July 3, 2017
The food world has been going through a bit of a renaissance, and companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh are on the forefront. Now more than ever consumers are foregoing their stop at fast casual restaurants, and replacing it with home cooked meals that are delivered to their doors with all the ingredients already parted out for you.
The concept has done so well in fact that there are dozens of similar competitors popping up each year, and Blue Apron has just jumped into their IPO with lackluster results primarily due to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. While cooking at home and sort of learning how to make things slightly more advance than macaroni and cheese is nice, it also produces a lot of waste and you’re also stuck on a bit of a food schedule. Some of the smaller competitors have more green friendly versions, but what if you could take the same concept, add a bit more tech, and have greater control of what you’ll make? That’s what Hestan Cue has set out to do.
Hestan Cue is a smart cooking system that includes a connected countertop induction burner, pan, and app, all of which communicates with one another through bluetooth. The result is that home cooks get step-by-step instructions, a controlled cooking environment that prevents you from burning food, and more than 100 recipes and emulsions to learn how to create.
Unlike delivered meal kits, Hestan Cue also gives you video tips within their app, as well as guiding you on how best to prepare the food. The only problem is that it’s super freaking expensive. We gave Hestan Cue’s system a whirl for a little over a month, and made quite a few meals with it. The big question is… does the cost justify the output? Let’s find out.
The setup process for the Hestan Cue is relatively painless. It starts by your typical unboxing, washing the surfaces down, and then getting the capsule ready. The capsule is a small AAA battery powered Bluetooth device that goes inside the plan (screwed in) that allows the pan to speak to the induction burner. Once you put in the battery and screw it into the pan, you just need to download the app, create an account, connect to wifi, probably update the firmware, and you should be good to go.
I did run into one small snag during the setup process where either the capsule or pan was defective; however, within maybe 10 minutes I received an email from their support team stating that they received a warning that something wasn’t working. We did a few things to see if maybe it just wasn’t connecting, but ultimately they decided to swap the pan out. Between their outreach and response time, I can’t say I’ve dealt with better customer service. A++ for that, and it was only a few days before I was able to start testing this system.
Cooking, Learning, and Not Burning Your Food
Hestan Cue is basically a portable cooking class designed to give you a better understanding of cooking real food while also learning better techniques, too. There are about 100 different recipes on the app, and that includes anything from sauces, French to Middle Eastern, vegetarian to any protein, and even low fat or other dietary strict foods. Each of these are tied to the recipe mode, but there are also two other options to work with: offline or control mode, and mix & match.
In offline or control mode, you can use the induction burner just like you would your stove top, albeit it will cook more quickly. This can be either controlled through the touchpad on the burner or the app if connected.
For mix and match mode, you pick a protein, then one of the sauces, and then it will give you step-by-step instructions just like in recipe mode. It does phase out some of the sauces as you select your protein, which ensures you don’t concoct some sort of mish mosh that just won’t taste good. For the most part I tested the recipes section, going through options like the fried green tomatoes with dill yogurt, sea bass, and flat iron steaks with chimichurri.
Each dish that I worked through was easy enough to learn. Before you get started, it prompts you with each ingredient you’ll need and any additional equipment as well (a nice touch). Some recipes will also ask for how you want the protein to be cooked and the thickness of it to ensure it cooks properly. Then it will give you step-by-step instructions, including video demonstrations, all the way from prep to plating.
The only major issue you’ll run into is the lack of a back of skip button while cooking through the recipes. That’s a pretty big flaw, but if you’re paying attention this shouldn’t affect your dish.
In addition to learning, one of the best parts about the system is that if you’re prone to burning food, this makes it really, really hard to do that. When the pan needs to be heated, as soon as you hit next on the app it’ll kick to the exact temperature you need. And because it’s an induction burner, it’ll do it incredibly fast with an output between 80 to 1600 watts.
Take for example the flat iron steaks I made this week, which would typically have ended up at medium or a large knife stab in the middle to make sure it was cooked properly. With Hestan Cue, if you put in the right thickness in and the outcome you’d like, that’s exactly what you’ll get. We did one batch of flat iron steaks with medium rare and the other with rare, and each time it came out great.
Though it shouldn’t be a concern, just pay attention to the fact that some recipes will produce a good bit of steam, and since you’re not going to have any ventilation, don’t use this is a super confined space. With that said I have a relatively small kitchen and used it on a countertop next to the stove which worked out fine.
Overall the Hestan Cue helped me produce some really great tasting meals with proteins coming out exactly as I had wanted. By comparison to meal delivery boxes the system also helped me learn some better techniques for preparing food and a few tips along the way. I just wish there was a back button on the app.
If you’ve ever been to a cooking class, Hestan Cue’s design looks similar to the setup you might find in it. You’ll get your own burner, a pan, and then probably a few bottles of wine. It’s not sleek or fancy, but the design is simple to use, easy to keep clean, and because it has a touch sensitive interface on the burner, no messy goop to carve out of button crevasses.
If you haven’t used an induction burner before, just keep in mind that you need specific magnetic bottom cookware to use on it, and it’s important to keep the pan in the exact center. While it won’t warn you if it’s off-center, if it’s too far off it will throw an error. The system also won’t kick in to recipe mode of the pan is off the burner either.
The included pan is an 11’ try-ply stainless steel, and you’ll want to mostly use non-metal when cooking with it as it will scratch (won’t affect cooking). As mentioned earlier, the capsule within that acts as the brains for it, letting the burner know when it has hit the right temperature.
As for the software, the free app works incredibly well with two issues: you can’t skips ahead and you can’t go back in recipe mode. Almost each recipe I’ve worked through had a point where I’ve either accidentally moved forward too soon, or wanted to double check on a set prior to make sure I didn’t forget an ingredient. There is an unofficial skip forward step at least, but supposedly in a future version of the app they will fix both of these. As far as ease of use goes, I felt like with the included videos there were a few techniques I was able to pick up as a result, especially with the prep component.
Overall the design for the system is clearly built around ease of use and keeping it clean; however, I do wish there was some sort of small LED light on the capsule to let you know that it’s working. Granted this would reduce the battery life a bit, but then you’d also know it was connected properly too.
Pros and Cons
- You’ll actually learn to cook
- Super fast heating
- Cooks steaks perfectly
- Amazing customer support
- Did we mention expensive?
- No back or skip button on recipes walkthroughs
Should you buy the Hestan Cue? Plain and simple, this system cooks food well and you learn quite a bit along the way; however, it is expensive and this is even now that it’s down an extra $100 from where it used to be. But, and this is a big one, if you want to learn how to cook food with a variety of styles, proteins, and emulsions, Hestan Cue is basically the cost of two couples cooking classes. So if you’re interested in learning how to make food on the regular and want to choose your own setting, this is the perfect solution. It’d also probably make for a great option in something like an AirBnB or your tiny home.
Could you learn the same cooking styles through free YouTube videos? Probably, but this also holds your hand and controls the temperature too. If you do some guesstimation, primarily the cost likely comes from the technology and content involved, rather than the induction burner (about $100), pan ($60-ish) and capsule ($$who knows). Personally I would have cut the cost another $100 at a minimum and focused on micro transactions or upsells through new recipes and content, but that’s just me.
Besides the cost, the only other issues we ran into where the odd pan defect that was quickly remedied and the lack of a back button on the app (how is that a thing?). Everything else was fantastic, and it made for a great date night at home.
Where to buy: Hestan Cue
Read more reviews on Gear & Gadgets at TechCo
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