For some, Thanksgiving is about stuffing themselves and watching football, end of list. But it can be a source of stress for whoever is running the show. Speakers with voice assistants such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo are supposed to take some tasks off your hands, and there are a few ways they can help the hectic out on Black Friday Eve. Here are a few ways your voice assistant can make Thanksgiving a bit smoother.
Get the green beans
Amazon’s Alexa used to have the market cornered when it came to voice-assistant shopping. Provided you have an Amazon Prime account and have voice purchasing enabled, you can ask her to add an item to your shopping cart and review it in the app. Google recently partnered with Target for its Google Express program, which lets you order items and have them delivered either the same day or within three days, depending on what it is. Amazon has same-day delivery service with Prime Now, where available.
If you want to brave the stores yourself, you can simply ask Alexa or Google home to add a can of cranberry sauce or bag of marshmallows to your shopping list, and then you’ll be able to see it in their respective apps.
Always on time
The timing of getting dinner on the table between when people are hungry enough after eating hors d’oeuvres and not quite into their nth glass of wine is a tricky one. Plus, you’re making multiple dishes in a single kitchen. That’s when setting reminders to baste the turkey and using multiple timers for different foods comes in handy. Both Alexa and Google let you set multiple, named timers. Ask either to set a potato timer, pumpkin pie timer, and turkey timer, and you can find out how much time is left by using the name in your inquiry. We recommend setting the reminder “breathe” for 15 minutes after your least-favorite relative shows up.
Ditch the index cards
Maybe you really dislike the majority of the Thanksgiving staples you had growing up, or a guest is requesting oysters in their stuffing — something you’ve never done before. You can use your voice assistant to walk you through recipes. Enable skills from Allrecipes, Food Network, or Betty Crocker on your Alexa device to find something to make. The Echo Show can bring up videos if you’re unsure how to carve a turkey, too.
Meanwhile, Google Home takes you step-by-step through recipes from Bon Appetit, Food Network, and The New York Times. Using the Google Assistant app, you can ask to find an oyster stuffing recipe, and it will offer up some options. Make your choice and click “Send to Google Home” if available. Then you can ask your device to start cooking, prompting with “OK, Google, next” when you’re ready to move on.
Say somethin’ to your oven
Smart appliances aren’t at all ubiquitous, but if you do have one, there’s a decent chance it’s compatible with either Alexa or Google Assistant. Alexa works with more of them. If your hands are covered with turkey guts, it’s mighty nice to just ask your smart speaker to ask your oven to preheat to 425 degrees. If you’re doing some sous viding this holiday, Anova works with both assistants; Joule has an Alexa skill.
Whether you’re going full bird or will be tofurking yourself, chances are you’ll need some advice on some part of the Thanksgiving meal. Alexa and Google Home can convert cups to ounces or remind you that forks go on the left side. Alexa is primed with all sorts of Thanksgiving-related tidbits, including hacks, jokes, and stories. Morton Salt has an Alexa skill to help you brine your turkey. Surprisingly, Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line doesn’t seem to have a skill yet, but you can still call them from your Google Home if disaster strikes.
Speaking of calling… Not everyone can make it home for Turkey Day, but you can give far-flung friends and relatives a call via your smart speaker. While Google Home lets you call almost any number in the U.S. and Canada for free, but whomever you’re calling from your Echo or Echo Show will need an Alexa device to make a connection. Of course, it’s a bit like having the whole house on speakerphone, so your results may vary.
Distract from taboo topics
Part of the magic and misery of the holidays is mingling with relatives you rarely see. Sometimes you just wish there was an in-person Facebook “Unfollow” button. Alexa can’t do that, but she and the Google Home do have games, music, and other distractions. Try Google Home’s “crystal ball” or “Mad-Libs” games if things get tense. Alexa has Jeopardy!; Magic Door; Yes, Sire; and tons more for fans of Batman (The Wayne Investigation), music (Song Quiz), movies (Golden Ticket), wordplay (Categories Game or Amazing Word Master), and Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal).
For those with multiple Alexa devices, you can use the “drop in” feature to call everyone to dinner. Google Home’s broadcast feature lets you use your speakers like an intercom.
Waiting on a late arrival? Alexa’s Kayak skill can track a flight’s status for you.
Ask either Alexa or Google Home for the scores to football games you’re not currently watching, and they’ll be able to tell you who’s winning.
If all else fails…
Should your turkey go poof, you can always ask your voice assistant for nearby restaurants. Hopefully some place is open.