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Christmas Gift Guide

3 Squares Tim3 Machin3 Multi-Cooker

What's included

Steamer tray

One-pot meal

Quick rice

Black beans and rice

Ready to start cooking

Cook cycle

The final countdown

The results

Additional settings

Toasted quinoa

Add some liquid

Lunch is ready

Time to slow things down

Purple potatoes

Four hours later...

Not-so-purple potatoes

Tasty, but overcooked

Breakfast time

Oatmeal and then some

The waiting game

The next morning...

Gummy results

How about grits?

Not quite there

Second time's the charm

Homemade yogurt

Step one: heat the milk

Step two: cool it back down

Step three: add some culture

Just a dab'll do ya

Now, we wait

Now, we wait (cont.)

Now, we wait (cont.) (cont.)

Ta-da!

Mix in some flavor

Easy cleanup

The next morning

Price point

The Tim3 Machin3 from 3 Squares isn't a gadget that'll send you back to the future, but rather, a 900-watt multi-cooker designed to save you time. We took its many settings for a spin -- click through for the complete test-kitchen run down.

Caption by / Photo by Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Included with the cooker are the non-stick pot that goes inside, a silicone serving paddle, a plastic measuring cup and a steaming tray insert.

Caption by / Photo by Tyler Lizenby/CNET

With the steaming tray in place above the pot, you can cook things like chicken, fish and veggies while simultaneously making rice below.

Caption by / Photo by Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That's exactly what I did for my first test, with chicken breast, asparagus, and garlic rice all from a single cook in a single pot. The Tim3 Machin3 automatically senses how long your food needs to cook, so you can literally set it and forget it. All three came out tasting great.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The Tim3 Machin3 also features a "Quick Rice" function that promises to shave 6 or 7 minutes off your cook time. This batch cooked in 22 minutes, and came out tasting just fine.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Next up was something slightly more complicated: black beans and rice. Would the Tim3 Machin3 still be able to cook this multi-ingredient dish to perfection without me hovering over it?

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I wanted to find out, so I poured the ingredients into the pot and got started.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The Tim3 Machin3 got right to work, cooking it just as it had cooked the plain white rice before it. Oh, and while we're talking black beans and rice, here's a tip: switch out the water for equal parts chicken broth and beer. And don't forget the cumin. Trust me, I'm Cuban.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

When the Tim3 Machin3 senses that there are 10 minutes remaining in the cook, it will beep and begin counting the minutes down. Once it's ready, it'll beep again, switch over into "Keep Warm" mode, and start counting the minutes back up to let you know how long it's been sitting for.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

When my black beans and rice were finished, the results weren't half bad. The beans were perhaps a touch overcooked, but the rice was al dente, and my taste testers were happy. Most telling: I didn't have any leftovers.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

There's plenty the Tim3 Machin3 can handle beyond rice. Take a look at the front display, and you'll find dedicated presets for quinoa, oatmeal, and yogurt, plus three distinct slow cook settings.

Caption by / Photo by Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Let's start with quinoa. The Tim3 Machin3 really tries to set itself apart here, with a unique feature that toasts the seeds before the cook gets started. Supposedly, this helps to enhance the dish's inherent nuttiness. It certainly smelled pretty good as I leaned in to snap this shot.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Once the seeds are sufficiently toasted, the Tim3 Machin3 will beep, telling you its time to add the liquid and get cooking. I chose chicken broth instead of water for the extra hit of flavor, which -- let's face it -- quinoa can certainly use.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

About 35 minutes later, the automated cook cycle was complete, and I had myself a very satisfying, very well-cooked bowl of quinoa for lunch. I'm not much of a quinoa guy, but I actually enjoyed it.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Next up in my tests were the slow-cook settings, and I knew just what to make: pot roast.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I went with purple potatoes instead of the typical Yukon golds because I like the texture a little better. Also, I like purple things.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

After 4 hours on the high setting, my cook was complete.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

All in all, it looked pretty good -- although my lovely purple potatoes had soaked with beef broth and turned totally brown. D'oh!

