Cooking is a social activity. Parents make food. Kids help in the kitchen. Friends bake together. Families bequeath recipes through the generations. Get people together for a potluck, and they'll trade cooking tips all evening.
Tip in a Tip: Let's say you have a question about a family recipe or want to check in to say hello, many people are unaware that Alexa now offers calling and messaging. It’s a slick feature you’ll use time and time again. Click here to learn how you can use it too.
Amazon's virtual assistant has become a commonplace in many homes, picking your music and helping you book Uber rides. Many Alexa commands make the device essential in homes. If you're just asking for music, click here for a comprehensive list of things you can tell Alexa to do.
Thanks to a few new skills, the Echo can also help you fry up some grub. There's no shortage of epicurean advice. Amazon has over 400 skills listed in its Alexa "Food & Drink" category alone.
Here are some of the best and most useful cooking-related skills to help you get the most out of Alexa when you're in the kitchen.
1. Access Allrecipes
Allrecipes already hosts one of the most active cooking websites on the internet. Now you can access 60,000 Allrecipes recipes through your Alexa device. What's your pleasure tonight? Coleslaw dressing? Grilled salmon?
Just ask Alexa to sift through Allrecipes, and your Echo will read the ingredients and methods aloud to you. You can also ask for recipes that match ingredients you have on hand, designate favorite dishes, get recipe reviews and have the recipe sent to your phone for easy reference.
One caveat: Some Amazon Echo Show owners have reported that recipes quickly disappear from the screen. Hopefully, that issue will be resolved in a future update. Click here to learn more about the Alexa Allrecipes skill.
2. Brew the Coffee
Alexa can connect to all kinds of smart devices, among them the $299 Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer. This coffee maker will respond to at-home baristas' commands. Simply state, "Alexa, ask Behmor to brew my coffee." While you still need to set up the coffee maker with water and grounds, Behmor works with Amazon's Dash Replenishment so you can order your specific roast automatically, before running out.
Many new appliances are also in development, such as the Anova Precision Cooker. You may very well find some new "smart cookers" in your Christmas stocking this year.
3. Count calories
Watching your weight? You can simply ask, "Alexa, how many calories are in pan-seared salmon?" and you're certain to hear the answer. As you pull out different ingredients, you can gather nutritional information for every single one.
4. Convert measurements
How does anyone remember that two cups equal 474 milliliters? What is a jigger, and how many fit into a gallon?
For the arithmetically challenged, Alexa is a quick way to get conversions. Just ask, "Alexa, how many tablespoons are in a cup?" Alexa will quickly tell you the answer is "16." Smarty pants.
5. Consult The Bartender
Pouring cocktails is an art unto itself, and bartenders often go to special schools to learn its particulars. But now you can learn proper preparation in your kitchen, thanks to The Bartender. This skill acts as a mixology guide that gives you recipes for popular cocktails. Since it deals with alcoholic beverages, Amazon considers this skill for mature audiences (over 21 in the U.S.) and will notify you of that when you first enable it.
Just say, "Alexa, ask The Bartender how to make a Fuzzy Navel," and the Echo will recite instructions. Once you've exhausted the usual White Russians and Singapore Slings, you can explore more than 12,000 less-famous recipes.
The Bartender pulls its recipes from the cloud, so there can be some variability in the quality of the recipes and the quantities they make. It's still a good option for getting a quick refresher on ingredients, proportions and special techniques.
6. Find alternate ingredients
You're excited about preparing a new recipe. You gather your ingredients. Everything is going fine up until the moment you discover you're missing buttermilk. What to do?
Easy. Enable the Ingredient Sub skill and say, "Alexa, ask Ingredient Sub what I can use instead of buttermilk." You will find you can use yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar and milk to create a buttermilk substitute for your dish.
You may be surprised by how many substitutions exist for regular household ingredients. Users have reported finding alternatives for such culinary staples as vinegar and raw eggs.
7. Compose a shopping list
Some of Alexa's best kitchen features don't require you to activate a new skill. You can add items to your grocery list by saying "Alexa, add organic eggs to my shopping list." You can then check the Alexa app on your phone to access your shopping list while you're at the store.
8. Use specific timers
This is a customer favorite because timing is so important for so many dishes. Maybe you're accustomed to working with an egg timer or the oven clock, but this can get confusing if you're preparing a large meal.
Echo can run several timers concurrently, and it will even identify which timer is going off by name. Just say, "Alexa, set a pizza timer for 20 minutes," and you'll receive an alert 20 minutes later.
9. Stop wasting food
Did you know that the average American family throws out about a half-ton of food every year? We often do it by accident, of course: Rummaging through the back of the refrigerator, we find a half-empty carton of milk and a bunch of old spinach, and we toss them in the trash.
This is why they invented the Save the Food Alexa skill. Created by the Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Save the Food is aimed at reducing food waste by helping you use up the food you've already bought before it goes bad.
Save the Food can give you tips for proper storage of food, so it will last longer and share guidelines on what foods are safe to eat, even if they've been hanging out in your refrigerator for some time. Just say, "Alexa, ask Save the Food how to store asparagus," and the database will search for instructions.
How else can you put your virtual assistant to good use? Be sure to listen or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.