One of my favorite Pixar movies is Ratatouille, in which a French chef by the name of Gusteau inspires a rat to become a gourmet cook. Gusteau’s tag line in the film is “Anyone can cook”, but the sad truth is that many people limit themselves to fast food, easy-to-prepare store-bought entrees and the like after having one too many meals turn out undercooked or scorched. The Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System consists of an app-controlled inductive cooktop, an 11-inch “smart pan” or chef’s pot with embedded sensors, and the Hestan Cue app (iOS or Android), all of which work together to make sure that home chefs get the best results every time.
The concept behind the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System is “guided cooking”. Think of having your own personal professional chef helping you out at every step of making something in your kitchen. He tells you what you need to buy at the store, how to prepare for cooking (even to the point of showing you how to chop onions if you’re brand new to cooking), sets the temperature perfectly for the food being cooked, and even tells you when to flip the meat or stir the ingredients.
You don’t actually get a professional chef to stand next to you, but the app recipes are the next best thing. They’re created by a team of top professional chefs from famous restaurants around the world, and go through a rigorous testing process prior to being released.
The app, the inductive cooktop, and pans work together. The app takes you step by step through preparation and cooking of the meal, the inductive cooktop provides the heat, and a feedback loop between the cooktop and pans keeps the temperature precisely controlled.
What if you like your salmon a bit rare and your steak more well done? The Cue system has you measure the thickness of your protein, then asks how you’d like that food cooked. Once that information is gathered in the app, it calculates just how long something needs to be cooked and at what temperature. The app controls the temperature by monitoring the temperature of the pan surface and increasing or decreasing the power to the inductive cooktop if needed.
Most steps of the recipes include short videos to demonstrate how to do something, whether that’s folding scrambled eggs in on themselves with a spatula or basting a salmon filet with a savory oil.
The Inductive Cooktop and Pans
The Hestan Cue Countertop Induction Burner ($299.95) is a round spaceship-looking device about 12-1/2 inches in diameter and about two inches high. The top is a ceramic surface that’s easy to clean, and the external controls consist of two buttons (power and “next”) and a slider, all of which are touch sensitive.
Under that ceramic surface is a powerful 1600W induction burner. If you’re not familiar with induction cooktops, here’s a description from Wikipedia: “In an induction cooktop, a coil of copper wire is placed under the cooking pot and an alternating electric current is passed through it. The resulting oscillating magnetic field wirelessly induces an electrical current in the pot. This large eddy current flowing through the resistance of the pot results in resistive heating.”
The Hestan Cue 11-inch Smart Pan ($199.95) is a stainless steel cook pan with sensors in the bottom connected to the other components via Bluetooth. Owen Wyatt, Senior Culinary Development Manager at Hestan and a talented chef, noted that early versions of the system used a different RF technology. They switched to Bluetooth as early prototypes had interference problems in houses and kitchens with many wirelessly connected devices. The Bluetooth transceiver and “brains” of the pan are located at the tip of the handle; it’s powered by a single AA battery and the handle is easily opened by turning that tip.
The other piece of cookware is the Hestan Cue Chef’s Pot ($299.95), a covered 5.5 quart pot with the same smarts as the pan. As you’ll notice, the prices are a little high for cookware, but this is all very quality equipment from a company that also makes high-end professional kitchens. Fortunately, you can bundle the Burner and Smart Pan for $399.95 or the Burner and Chef’s Pot for $499.95 and save a bit.
As I mentioned, the Hestan Cue app ties this all together. The app currently features over 500 recipes, everything from the best damned scrambled eggs I’ve ever had to protein-and-sauce combos that you’d expect at a gourmet restaurant. My only issue — and it’s apparently a common one — is that the iOS app shows up only in portrait mode on the iPad, and for those who use iPad keyboards it’s unusable. That’s not really too much of an issue if you also have an iPhone, as the app works flawlessly in that device.
The app makes it easy to browse for recipes, and even if you don’t have the Hestan Cue system, I suggest downloading the app as it has a huge variety of recipes — all with guided cooking instructions — for traditional ovens and cooktops. If you have the pan or pot, you can filter search results by that particular piece of cookware. A number of international cuisines and dietary restrictions are also covered with a number of recipes.
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