What’s Cooking in the Kitchen of the Future Melanie Zanoza Bartelme | December 2015, Volume 69, No.12

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Multidimensional Cooking
In the not-too-distant future, at-home 3-D printers will also provide a convenient way to create fresh food at the push of a button. “According to our Dinnertime MealScape study, we know that for 40% of dinners the decision of what to make was made within just 30 minutes of the meal,” writes Darren Seifer on The NPD Group Blog. “A device like [a 3-D printer] would fit very well during that narrow window of time. All consumers would need is the raw materials on hand and the ability to push a button” (Seifer 2015).

Foodini 3-D printerFoodini, which will come on the market the first quarter of 2016 and retail for $1,500, will serve as “a food manufacturing plant in people’s kitchens,” according to Lynette Kucsma, cofounder and chief marketing officer of Natural Machines, the company creating Foodini. The sleek countertop device lets consumers create whatever foods they desire via an extrusion system that employs stainless steel cartridges the consumers fill with their own sauces, doughs, and ingredients—whether they make those from scratch or buy them in stores. Kucsma says that Foodini will never force consumers to spend money buying prefilled cartridges for the machine (Foodini will always come with empty cartridges that users can fill themselves), but the company has been approached by manufacturers that want to develop meal kits for them.

According to researchers at the Nestlé Research Center (NRC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, however, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done in this area before manufacturers can realistically produce foods for most machines such as these. “Food printing is an emerging technology and is currently pitched to unlock a new design approach in personalized dietary choices,” says Martin Michel, expert scientist at the NRC. “Nestlé carefully monitors this technology, but it is too early to tell where it will go.” In addition, he says there are a number of challenges many food printers must overcome, such as speed of printing, texture and taste, and complexity. “The culinary world embraces a huge number of recipes as well as many ingredients and processes in order to provide a larger variety of foods,” he explains. “Whereas it is easy in color printers to create thousands of color shades from four different inks, this is not currently the case for food printing.”

Kucsma, though, is undeterred by these potential challenges. “We think in the next 10 to 15 years, every kitchen will have a 3-D food printer similar to how most kitchens have a microwave today,” she says. If this does turn out to be the case, it would be in food companies’ best interests to continue working with the developers of these machines to give consumers the option to make 3-D printing even easier; branded meal kits with all the components needed to print a ravioli and meat sauce or throw a pizza party could serve to make this technology even more convenient and give consumers even more say in what they’re eating. With Foodini, “You control everything that goes into your food,” says Kucsma. “This is real food, just 3-D-printed.”

Speaking of control, “I’m predicting right now that, for the next decade, all of the new advances in home cooking are going to be geared toward precision,” writes J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director of the Serious Eats blog (López-Alt 2015). He was talking about Cinder, a new countertop appliance that aims to achieve the same results as sous-vide cooking—holding food at a low, steady temperature over time to retain moisture, maintain texture, and break down tough proteins. According to Philip Preston, founder of PolyScience, Niles, Ill., the company that first moved sous-vide cooking out of commercial kitchens and into consumers’ homes, precise temperature cooking gives consumers much more control over their cooking than baking, grilling, and simmering. (See a Food Technology Online Exclusive at ift.org/food-technology/current-issue for more on this technology.)

Probe thermometerIn addition, probe thermometers now come standard in freestanding and countertop ovens from companies including Miele, Wolf, GE, and KitchenAid. After these probes are inserted into meat, ovens are set to cook the proteins until they reach a desired temperature, then kept warm until the rest of the meal is ready. When probes are used correctly, medium-rare steaks become effortless and chicken breasts are cooked safely every time.

Nestlé’s Nespresso Vertuoline systemThis kind of precision and accuracy is also possible in other countertop appliances. One such gadget, Nestlé’s Nespresso Vertuoline single-serve coffeemaker, scans a barcode on the cup’s lid to determine the optimal water contact time, temperature, rotational speed, and flow rate for the specific type of coffee or espresso the user is making. Food manufacturers might consider collaborating with appliance companies to create products for appliances such as these, following Campbell’s lead in developing soup cups for use with Keurig machines.