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FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop review: Paragon provides versatile gateway to sous vide

The Firstbuild Paragon Induction Cooktop system is an easy way to get into sous vide cooking, but the $299 device is also a useful multi-purpose tool to add to your kitchen arsenal.

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Ashlee Clark Thompson
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Ashlee Clark Thompson

Associate Editor

Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Buying a sous vide system is an expensive gamble if you're new to this type of cooking. Sous vide involves vacuum-sealing food in a plastic bag and putting that bag in a temperature-controlled water bath (read more about how it works here). The immersion circulators and countertop systems that regulate the temperature of your water bath cost at least $100, and a few are as much as $500. So there's a chance you could throw a few hundred bucks at a product, not even like sous vide, and be stuck with an expensive "unitasker" taking up valuable kitchen storage space.

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8.3

FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop

The Good

The FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop is a versatile countertop system that lets you sous vide, fry, slow cook or sauté with the induction burner and Bluetooth-connected temperature probe. The product also comes with an easy-to-use, streamlined app that helps you monitor your cooking.

The Bad

The price of the Paragon - $299 - will keep this product out of reach for some home cooks. And don't rely on the induction cooktop to boil water quickly.

The Bottom Line

The Paragon is a handy multitasker that can do much more than just sous vide, which makes this product a useful addition to the kitchen.

The Paragon Induction Cooktop delivers sous vide cooking with a little more flexibility. The $299 Paragon, which is made up of an induction cooktop and Bluetooth-connected temperature probe, lets you create a temperature-controlled water bath in whatever induction-compatible pot you have hiding in your cabinet. What makes the Paragon more appealing than other sous-vide-only products is that you can use the system for multiple cooking tasks such as deep-frying, slow-cooking and sauteing thanks to the induction burner that is the heart of the product. That means that you can still find ways to use the Paragon in your home, even if it turns out that cooking food in a bag isn't your jam.

Paragon serves up sous vide with a hearty side of versatility (pictures)

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We've seen a sous vide-centric product with the same level of versatility -- the Oliso SmartHub & Top also includes an induction base on which you can cook in a variety of ways. However, the Oliso system includes a bulky water bath unit that takes up more space than the Paragon. And the Paragon's lower price makes this product more approachable than the $499 Oliso.

The Paragon has a few quirks that you'd have to overcome if you buy it: some slight variation between actual and set temperatures; the oddly shaped, large induction cooktop; the nearly $300 price. But the Paragon is easy to use, works with a responsive app and, most importantly, cooks food well, no matter what method you choose.

How the Paragon works

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The Paragon Induction Cooktop is made up of two parts: a Bluetooth-connected temperature probe that attaches to the side of a pot (foreground) and an induction countertop burner.

Chris Monroe/CNET


The Paragon comes from appliance manufacturer GE's Louisville, Ky.-based FirstBuild microfactory. FirstBuild ran a successful crowdsourcing campaign for the Paragon on the website Indiegogo in 2015, and backers began receiving their cooking systems earlier this year.

The Paragon is a simple system. You get a 12-inch wide countertop induction burner that works because of electromagnetic heat (read more about the science of induction here). The cooktop connects via Bluetooth to a temperature probe. That probe attaches with magnets to the side of an induction-friendly pot that you place on the cooktop. If you want to sous vide, you fill a pot with water, attach the temperature probe (make sure it's in contact with the water) and set the temperature you want the water to reach directly on the cooktop's digital display or with the Paragon's app. The probe measures the temperature of the water, then tells the cooktop to turn the heat up or down to get to your desired temperature.

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The FirstBuild app sends you push notifications (left). The app also provides you information about how long it will take to cook if you're following one of the sous vide guides on the app.

Screenshot by Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

The FirstBuild app that connects to the Paragon (available for Android and iOS) provides a clean interface from which you can remotely control the device via Bluetooth. If you are using the Paragon to sous vide, the app provides suggested cook times and temperatures for seven categories of food that range from poultry to fruit, and you can send those settings directly to the Paragon. The app also provides notifications when your water bath has preheated and when your cook time is complete. Keep in mind that the app is only connected via Bluetooth, so you can't walk out of your house and expect to maintain control of the Paragon.

The Paragon's simple setup lets you use the small appliance to cook in many different ways. Fill a pot with oil instead of water, attach the temperature probe and you have an instant deep-fryer. Turn the heat down low enough, and you can turn a pot with a lid into a slow cooker. Paragon says you could control the temperature of any liquid, ranging from chocolate to milk. You can also use the cooktop without the temperature probe as you would a regular burner.

You don't have to devote tons of space to storing the Paragon since you're using cookware you already have tucked away at home. But the cooktop has an odd shape and is 17 inches across at its widest point, which could make it unwieldy to slide into a cabinet. And be prepared to clear off your counter -- the Paragon needs a good amount of room when it's time to cook.

Good food, no matter how you cook it

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I cooked this piece of salmon using the sous vide capabilities of the Paragon. Then I used the Paragon's induction burner to sear the salmon in a pan.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I spent a lot of time using the Paragon as a sous vide cooker. I also put it to work deep-frying some frozen french fries, slow-cooking some cheese dip and searing a lot of meat. Overall, the Paragon handled each task well. During sous vide cooking, meat came out to the correct doneness (the temperature of your water bath determines the doneness of your food), which further strengthened the argument for sous vide as a method to attain food cooked exactly to your liking. I also liked using it as a deep fryer since I knew exactly how hot the oil was, so I didn't have to sacrifice any of my french fries to see if the oil was hot enough.

The Paragon had a few traits that gave me some pause. The actual temperature of the water varied up to a degree and a half away from the set temperature during sous vide testing (Paragon says this fluctuation is normal). However, the food always came out the way I wanted it, so the variance wasn't a deal breaker. I also found that cuts of meat that had varying thickness would have an ever-so-slightly different doneness -- the thinner the section of meat, the more done that section would be. And the induction burner isn't as powerful as the comparable Oliso. The Paragon only provides a maximum of 1,200 watts of power, while the Oliso could reach 1,500 watts. These differences were notable when it was time to boil water: It took the Paragon an average of 23.95 minutes to bring 112 ounces of water to a rolling boil, and the Oliso took 19.22 minutes. But considering that some induction burners on full-size ranges can perform the same test in less than five minutes, I wouldn't use either system as my primary means of boiling water.

Final thoughts

Sous vide is new enough to be scary, so it's hard to plunk down hundreds of dollars for a device if you've never cooked with this method. The Paragon is the perfect product for folks who want to give sous vide a try, but still want a device that can do more than one job for less than $500. There's enough functionality to make the Paragon worth a splurge.

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8.3

FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Usability 9Performance 8
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