It may come as a surprise to many but there are ways to harness technology to put food on the table that go beyond firing up Swiggy or Zomato. There is a new breed of smart cooking appliances that help automate parts of the cooking process, guiding even kitchen newbies through the steps while keeping a close eye on the cooking and temperatures so you are not stuck to the cooktop the whole time.
As someone who can cook the basics but rarely expends the effort to experiment beyond the staples, I was intrigued by delishUp ( ₹21,999), from the Bengaluru-based smart appliance startup Up. This is a cooking appliance that literally handholds you through its step-by-step recipes to whip up dishes and flavours without requiring any knowledge of techniques and measurements. Sounds too good to be true?
What is it, exactly?
At its most basic, delishUp combines a stainless steel jar with a heating coil and a variable speed blade (or a mixer coupled with a one-pot cooker), an integrated weighing scale and an eight-inch Wi-Fi-connected touch screen for access to recipes and device control. You can purchase it in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune; it will be available in Hyderabad and Chennai next. The set-up is simple—place the jar into the main unit, as you would in a mixer grinder, use the QR-code based sign-up procedure on your phone to connect the appliance to your home network, and you are set.
The smart appliance can handle a range of cooking activities, from chopping, blending, mixing, grinding and kneading to heating, steaming, sautéing, boiling and whipping—across a growing list of recipes, 230-250 at last count, with 8-10 recipes being added each week. Before you start cooking, delishUp displays, on the screen, all the ingredients you need for that recipe, along with the exact measurements for the serving size (between two-four) you have selected and the weighing scale allows you to take exact measurements so there’s little to no deviation from the recipe. The recipe will ask you to add ingredients, slicing up the vegetables or blitzing the masalas as you go along, and develop the flavours by monitoring and varying the temperatures over the cooking process. You can shortlist recipes by cuisine, specify dietary preferences or restrictions and even suggest what’s in your fridge/pantry, and you will get a shortlist of potential recipes. That's quite the lifesaver when you’re starting to cook late in the evening and couldn’t be bothered to go foraging for ingredients at the grocery store.
The cooking experience
I decided to try out basic mushroom scrambled eggs…except I had no mushrooms on hand and decided to make do with onions instead—a rookie mistake, as mushrooms and onions break down and cook very differently. Following the on-screen instructions step by step, we added onions and the garlic (which it blitzed) and the eggs. Off the machine went, cooking and stirring till the timer ran out. The end result was tasty, if a little too garlicky for my taste, and the switch in ingredients did lead to some of the egg sticking to the bottom of the stainless-steel jar. Lesson learnt—with a machine like this, follow the recipe and adjust with ingredients that behave similarly (the on-screen AI, or Artificial Intelligence, would have been handy, more on that later). As with any new cooking appliance, I fine-tuned the approach based on the experience, using delishUp to successfully knead chapati dough, followed by making some chaat items. It was only when I managed to cook a chicken gravy dish (hariyali chicken) that I had my “eureka moment"—none of the stress about quantity, followed by chopping aromatics and constant stirring and watching over the dish hawkishly. Yet it was perfectly seasoned, and, more importantly, the chicken drumsticks were cooked correctly all the way through. This is a device that’s best leveraged for long cooking durations, with little to no traditional intervention needed.
What needs work
After using the delishUp for a couple of weeks, it’s obvious that there’s still some ground to cover, aside from the obvious fact that you can only cook one dish at a time. For instance, using the delishUp screen isn’t the most fluid affair, particularly if your hands are wet, and the team indicates that they are working on using the dial below the display as a physical alternative to navigating the interface.
Recipes are standardised around spice levels, so there is no option yet to bump up (or down) spice levels, though I am told it’s on the cards. Certain types of cooking —deep frying, roasting, baking—just aren’t supported on the delishUp.
If you cook something that leaves some residue in the container, Up has provided a rinse mode so it can clean itself from inside (with water and liquid soap). All too often, though, manual scrubbing is required even after the rinse. Unlike other appliances which typically get packed away after use, you will want to make countertop space for this device—it has the footprint of a proper mixer grinder.
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In steps ChefGPT
Up has added some interesting AI elements to delishUp. So you can pull up a chatbot in the middle of a cook to check on ingredient substitutions or make a recipe vegan friendly. In addition to the recipes available, you can ask ChefGPT—an AI model that combines the large language models with Up’s own AI model/data set around cooking (ingredients and their time vs temperature graphs). ChefGPT can take in a natural language request, “make me a Spaghetti Carbonara the way Jamie Oliver makes it", and construct a custom recipe you can follow on the delishUp. It handles most common ingredients, even though “chocolate chicken" as a recipe may sound outrageous, but can it handle mock meat just yet? No, but one expects it’s only a matter of time.
If you are new to cooking, or looking for ways to expand your cooking repertoire, delishUp is a fantastic appliance to cook healthy home-cooked meals with minimum effort. It has allowed one to consider making a low-intervention yet “proper meal" at the end of a day in place of either a quick and dirty job…or reaching for the phone. It’s well worth the investment just for that.
Up isn’t alone in the space – there are a number of firms that build similar products with slightly differing ways of approaching the cooking process (oddly enough, all of them are Bengaluru-based).
A number of firms are coming up with similar products.
Nosh: This allows you to load the spice and chopped ingredients (five maximum) into separate trays, while oil and water go into separate containers. You need to select the cuisine/recipe and initiate the cooking process. Thereafter, no intervention is needed until the pan emerges from the oven-like appliance with the finished dish.
Nymble: It uses a similar approach, with a spice tray and four containers to hold bigger ingredients like vegetables, meat, pasta, to add them to the pan at the right time. Nymble uses an AI-enabled camera and temperature sensors to see how the cooking is progressing—when the onions are browning or the sauce is thickening, for example—and live-stream the progress to your phone.
Xiaomi: The firm has added smarts to its Smart Air Fryer (3.5 litres), which allows you to grill, bake, fry, roast, defrost or dehydrate using the recipes on the Mi Home app, even allowing custom scheduling so you can reach home to a cooked meal.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.
- FIRST PUBLISHED02.06.2023 | 04:13 PM IST