Music in the kitchen is as fundamental as salt, and food just as flavorless without it. When I worked as a line cook, the only music we had was my sous chef's warbling, heat-warped Metallica tapes playing out of an old boom box we kept atop the dish sanitizer.
Today a smart speaker can add music¡ªand a lot more¡ªto your kitchen. These new tools offer a way to navigate the digital world even when your hands are covered in flour. Need a timer? Talk to your speaker. How about searching for a recipe? No need for a phone, your speaker can pull the recipe up on its screen without leaving anything streaked with olive oil. Need to turn fluid ounces into tablespoons? Not a problem. Want to watch a video on the best way to slice up a mango? Yup, your speaker can do that. If you ask, it'll even crank up the Metallica.
The AI Battle for Your Kitchen Goes to Google
There are two AI agents that make all of the speakers I tested smart: Google Assistant and Alexa. Each speaker model runs one of the two types of software on the device, even if they aren't the products designed directly by Google and Amazon. After testing dozens of assistant-driven smart screen speaker devices, I've found Google Assistant, which is used in my top choice speaker, the JBL Link View, to be the best choice for the kitchen.
For simple, general tasks (set a timer for 10 minutes, play Charles Mingus, and so on) both Google Assistant and Alexa work well. When it comes to common kitchen-related tasks, though, like finding a recipe and following it, converting a measurement on the fly, or looking up a video of an unfamiliar technique, Google Assistant has the edge. Search results are better, and the step-by-step mode for recipe directions, with the ability to pause, step back, step forward, convert a measurement, or even call up a YouTube video mid-recipe creates a better experience.
The main reason to choose Alexa over Google Assistant in the kitchen is if you already have Alexa-based devices in other rooms. The way things are now, smart speakers can only connect to each other if they're using the same system. If you already have a couple Alexa-based speakers in the living room, and you want your new kitchen speaker to also play the same music simultaneously, you have to get another Alexa speaker. But if you're not adding to an existing Alexa system, Google Assistant is the way to go.
That's not to say Alexa has no place in the kitchen. The Amazon Echo Show 8 was able to do just about everything I did with Google Assistant, save easily calling up YouTube videos.
If your primary use for a voice assistant is simple¡ªlistening to music, setting multiple timers, and adding items to your grocery list¡ªthen either assistant will work fine. If, on the other hand, you're just starting out in the kitchen and want extra help with recipes (maybe you¡¯d like to watch related technique or recipe videos on YouTube) or frequently need to convert measurements, I suggest going with a Google Assistant-based device.
Best All-Around Smart Device for the Kitchen: JBL Link View
JBL's Link View (which uses Google Assistant technology) strikes the best balance of all the speakers I tested between good sound, helpful assistant, and appropriate size. The eight-inch display is big enough for watching YouTube without squinting, but small enough to squeeze between that new air fryer and your mother's mixer.
It lacks the "kitchen look" of Lenovo's equally capable Smart Display (see below), but provides better sound. The Link View's dual speakers are covered in gray fabric and sit on either side of the LCD screen, which you can use to pull up recipes and videos using your voice. The sound is not as good as the Sonos, but better than the rest of the devices I tested.