During my first attempt to pan-grill chicken breasts, I called my mother for some culinary advice. "How do you know when the chicken is done?" I asked. "Just cook it till it's done," she said. And that is how I learned to cook, with a hearty helping of guesswork and intuition.
I can only imagine what those first meals in my first apartment would have tasted like if I'd had the Pantelligent, a $199 smart frying pan that uses a built-in temperature gauge, Bluetooth and an iOS- and Android-compatible app to guide you to cooking perfection. The price converts roughly to £140 in the UK and AU$285 in Australia. The Pantelligent helped me produce perfectly seared salmon, buttery grilled-cheese sandwiches and a decent mushroom risotto by providing real-time feedback on the surface temperature of food so I could adjust my burner accordingly.
The connectivity also made cooking a lot of fun. The app talks you through each step like a gentle coach and sends encouraging pop-up alerts when you've gotten the Pantelligent to the right temperature for you dish. But the app's reminders can become annoying until you get the hang of adjusting your burner; this robotic assistant shifts from helpful to burdensome if the proper temperature isn't reached quickly enough.
Since I initially got my hands on the Pantelligent, its developers have added an Autopilot feature to the app that makes controlling the heat a hands-off experience -- as long as you have a WeMo Switch and a countertop electric burner.This addition is a game changer for bad cooks.
The smart outlet, the app and the Pantelligent do the heavy lifting of adjusting the burner temperature, and you only need to step in to flip, stir or remove your food from the pan.
It seems silly to want to put down 200 bucks for an aluminum pan, especially when you can snag this cookware for less than $20. But the Pantelligent is a good teacher for the novice newbies who need help with the basics and avid home cooks who want to add more precision to their meal preparation. It might be a little gimmicky and a lot of money, but I can't help but want a Pantelligent of my own.
Hardware hides inside unsuspecting pan
The Pantelligent launched as a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014; backers pledged $83,206 toward the creation of the pan (the project's original fundraising goal was $30,000). The manufacturer began to ship units to supporters in October 2015, and it's now available for order on the Pantelligent website (there's a backlog until February 2016, but Pantelligent is offering $25 off for the delay).
At first glance, the Pantelligent doesn't look much different than cookware you already own. The pan is 12 inches wide and about 2 inches deep. It's made of die-cast aluminum and covered in nonstick coating that the company says should last about three to five years. The finish makes cleaning the Pantelligent easy, and that's a good thing: you can't put the pan in the dishwasher or submerge the handle in water.
The hardware that makes the Pantelligent smart is hidden inside the pan. A sensor embedded in the bottom of the pan measures the surface temperature of food. The pan then uses a Bluetooth connection in the handle to deliver data to the Pantelligent app (the handle is also where the two AAA batteries that power the unit are located).
The Pantelligent is safe to use on both gas and electric cooktops. The material, however, does not work on induction surfaces.
App is part GPS, part coach
There are several ways that the Pantelligent app uses temperature readings from the pan to guide you through a meal. The best way to use the app is to select and follow one of the recipes available on the app. All of the roughly 50 recipes provide thorough lists of ingredients and things to remember while you cook along with any preparatory steps you need to complete before you begin to cook. When you're ready, you press the "Start Cooking" button at the bottom of the page and hold your device to the Pantelligent's handle to connect the cookware to the app.
From that point on, the Pantelligent app is the conductor of your meal. A Siri-like voice talks you through the recipe, which is also displayed step-by-step on your device. A chart at the top of the screen tracks the actual surface temperature of the pan and the set temperature you need to reach. Each step also includes an estimate of how long it will take you to get to that part of the recipe, which is especially helpful when cooking a recipe that requires you to add ingredients gradually.