Wish you could preheat your oven while on your way home from work? Or reduce the cooking temperature of your roast from the back garden?
More and more smart appliances are finding their way into Australian homes, and the latest generation of Wi-Fi-connected ovens with advanced cooking features are 'smarter' than ever before.
Although smart ovens are relatively new in Australia, some of the big oven brands, such as LG, Miele, Fisher & Paykel, AEG, Bosch and Neff, have added them to their product ranges.
But what can smart ovens actually do and are they worth the extra cost?
CHOICE experts have put a few smart ovens to the test in our kitchen labs, assessing their ease of use and cooking performance. Whether a smart oven is right for you, they say, depends on your needs, cooking preferences, and budget.
"Smart ovens offer many new features that you may find convenient or beneficial, particularly if you enjoy a bit more guidance or precision when cooking or love a high-tech appliance," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair.
A regular oven that scores well in our testing will probably offer you better value for moneyCHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair
"But they're very expensive and many of the features are 'nice-to-haves' rather than 'must-haves'.
"The technology is still in the relatively early stages and there are still only a few smart ovens currently available in Australia.
"Although there are certain smart features we think could be useful for some people, in terms of cooking performance, a regular oven that scores well in our testing will probably offer you better value for money," she explains.
Smart wall ovens can be connected to the internet and controlled remotely using a smartphone app or voice commands via smart assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
They generally include features that aim to make the cooking process more convenient, efficient or precise, such as pre-programmed cooking settings, temperature sensors and probes, or a built-in camera to monitor cooking progress.
They may have the ability to save and store cooking preferences or integrate with other smart home devices.
In addition to all the things you'd expect of a regular conventional oven, a smart oven will likely have some or all of the following features:
Remote control via an app: you can control your oven remotely – for example to reduce the temperature or turn it off – from another room, or even when you're out and about.
Voice control: operate your appliance using voice commands with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Automatic programs: in-built settings allow you to cook a range of different dishes automatically without having to select the function, temperature or cooking time yourself.
Compatible recipe apps or inbuilt recipes: some ovens may have a library of pre-programmed recipes available within the oven itself or on a compatible app, or can provide recipe suggestions or cooking tips based on the ingredients you have on hand.
Temperature probes: integrated food probes (inserted into your roast while it's cooking, for example) can measure the core temperature of fish or meat to ensure it is cooked perfectly.
Settings for more unusual cooking functions: in addition to all the regular cooking functions you'd expect from a conventional oven, a smart oven may have special features such as temperature settings for proving dough or drying fruit.
Real-time alerts: get alerts to your smartphone when the cooking process is done and your food is ready or when your oven needs maintenance, or perhaps if the door has been accidentally left open.
In-built camera: view your food at any time via your smart device with an in-oven camera.
CHOICE expert Fiona Mair knows which oven features are worth looking out for and which are unnecessary gimmicks.
1. Good for cooks of all skill levels
Whether you need a bit of guidance when cooking, or you're an experienced cook who regularly prepares a wide range of dishes, the features and functions of a smart oven may appeal to you.
2. They can be convenient
The ability to control the oven via a smartphone app or voice commands means you can preheat the oven or start cooking from anywhere.
3. Customisable cooking functions
Some smart ovens offer customisation options, such as the ability to save your favourite recipes or adjust cooking settings to your preferred level of doneness.
4. They can help you get precise results.
Fiona says the biggest benefit of a smart oven is the integrated temperature probe which is a metal thermometer inside the oven that you insert into your food while it's cooking. It sends notifications to your smartphone when your food has reached the desired temperature.
"This is a game-changing feature that really offers a lot of value – you absolutely need to test the internal temperature of a roast after you cook it, so this feature makes it easy and fuss-free, and doesn't require you to buy an extra thermometer or probe," she says.
If you love this idea but aren't quite ready to shell out for a smart oven, you can always purchase a separate meat thermometer or probe. However, if you want a smart thermometer with a connected smartphone app, these can cost around $200 or more.
