This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Whether you’re a cooking novice or seasoned chef, cooking can be daunting, especially when hosting or cooking for your family. But Amazon’s trusty voice assistant Alexa can lend a helping hand.
From creating shopping lists and finding recipes to starting your oven and setting the mood, Alexa can be absolutely essential in your kitchen. Here’s my favorite 12 Alexa features to use while cooking, baking, meal prepping and more. (For more Amazon Echo tips, check out which Alexa settings you should change ASAP, the five useful Echo features you should try today and the newest Alexa commands.)
1. Maintain a grocery list with Alexa
Out of the box, Alexa can help you maintain lists for shopping and to-dos. All you have to do is tell Alexa what you want to add and specify which list you want to add it to.
For example, you can say “Alexa, add eggs.” Since eggs is a noun, Alexa understands that it’s an item you would like to add to your shopping list. You can also say “Alexa, add bread to my shopping list,” or, “Alexa, add an item to my shopping list.” For the latter, Alexa will ask what you want to add and your response will be added as the next line item on your list.
To check this list, open the Alexa app on iOS or Android or go to alexa.amazon.com and click Lists. If you would like to sync your additions with one of the supported services — Any.do, AnyList, Cozi Lists, Picniic or Todoist — connect your accounts in the Alexa app. For automatically copying your list to iOS Reminders, Evernote or another note-taking service, use IFTTT to create an Applet that will do one-way sync.
2. Convert units with Alexa
When cooking, you may find yourself needing to convert units of measurement, such as from milliliters to cups. Alexa is capable of doing this out of the box. Just say, “Alexa, convert 2 cups to fluid ounces,” or, “Alexa, how many cups are in a gallon?”
You can also ask how much a volumetric measurement of an ingredient weighs. For instance, “Alexa, how much does a cup of flour weigh?”
3. Keep multiple timers with Alexa
Alexa can put your old egg timer to shame. Just say, “Alexa, start a timer for 5 minutes.” After 5 minutes passes, the speaker will chime until you tell it to stop. You can check on how much time is left simply by asking.
Even better, you can have multiple Alexa timers running simultaneously and give each one a name. Just say something like, “Alexa, start a pizza timer for 10 minutes.”
4. Make coffee with Alexa
You can also use an Alexa command to start up a coffee maker. All you need is a Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew — or a simple drip coffee maker, plus a smart switch.
Next, create an IFTTT Applet that will turn on the smart switch (or the Smart Optimal Brew coffee maker) with a trigger phrase, and remember to add coffee grounds and water the night before you want to use it. Then, in the morning, say the trigger phrase and watch the magic happen.
The Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer was recently integrated with Alexa, as well, making it possible to start brewing your coffee with your voice without IFTTT.
Read more: Alexa Commands Don’t Meet Your Needs? Just Make Your Own
5. Control smart cookers with Alexa
Alexa can also control smaller appliances and cooking devices, such as connected sous vide precision cookers or slow cookers.
Both the Anova and Joule precision cookers have Alexa skills with similar functionality. Anova Culinary and Joule: Sous Vide by ChefSteps let you set the temperature or ask for help cooking specific types of food to the correct temperature, as well as check in on the status of the cook.
While Alexa supports WeMo devices, you won’t find native support for the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo. Instead, you’ll need to rely on IFTTT to pair the WeMo slow cooker to Alexa.
6. Control large appliances with Alexa
Alexa now works with many kitchen appliances, such as ovens and refrigerators. Specifically, GE’s Geneva skill lets you preheat your oven with your voice or begin brewing coffee with one of its refrigerators with a built-in Keurig.
LG has also put Alexa directly into its Smart InstaView door-in-door refrigerator.
Even without direct support, if you own one of the handful of full-size smart appliances integrated with IFTTT, you can control your oven, dishwasher, refrigerator or slow cooker with Alexa. You will just need to create some Applets with these channels using Alexa as the trigger channel to turn your kitchen into a voice-controlled heaven.
7. Ask Alexa for recipe ideas
If you ask Alexa for recipe ideas, it isn’t exactly helpful. However, if you search for “recipe” in the Skills section of the Alexa app or alexa.amazon.com, there’s no shortage of options.
One skill worth checking out is Allrecipes. Ask for the recipe of the day, a recipe based on ingredients you have on hand, how long you have or your preferred cooking method. You can even have recipes sent to your phone if you provide your mobile number or save a recipe to your favorites in Allrecipes by linking your account in the Alexa app. Say something like, “Alexa, ask Allrecipes what can I make with chicken and broccoli,” or, “Alexa, ask Allrecipes for a slow cooker recipe for pulled pork.”
Nestlé also has a recipe skill called GoodNes. You can ask GoodNes to give you recipes for a specific meal, such as dessert or breakfast, email a recipe to you (if you connect your account) and ask which utensils will be needed for the recipe. GoodNes comes with a visual guide that will run in Safari or Chrome on a laptop or iPad. With the visual guide setup and after finding a recipe, you can say things like, “Show me the ingredients,” to view them in the browser.
Here are some other recipe skills worth checking out:
8. Ask Alexa for cooking times
Not sure how long you should cook that 20-pound turkey? The Epicurious Smart Kitchen Timer skill can help. But it can be used for more than that Thanksgiving turkey. This skill can give cooking information on various types of steak, chicken, pork, vegetables and seafood. Just enable the skill, then say, “Alexa, ask Epicurious how long it takes to cook squash.”
9. Ask Alexa for calorie counts
If you’re not sure how many calories a food has, just ask Alexa. It may not always have an answer, but it’s a great place to start. For example, try saying, “Alexa, how many calories are there in Greek yogurt?”
It can provide info on carbohydrates, as well, but only for certain items. It depends on how widely available the nutritional information for a product is — and it helps if the food is something generic, such as steak or broccoli.
10. Ask Alexa to pair wines with food
If you’re unsure which wine best pairs with a certain dish, you can ask Alexa. Try either the Wine Buddy or MySomm skill.
Begin by asking which wine pairs with a certain food item, like halibut or steak. Say, “Alexa, ask Wine Buddy what I should pair with salmon,” or, “Alexa, ask Wine Gal to recommend a wine for prime rib.”
These skills aren’t perfect. Thanks to limited databases, they can’t always pair your wines with specific dishes. Wine Buddy couldn’t tell me which wine pairs with chicken marsala, for example, but if you keep the requests fairly basic, you can get some basic answers.
11. Ask Alexa for cocktail recipe ideas
If you have guests coming over for drinks, but you’re not sure where to begin, just say, “Alexa, open Easy Cocktail.” Then, to use Easy Cocktail, say, “Alexa, ask Easy Cocktail how I can make an Old Fashioned.” First, Alexa will list off the ingredients, then it will tell you the steps of making the drink.
If you’ve got a specific liquor in mind, you can ask The Bartender for cocktail recommendations instead.
12. Listening to music or the news with Alexa
Don’t forget to crank up the volume while you cook. While you may not be able to binge Netflix while you cook, it’s one of the best times to catch up on your favorite podcasts. You can also stream music or play your Flash Briefing to hear the latest news.