In a bake-off between Alexa and Google Assistant, the real winner is flavor

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Cookies are a sometimes food, and the chocolate chip variety is a classic. If you don’t have your great-grandmother’s prized recipe (or the back of a chocolate chip package) handy, you can always ask your voice assistant for some help. Both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are supposed to be whizzes in the kitchen, converting cups to ounces and setting multiple timers. They can also supply recipes, but we wanted to see which delivered a better experience — and a better end result.

Since Noel Fielding wasn’t available, we had to judge this great AI bake-off ourselves. Read on to find out who was the better kitchen helper.

No skills

One difference between Alexa and Google Assistant is how they implement skills. With Alexa, you have to specifically request or enable a skill, like Food Network or Allrecipes. With Google, many apps are auto-enabled. We wanted to see what the experience was like if we didn’t specifically ask the speakers to access the apps.

First, we asked Alexa for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. What’s a good cookie recipe? She suggested Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies, a 25-minute recipe. Then she asked if we wanted more information, to have the recipe sent to the app, or if we wanted different options. When we asked for more details, she said the cookies have a rating of 4.7 stars from more than 1,800 reviews and listed a few of the ingredients. This was really nice, because we learned the recipe had peanut butter, which would be a deal-breaker for some people and would allow them to find that out fairly early in the process.

Next, she told us she could list the ingredients or send the recipe to our phone. After she told us the rest of the ingredients —- rattling them off without pausing for breath — she once again offered to send the recipe to the app. For some reason, she couldn’t take it one step farther to actually read the recipe.

If you have your phone linked to your Google Home account, you can search for a recipe on your phone, send it to the speaker, then ask it to start cooking.

For the Google Home, we asked for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and our guy (our Home speaker has a male voice) suggested the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from Allrecipes, which he said would take about one hour and serves 24. We could either choose to hear the ingredients or jump right into the recipe. We did the first option and the speaker read each item, one by one, pausing until we said, “OK, Google, next.” This is important, because he said he couldn’t send it to our phone and we had to write them all down. Actually, we didn’t, as the whole exchange is in the app’s history, and the recipe did show up in the app as a card that linked to the website.

If you have your phone linked to your Google Home account, you can search for a recipe on your phone, send it to the speaker, then ask it to start cooking. It can only do this with a single recipe at a time, so don’t send it the next three things you want to cook all at once.

Commence baking

Because we didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, we had to go to the store. The next day, when we resumed baking, we wanted to see if our assistants remembered where we left off. “Alexa, let’s make some cookies!” we suggested. She lit up but didn’t reply. Rude. We asked again for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, then realized she wasn’t going to read it to us anyway and would just have to do it from our phones like it was 2010 or something.

When we said to Google Home, “Let’s make cookies!” he gave a sugar cookie recipe. Does it look like Christmas to you, Mr. Home? We said we wanted chocolate chip — and he suggested a recipe for soft chocolate chip cookies. It sounded way better than his recommendation from the day before. We went out to buy sour cream, because it was the one ingredient that didn’t overlap between the two recipes. Finally, we were ready to bake.

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The experience with Mr. Google Home was kind of…stupid. He read the ingredients at the beginning, but didn’t repeat the amounts during the steps. “Stir in sour cream, followed by salt, soda, and baking powder,” he said.

Us: “OK, Google, how much sour cream?”

Mr. Home: “One-fourth cup.”

Us: “OK, Google, how much salt?”

Mr. Home: One-half teaspoon.”

Us: “Uhh, what else did he say? OK, Google, repeat the step.”

Mr. Home: “Stir in sour cream, followed by salt, soda, and baking powder.”

Us: “OK, Google, how much baking soda?”

Mr. Home: “One-half teaspoon.”

Us: “OK, Google, how much baking powder?”

Mr. Home: “One-half teaspoon.”

Us: “I hate you so much.”

Food Network Frustration

If you ask Alexa to find a recipe through The Food Network skill, she’ll offer to email it but won’t read it step-by-step (though the experience is more robust on the Amazon Echo Show). She offers two recipes, but if you ask for “more recipes” — one of the options she offers instead of emailing — she won’t actually give other chocolate chip recipes. Instead, she suggests searching for a food plus an ingredient. If you don’t want to make Trisha Yearwood’s cookies, you’ll have to come up with a more specific suggestion. The Food Network skill works the same on the Google Home.

If you don’t link an email account to the Food Network skill on either Alexa or Google Home, you won’t be able to get the recipes sent to you. It asks permission to access your email on the Google Home, but you’ll need to link your accounts via the Alexa app for Echo products. We’re not sure why the Food Network recipes can’t show up in the speakers’ respective apps, but it definitely detracts from an already lackluster experience.

All right with Allrecipes

With Alexa, you get a very different experience with the Allrecipes skill versus the Food Network’s. We asked Alexa to ask Allrecipes for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The first one was not the outrageous one of the day before, so we asked for another one, and luckily, it was the correct recipe. Once we found it, Alexa let us know we could change the serving size. We tested it out, and she correctly adjusted the amounts of all the ingredients for us.

Alexa actually reads the amounts of each ingredient for each step, which was a much more pleasant way of doing things than with the Google Home.

With the Allrecipes skill, Alexa actually reads the amounts of each ingredient for each step, which was a much more pleasant way of doing things than with the Google Home. There were a few quirks, like when we asked for the ingredient list after she told us to preheat the oven and she replied that there weren’t any ingredients for this step. At another point, she simply gave us the definition of the word “ingredient.” When we asked her tell us all the ingredients, she finally complied.

It seems like the best way to get an Allrecipes item on Google Home is to ask specifically for it. When we prefaced our query by saying, “OK, Google, talk to Allrecipes,” he responded with something called the “Talk of the potluck kale salad.” However, when we quit in the middle of a recipe and said, “Talk to Allrecipes,” he started up where we left off. Alexa does the same; in fact, when we first started looking for cookie recipes, she wanted us to first finish a biscuit recipe we’d searched for weeks ago.

How were the cookies?

Although at certain points both Alexa and Google Home offered up the “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe from Allrecipes, we didn’t end up making it all the way through with either one. Instead, we did the peanut butter and oat Outrageous cookies with Alexa and the sour cream cookie recipe from Let’s Dish with the Google Home. Both were delicious, with the peanut butter adding some additional flavor to a slightly crispier cookie. The sour cream cookies lived up to their soft-cookie name, and we had to bake them for about 14 minutes (as opposed to the recommend eight to 10) just to get them to look like they might be about to brown.

So, which speaker has the edge? We find it’s way easier to find a recipe on our phone and send it to the Google Home than it is to wade through what can be a clunky experience of verbally searching for a recipe. Plus, it offers more versatility than relying on the same few skills or sites all the time. However, having to ask “how much of X ingredient” after every single step is annoying. This is where Alexa and Allrecipes win the day.

Our panel of judges, who have no formal baking training, all preferred Alexa’s Outrageous cookies. The Google Home’s cookies were soft to the point of falling apart, but the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is hard to beat.

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