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.
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.
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
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.