Smeg’s newly launched collection of ovens, the Vivo connected range, has one stand-out feature. It’s the large, full-colour display that’s used to programme the oven.
It’s controlled by scrolling both vertically and horizontally. The top menu gives you a number of options, including choosing between cooking traditionally or using inbuilt smart functionality.
If you opt for smart cooking, there are up to 100 automatic recipes you can use, which means that once you choose your dish, the oven will take care of temperature and timing.
You can also modify the recipes if they’re not exactly to your liking. But if you want more personalisation, you can store up to 64 of your own recipes in the oven’s memory.
If this sounds as though it has the potential to be confusing, or a lot of faff, we’re pretty convinced it won’t be.
I have a confession. I never use the timer on my oven. And that’s because I always forget how to use the multifunction buttons. They’re a bugbear of older ovens.
Every time there’s a power cut and I have to reset the clock, I have to dig out the instruction manual as I’ve forgotten whether I hold down buttons A and B together to set the clock, or B and C. The end result of this is that post-power cut, my oven clock will display the wrong time for a week or two. And that, when I’m cooking, I always set a timer on my phone instead.
Obviously, part of this is my lazy refusal to remember how to programme my oven. But, on the other hand, when a system is annoying enough to make people create their own workarounds, it can’t be the best possible design.
For touchscreen users, that could all be a thing of the past. We’ve seen a cooking demo on the Vivo and the entire set-up of the display screen is designed to make preparing even complicated dishes very simple, as each function or feature has its own icon.
There’s a drill down menu system, so you might choose ‘Cooking’, then ‘Meat’, then simply scroll to choose the temperature and timing.
And if there’s any feature you don’t immediately understand, if you press and hold the icon for three seconds, a pop-up will appear to explain the function.
The Vivo ovens themselves will also give you a lot more help when cooking than simply heating up. For a start, they allow multi-step cooking. That means you can programme up to three stages of cooking. You can also set up to three timers to run simultaneously.
The ovens also have an inbuilt temperature probe, connected to the smart display, for perfectly cooked meat.
Will all of this make you a better cook? It’s a possibility. But you’ll definitely be able to experiment more and use all the functionality in your oven, rather than being put off by the thought of struggling with the instruction manual.
For example, the Vivo ovens have a steam cooking feature. There’s a water pipe and reservoir built in, so you can cook using steam, which stops food from drying out and gives you an oil-free cooking option.
You might be hesitant to try out a feature like this (or never quite get around to it), if the programming was complicated. But in this instance, you just fill the reservoir, choose the cooking method and let your oven get on with it.
Vivo ovens are also wi-fi connected, so you can control them from your phone or tablet via the Smeg Connect app. This will allow you to preset or preheat the oven when you’re on your way back, so it’s ready to go as soon as you get home.
The ovens have a pyrolytic self-cleaning programme and accompanying safety features including a child lock and a quadruple glazed door, which means it stays cool to the touch, whatever the temperature inside the oven.
Vivo ovens are integrated appliances, with a choice of brass or stainless steel trim. There are two forms of display, the Vivo (9.5cm screen) and the VivoMax (15cm). Prices on Vivo ovens start from £1,099 and you can get more information and find stockists via Smeg UK.