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Mellow review: Mellow cools down your food until you're ready to cook

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The Good The Mellow countertop sous vide machine cooks food evenly and is easy to use. The built-in refrigeration element lets you keep your food in cold water until you're ready for the Mellow to start cooking. This lets you schedule the exact time you want your food to be ready without worrying about it sitting in tepid water all day.

The Bad The size of the container limits just how much you can cook in the Mellow. The app is counterintuitive when it comes to cooking your own recipes. And the Mellow doesn't offer many cooking tips unlike other sous vide appliance apps, so you need to come with some knowledge of how to flavor your dishes.

The Bottom Line Consider the Mellow if you're a moderate sous vide enthusiast who wants to make sure dinner is ready exactly when you want it. If you're still not sure about cooking your food in a water bath, go for a less expensive immersion circulator instead.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Usability 7
  • Performance 7

Mellow adds a new element to sous vide cooking -- cold. This $400 Wi-Fi-enabled countertop appliance creates a temperature-controlled water bath in which you cook meat, veggies and just about anything else you can dream up and put in a plastic bag (I'll explain more later). But unlike similar appliances, the Mellow will also chill your water bath until you're ready for it to heat your meal.

We've waited three years for Mellow's creators to get this product out there. For the most part, it was worth the wait. The Mellow achieves the biggest objective of sous vide cooking: heating food evenly for consistent (and delicious) results. And the Mellow's accompanying app is pretty easy to use -- select what you want to cook and when you want to eat it, then go about your day with the knowledge that a perfectly medium steak or flaky piece of salmon will greet you when you get home. 

You control the Wi-Fi-enabled Mellow through an app on your iOS or Android device.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

But it's not all bubbly water baths and tasty dinners with the Mellow. The size of the container limits just how much you can sous vide at once. The app doesn't provide much recipe help, and the manual mode leaves much to be desired. There are some discrepancies between the actual temperature of the water bath and notifications from the Mellow app. And the necessity of needing to chill your food prior to cooking, rather than simply letting a dish circulate all day, is debatable.

Consider the Mellow if you're a moderate sous vide enthusiast who doesn't want your food spending the whole day in a hot water bath. If you're still not sold on sous vide, go for a less expensive immersion circulator instead.

How the Mellow works

Sous vide (French for "under vacuum") is a method of cooking during which you place food in a vacuum-sealed bag and cook it in a temperature-controlled water bath. The circulating water brings your food to the temperature you want and keeps it there, which means you can cook a steak, for example, to your preferred doneness without any guesswork.

There are a few different devices that you can use to sous vide, such as immersion circulators or cooktops with connected temperature probes. The Mellow is an example of a complete sous vide system -- it's made up of a container for the water bath and a 1,000-watt heating element in its base to heat the water to the right temperature.

What makes the Mellow different than other countertop sous vide systems is the 50-watt cooling element and weight sensor that are built into the base. Here's how it works: You fill the Mellow's removable container with water and place it on its base. The Mellow detects the weight of the water, and automatically begins to cool the water down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That cooling allows you to keep your food in the Mellow at a safe temperature until you want it to start cooking your meal.

The base of the Mellow contains a heating element, a cooling element and a weight sensor.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

From there, you use the Mellow's app (available for iOS and Android) to select what you want to cook from preset cooking modes. There are plenty of foods to choose from, including basic cuts of beef and chicken to vegetables and octopus. Depending on what you cook, you give the app some info about what you're cooking, such as if your fish is frozen or fresh, or how thick your steak is. Select when you want your meal to be ready. 

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