The appeal of many smart kitchen gadgets is that they're supposed to automatically take care of the hard parts of cooking. Connected kitchen scales from the Perfect Company use weight to determine how much of an ingredient you need to add to your cocktail, smoothie or baked good. A new line of Vitamix blenders will automatically know which settings to use based on the container you use. And the June Intelligent Oven ($599 at June) uses a camera to identify your food and cook it accordingly.
The $650 Hestan Cue cooking system has the same appeal, but with a bonus. This countertop ($50 at Amazon.com) induction burner, stainless-steel pan and app work together -- thanks to Bluetooth -- to teach you how to be a better cook while it automatically regulates your cooking temperature.
The education component of the Hestan Cue is the star of the product. Videos are included with each step of a recipe, so you can see exactly what you're supposed to do. And there are many delicious dishes from which to choose, whether it's sauces or salmon or pancakes.
It's not as impressive without its app. For example, the Hestan Cue regulates the surface temperature of the pan well, but steaks with uneven thickness gave it problems that resulted in uneven cooking. And like I've seen with other cooking systems, there's no easy way to adapt recipes. You're stuck with the ingredients and steps Hestan gives you. Fortunately, the recipes I tried were very good, but it would be nice to build my own recipes or replace ingredients in existing ones.
The Hestan Cue, which is available online and at Williams Sonoma, would be a great addition to the kitchen of a home cook with "Top Chef" aspirations. It will keep you from burning an important dish and teach you a thing or two in the process. But $650 is a lot of money for two pieces of hardware. If you need some help in the kitchen but don't have the cash, buy a decent pan and a food thermometer and watch some old episodes of "Good Eats."
How it works
The Hestan Cue is like a combination of the Pantelligent smart frying pan and the FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop. Didn't read those reviews? Let me break it down for you: The pan contains a "smart capsule" in its handle that is equipped with Bluetooth, as is the induction cooktop. You download the iOS or Android app and select a recipe. The app connects to the cooktop and walks you step by step through what you need to do. The app tells the burner what temperature is required for each stage of cooking. At the same time, the burner is keeping track of the temperature on the pan's surface, so if it's getting too hot, the burner will automatically lower its temperature or vice versa.
The 11-inch wide pan looks similar to other stainless steel cookware you might see in a store, but with some notable differences. You can't put the pan in the dishwasher or the oven, and the company advises against using it on a cooktop other than the Hestan Cue induction burner. Fortunately, the pan is easy to clean, and the recipes in the app don't require additional steps in the oven.