper slope that increases contact between coffee grounds and water, improving flavor extraction. The kit also includes a double-walled carafe made from hand-blown borosilicate glass, and glasses with a flared lip, designed to direct coffee to the front of the tongue, resulting in a more full-flavored cupping experience. It’s the update your morning routine has been needing.