In recent years, controls on kitchen appliances have become a bit, well, out of control. Consider the range. Regardless of brand, 20 years ago making dinner meant turning a knob—one for each burner and another for the oven.

Today, the LG LRE3083SW lacks knobs altogether; it has a dizzying array of 43 buttons replacing them. The LG, one of top-scoring ranges in our ratings, isn't alone in its inclusion of such features as rapid preheat, convection baking, and self-clean—all of which cut time in the kitchen but can make cooking a frozen pizza or steaming veggies a more complicated task.

Striking a balance between streamlined controls and useful features isn’t a problem unique to ranges. Refrigerators, which for decades featured a single temperature-control dial, can now feature an integrated tablet, a seltzer dispenser, or a coffee brewer.

When used wisely, Bluetooth, WiFi, voice recognition, and other technology can make appliances easier to program and use without adding a single button to the control panel. Here are three recent examples.


Consumer Reports hasn't yet tested the features on these new appliances but will continue to integrate them and other state-of-the-art capabilities into our tests. If you're in the market today, check our appliance ratings.
 

Whirlpool Scan-to-Cook

Anytime an app is designed to work with a major appliance, the temptation to integrate flashy features of limited use can be too great for manufacturers to pass up. But Scan-to-Cook seems squarely rooted in the practical, for good reason. “Our customers aren’t worried about neighbors judging them,” says Tim Buszka of the Whirlpool Corporation. “They just want features that prevent them from ruining food.”

Indeed, rather than programming compatible ovens to perfectly roast halibut en papillote (cooked in parchment paper or an aluminum-foil package), Scan-to-Cook lets you use your smartphone to read the bar codes on common convenience foods—like a frozen pizza—to automatically heat your oven, when compatible, according to the directions on the package.

You can even skip the preheat if you activate the oven’s "frozen bake" setting. “Frozen bake uses an algorithm to modify the cook time and temperature," says Chris Kelson of Whirlpool, "and it’ll send you an alert when the meal is done.” In addition to saving time, eliminating the need to program or preheat your oven saves trips to the kitchen, too. 

Samsung Bluetooth Range Hoods

Turning on a range hood isn’t a big deal—provided you remember to do it. Otherwise, it’s hard to play catch-up once the kitchen is filled with smoke or steam from cooking. Samsung’s Bluetooth-enabled range hoods pair with compatible cooktops to do exactly what they should: turn on automatically when a burner is activated. The hood defaults to the lowest setting, but hearing it kick in will remind you to crank it up to high if you’re searing steaks or chops. It’s an idea that’s both brilliantly simple and long overdue.  

GE Geneva

It might not be long before we rely on Amazon’s Alexa and similar devices to control large parts of our everyday environment. GE’s adaptation, called Geneva, is particularly appealing because using it seems like second nature. It uses voice commands to, say, preheat an oven or set a timer, so you don't have to ask a family member in the kitchen to do it. And it lets you tackle those simple tasks without fiddling with your phone or range, which is particularly helpful if you’re in another room or otherwise occupied.