This $500 Cooking System Promises to Make you a Better Cook
It’s cheaper than culinary school.
There are a lot of things you can purchase with $500. But when it comes to becoming a better cook, what would you be willing to pay? Given the popularity of the Instant Pot and AirFryer, homecooks clearly crave kitchen gadgets that make cooking simpler without sacrificing great tasting food. And the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System might just be the next big obsession.
What is the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System? And How Does it Work?
The Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System integrates technology and chef-driven cooking techniques to allow users to cook with guided precision from the provided recipes and video demonstrations. The Hestan Cue is a product of the Meyer Corporation, which specializes in cookware. Chances are, you already have some sort of pot or pan from the company’s major lines including Farberware, SilverStone, Anolon, Bonjour, and Circulon; however, you likely don’t have any tool quite like this. The advanced system includes a glass-ceramic-topped,1600-watt induction burner, an 11-inch pan made with tri-ply stainless steel, and a recipe app that you can download to your phone. Via Bluetooth, the app connects with and controls the induction burner and pan’s temperature during cooking. The recipes that pair with the system are provided in the app where you can choose, preview, and shop for the dishes that you want to cook.
The best way to use the system effectively is to cook with the recipes included in the app. Outside of that, you essentially have a really expensive induction burner. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your cooking style), the system doesn’t allow room to freestyle or go off the beaten path of the explicit directions given in each recipe. The only creative chance you’re allotted is with the “mix and match” function in the app where you can pair a protein, such as boneless pork chop, crispy-skin duck breast, or crispy veal cutlet with an accompanying sauce of your choice. With the $500 price tag, you are basically paying for access to the app and its step-by-step demonstrative videos that take the guesswork out of determining the appropriate cooking times and temperature for perfectly prepared food.
The system’s design is sleek and fairly intuitive. The induction burner is round and fits the circumference of the pan exactly, allowing you to preserve precious counter space. There is a sensor that you insert into the handle of the pan that allows you to connect it and the burner to your phone, as you would any other Bluetooth device. Initially, I did experience a problem with the audio, but it turned out to be a quick fix... I simply needed to my phone off of “silent” and it worked. The customer service team was very responsive and happy to help me in figuring out the audio issue. That said, I was still able to navigate the app and cook a few recipes from the video footage alone even before my audio was functioning.
The Test and Results
I have to admit, I did not burn a thing. The app provides the user accurate timing on when to flip, stir, or remove the food from the heat. I started with perfectly seared scallops and ultra crispy bacon. When it comes to certain proteins, it’s important to purchase the ingredients as listed since the system is pre-programmed to gauge the temperature and cooking. For example, the scallops had to be sized U-10, and the bacon needed “thick-cut” to avoid it from overcooking.
One downfall to using this system is that you have to touch your phone during the cooking process to move to the next step. Also, if you have a multi-step recipe that would benefit from using separate pans simultaneously, you lose time having to prepare half of the recipe, then carefully clean the pan, and later complete the second part of the recipe. These subtle inconveniences became clear once I got into cooking. For example, when I prepared the recipe provided for eggplant Parmesan, the recipe itself was suburb (maybe the best pan of eggplant parmesan I’ve ever made), but I found it was difficult to touch my phone for the next step with messy fingers from dredging the eggplant. I also had to prep the tomato sauce, wait for it to cook to completion, and then clean the pan to fry the eggplant in.
I did have a slight malfunction (completely on my end) when my phone died in midway through pan searing a skirt steak. I had already went through the prompts that asked me the thickness and degree of doneness I was interested in. When my phone powered off, the burner remained on at the same temperature, but I was left unclear as to when to flip the steak and remove it from the heat. I’m sure if I waited to reboot my phone, I would have overcooked the steak. I had to use my best judgment to finish it without the assistance of the app. And, being that the temperature bar on the burner is not labeled, I made an educated assumption that the middle marking was considered “medium” temperature. Note to self, charge your dang phone!
Next, I had a handful of skeptical editors come into the kitchen and use the app to make a grilled cheese sandwich. The recipe provided by the app was a little high-brow in that it called for comté and raclette cheese, which I had a hard time finding at a nearby grocery store. Instead, I substituted sliced cheddar. Even with a more commonplace cheese, every tester successfully made one of the most golden, evenly-cooked, and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches you’ll ever see. However, there is no debating that the 10-minute cooking time made most of them uneasy. CookingLight.com Editor Chris Michel described the process as, “Blazingly easy to use,” yet he felt like the entire process was the opposite how he he likes to cook. He said, “I want to focus in on what I cook, I want to be away from my phone. I like to open a cookbook and look at the recipe.” Hayley Sugg, CookingLight.com assistant editor, felt that the system detracted from her natural cooking instincts and the ability to gauge the doneness of food. She also said, “If you don’t have a super expendable income, it’s not attainable for the average customer.” She suggested to just buy a set of really good pots and pans instead.
So is the $500 induction burner system worth it? It depends. The chef-driven recipes provided in the app were a major selling point for me. I would have liked to see more recipe options, and it seems to be a mission of the company to continually update the database with more recipes. The system can certainly provide a boost of cooking confidence for a less-experienced cook with the safety net of knowing that you’ll be clearly guided through each step to perfection. I do think the system has the potential to help a certain type of person become a more skilled home cook, via exposing the user to various cooking techniques used by professional chefs and walking them through executing each. That said, as Sugg hinted, you lose some instinctual abilities that come with practice, making mistakes, having to actually pay attention in the kitchen.
If the system isn’t a budget strain, and you are a novice cook interested in learning to improve your skills, the product maybe worth your while. If you are more of creative cook that likes to improvise, this “smart” product is likely not the smartest purchase for you.