There’s a beauty and a burden with smart induction cooktops: Yes, they hold temperatures precisely and keep you from burning your steak, but there is also a learning curve in thinking about stovetop cooking in terms of degrees, like 175 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of a level, like medium-low. But there are benefits. If you find just the right amount of flame on your gas burner for melting but not burning a pot of chocolate, it might not be easy to remember exactly how far you turned the knob the next time around. That is why Hestan, maker of the Hestan Cue smart countertop induction cooker, wants to bring its precision control technology into full-size gas and induction cooktops.
At KBIS 2018, the company had prototypes of both a Cue gas cooktop and full-size induction version. There are challenges with both, so while the induction cooktop is expected later this year, the gas cooker is further away. Both work essentially the same as the countertop, version, though. A Hestan Cue pot or pan, which has a smart module included on the handle, communicates via Bluetooth with the cooktop. When the bottom of the pan reaches, say, 325 degrees Fahrenheit, the burner holds the temperature, making small adjustments to keep it there.
Hestan figured out how to make it work with induction, but gas is trickier. “It’s just a totally different heat source,” Julian Weisner, Hestan’s culinary physicist, told Digital Trends. “The heat is coming around the pan and has to move around the pan, so there’s a larger delay” getting up to temperature and changing it than with induction.”
Hestan plans to start working within a small BTU range and slowly increasing it to figure out how to control each. “Higher BTUs will give us faster acceleration up to temperature but it might be a little bit different how we control at temperature,” said Weisner. This is just the one part of making it all work; then Hestan has to think about introducing food into the mix. “Once you start introducing meat products, the reaction will be different,” said Hesan design engineer Jonathan Peng. “How much heat do we need to put back in in order to get it back to that surface temperature?”
If the idea of a smart cooktop has alarm bells going off in your head, there is a reason it’s Bluetooth-enabled, so you have to be there, with your phone to use the connected features. (The cooktops will still work like an everyday, albeit very expensive set of burners if you don’t want to use your phone.) Samsung makes a smart range where you can monitor — but not control — the cooktop, for similar safety reasons.
For the induction version, there are still some conversions to make when going from a plug-in model to a powerful cooktop. It will launch with just one of its burners able to connect with the Cue cookware, the one that most closely matches the coil size of the countertop model. Down the road, Weisner envisions Hestan cooktops covered in Cue pots, and the app helping you coordinate the timing of it all perfectly. If you’re not as fast chopping the Brussel sprouts as you thought, then cooktop could turn down all the burners to a holding temperature as it waits for you to click “next” on your phone. The pricing hasn’t been decided for either cooktop, but expect to shell out some bucks; Hestan’s ranges are high-end, and the Hestan Cue is $500 for the pan and burner.
Recently, Hestan Cue added a smart pot in addition to the pan. It turns the Cue cooker into a slow-cooker on steroids, said Weisner. While a slow-cooker can get too hot, making your pulled pork a bit dry, using the Cue to hold a simmer at exactly 205 degrees Fahrenheit makes it turn out perfectly; “You get better, more consistent results from temperature-controlled slow-cooking,” he said. Plus, the recipes in Cue’s app are all created by Michelin star chefs, so there’s less worry that you’re going to end up with an inedible meal. That’s important because it’s difficult to convert existing recipes from slow-cooking format; exactly what temperature is low on your appliance, and is it the same as your neighbor’s? Plus, using the manual control option on the Cue cooktop can be a bit complicated, he admits.
Ideally, Weisner would like to see the Cue app have a “slow-cooker mode,” “frying mode,” and more ways for to make it easier for users to port in their favorite recipes. That will be crucial as the full-size models launch. Even if all of the burners on your cooktop are smart, you’re still going to want to cook your grandmother’s special soup, no matter how good the Michelin star chefs’ recipes are.