5. Energy efficiency and safety
Smart ovens can help you save energy by turning off automatically when the cooking process is complete, or by providing alerts to remind you to turn the oven off.
They can also allow you to check if you forgot to turn the oven off after you've left the house.
An example of one of the smartphone apps showing images taken from inside the oven.
All those smart features are going to cost you big. Smart ovens are generally significantly more expensive than conventional ovens.
"The recommended retail price of the smart ovens we've seen are at least $3000," says Fiona.
"We have tested the Miele H7860BP pyrolitic smart oven, which includes a temperature probe and various other smart features, and its recommended retail price is $9499."
In our most recent wall ovens review, which includes both smart ovens and regular ovens, the models we tested ranged in price from $543 to $9499. While we don't currently recommend any wall ovens under $2000, our test results show you can still find an excellent conventional model for less than $3000.
And if you shop around you can often find discounts that mean you'll pay less than the recommended retail price.
2. The technology is in its early stages
CHOICE experts caution against getting carried away with all the fancy features.
"Although some of the features of smart ovens sound great and have potential, in practice they don't always hit the mark – for example, some apps and features can be intuitive to use while others are more complicated," says Fiona.
"We don't think the 'smart' technology is really worth the substantial extra cost at this point – you can spend significantly less on a great-quality standard oven that will still have a lot of useful functions."
3. Potential safety and security issues
Are smart ovens safe? Some smart ovens spruik safety features such as child locks and emergency auto switch-offs, but a cooking appliance that can be operated remotely is a red flag to our CHOICE experts.
"I would never advise leaving a cooking appliance such as an oven completely unattended while it is in operation – it's something to be mindful of when looking at these appliances," says Fiona.
"Smart ovens are a gimmick and can give people a false sense of security that it's safe to cook in your oven while it is unattended.
"Before buying, ask the manufacturer or look at the product details to find out what safety measures are in place."
You should also consider how secure your oven app is and how much personal data it is asking you to supply – once any device goes online, it's potentially vulnerable to hackers who could access your home Wi-Fi network and gain control of your oven as well as other connected appliances and devices.
A smart oven can be operated via a tablet or smartphone.
4. Reliance on software updates
Manufacturers say that one of the advantages of buying a smart appliance is that you'll be able to enjoy new features that come from future technology updates.
However this is dependent on the manufacturer continuing to update the software or app for the appliance you are using over its lifetime which, for an expensive oven, could be up to 10 years or more. If they don't, the functionality of the smart features you paid big bucks for could be compromised down the track.
5. Expensive to repair
Smart appliances that have more complex electronic controls and in-built software are likely to be more complicated and therefore more expensive to repair, and you'll probably need a specialist repair person or one who is familiar with your specific brand of smart oven.
Are smart ovens worth the money?
When considering whether a smart oven is worth shelling out for, consider how you like to cook and what benefits, if any, you will gain from the smart features and if they're worth the additional cost to you.
If you have a big budget and you value the convenience of being able to control your oven from your phone or would get a lot of use out of customisable recipes and more precise cooking results, then it may be a worthwhile investment.
However, don't expect a smart oven to turn you into an expert chef overnight.
"Unfortunately, smart ovens may not always give you the chef-quality results they promise," says Fiona.
Don't expect a smart oven to turn you into an expert chef overnight
"To get the best from an oven, you need to monitor the food that is cooking, and putting too much trust in the manufacturer's cooking configurations could disappoint. We found the manufacturer's instructions should generally be used as a guide only and may not produce the best results."
And keep in mind that there are many more affordable traditional ovens that perform well in our CHOICE oven reviews on criteria such as cooking performance and ease of use, and they may offer you better value for money.
"It may be a better investment to opt for a cheaper traditional oven that has features such as adjustable preset temperatures and assisted cooking settings or just invest in a separate digital temperature probe," says Fiona.
To see which smart ovens CHOICE has reviewed, expand the 'Features' drop down menu in our wall oven review and select 'Wi-Fi enabled'.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.