Let's get the obvious out of the way -- the $500 Cinder Precision Grill reminds me of the George Foreman Grill. They're both countertop grills geared toward cooking meat, paninis or anything else you want to cook on both sides with minimal effort.
But the Cinder takes more of its cues from sous vide cooking than from the infomercial phenomenon. Rather than appealing to the health-conscious home cook, the Cinder is going after folks who want to cook their food at precise temperatures so they can get the same results with every meal.
Like a sous vide device, the Bluetooth-connected Cinder lets you dial in an exact cooking temperature. But instead of a water bath, the Cinder uses two nonstick plates that heat to your desired temperature. The manufacturer's first batch of Cinders sold out during an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, but the company expects to launch another campaign soon so people can order more grills.
The Cinder cooked dishes that rivaled the quality we've seen from sous vide devices such as the Anova Precision Cooker ($98 at Amazon) and the Joule ($199 at Amazon). It cooked meat evenly and to the set temperature, and you can sear your meat right on the Cinder after it has cooked.
My beef with the Cinder comes down to little annoyances that become big issues when you consider its $500 price. The Cinder takes up a lot of space. Grease doesn't make its way into the drip tray. The accompanying Cinder app is sparse, and it only gives you broad estimations of when your food will be ready. And the heavy Cinder lid manhandles simple grilled cheese sandwiches.
The Cinder is a worthy competitor to sous vide devices. But I can't recommend the Cinder when there are products that take up less space, cost less money and cook food with the same amount of precision, such as the Paragon Induction Cooktop and immersion circulators like the Anova or Joule. Just suck it up, and get a pot of water ready.
The Cinder looks like a more hard-core version of a panini press or other countertop cooker, like the T-Fal OptiGrill. It's 13 by 17 by 7 inches, which takes up a lot of room on a kitchen counter, and heavy enough to make moving it in and out of a cabinet a hassle. Inside the grill are two removable ceramic-coated aluminum plates. The lid adjusts to the thickness of the food that you put between the two plates. A grease moat surrounds the bottom plate and leads to a drip tray built into the Cinder's base. You use the knob on the front of the base to manually adjust the temperature, but you can also control the temp with the Cinder's iOS app (it's not available for Android yet).
The Cinder's design has some problems. For example, the base of the Cinder is flat rather than tilted at an angle to let juices flow, so when I cooked meat none of the grease emptied into the drip tray. The plates are easy to remove and clean by hand, but they're not dishwasher-safe. And it's irksome to clean the tight corners of the Cinder lid.