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Looks aside, the results were less successful than I had initially thought. The Tim3 Machin3 had overcooked my meat, producing something much closer to well-done roast beef than to fall-apart pot roast. Tasty to be sure, but also quite tough. In hindsight, this shouldn't have been a big surprise -- overcooking large hunks of meat is something we've seen from other slow cookers that use metal pots instead of ceramic crocks.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

By this point, the workday was over, so I decided to prepare some oatmeal and set it to cook the next morning.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The Tim3 Machin3's instructions advise you to use a little less water than normal for oatmeal cooks, so I used a half cup less than the recipe asked. I also wanted cinnamon and brown sugar in there, so I added cinnamon... but then realized we were out of brown sugar. D'oh! Oh well -- chocolate chips are a perfectly acceptable brown sugar substitute, right?

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I used the Tim3 Machin3's "Delay Timer" setting to tell it to hold off on cooking my oatmeal for a good 15 hours. That way, it'd be freshly cooked right as I was arriving at work the next morning.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Here are the results. The delay timer worked perfectly, and the chocolatey, cinnamony aroma smelled like Mexican hot cocoa. I was excited about my breakfast, to say the least.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Unfortunately, the results were too thick and gummy for my tastes -- that tip from the Tim3 Machin3 manual about holding back on the water had backfired on me.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I was curious if the Tim3 Machin3 would be able to figure out how to cook grains that don't have a dedicated preset, so I decided to try my luck with a batch of grits.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

After about twenty minutes on the white rice setting, the Tim3 Machin3 announced that my grits were ready. A quick inspection showed that they were anything but, with about a half inch of standing water still in the pot.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I closed the lid and ran the cycle again to see if the Tim3 Machin3 could get me to the gritsy promised land. At the end of the second cycle, the results were much more satisfying -- but with two cycles totaling about 45 minutes worth of cooking, this test was still a bust. Still, the Tim3 Machin3 never promised to make grits, so it's hard to hold it against it.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

For my final test, it was time to make yogurt from scratch. Typically, this is a rather painstaking process -- you have to heat milk to a precise temperature, hold it there for about 10 minutes, then cool it back down, add some yogurt culture, and let it simmer for 8 to 12 hours. Fortunately, the Tim3 Machin3 promises to do all of that work for you.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

First off, you pour in the milk and get the yogurt setting started. It'll heat things up, then automatically hold your milk at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Once that's done, the Tim3 Machin3 will beep and turn the heat down to cool things off. You can also lift the lid to speed this process up.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

After the milk is gently cooled to the correct temperature (it took my batch about 40 minutes to get there), the Tim3 Machin3 will beep yet again and tell you to add the yogurt culture, a substance containing the specific bacteria needed to get from milk to yogurt.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The easy way to go about this is to add yogurt itself. One teaspoon per quart of milk should get the job done.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

With the milk sufficiently cultured, the cook cycle can officially get started. I set the Tim3 Machin3 for 8 hours, then began to wait...

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

...and wait...

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

...and wait.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

Finally, the cook cycle finished, and I was able to peer inside. Sure enough, the results looked -- and smelled -- just like yogurt.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

I followed an online recommendation to blend my yogurt with Nutella -- the resulting concoction smelled delicious, but was much thinner than it had looked fresh out of the pot. I worried I might have overmixed my yogurt, and hurried it into the fridge to chill overnight.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

This gave me some time to clean up, which is pretty simple with the Tim3 Machin3, thanks to a non-stick coating. Just a little soap and water and a quick wipe-down, and you're good to go. The pot is also machine washable.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The next morning, I checked in on my yogurt, and it was indeed still a bit thin. My taste testers also noticed something off about the taste. I'm not ready to write the yogurt setting off, though -- I'm likely the culprit for over-blending my batch. I could have also let it simmer for more than 8 hours for a batch that was thicker and more tart.

Caption by / Photo by Ry Crist/CNET

The Tim3 Machin3 is available for pre-order now, and should ship out in February. You'll need to spend $70 on it (about £50, or AU$90, converted roughly). That's more than most basic rice makers, but also not bad for a countertop multi-cooker. For more on whether or not this kitchen gadget is worth your cash, be sure and check out my full review.

Caption by / Photo by Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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