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FirstBuild Paragon Mat review: The Paragon Mat makes it easy to perfect pan cooking

The Paragon Mat is the latest addition to the Paragon Induction Cooking System, a countertop appliance that lets you set the exact temperature at which you want to cook foods.

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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.

3 min read

The FirstBuild Paragon Mat wants to bring more consistency to the dishes you cook in a pan, from over-easy eggs to a stack of identical pancakes. The cooktop cover is the latest addition to the $299 Paragon Smart Cooking System. The system includes an induction cooktop, a Bluetooth-connected temperature sensor and app to guide you while you cook (check out my review of the Paragon Induction Cooktop here). The Paragon's main focus was sous vide cooking when it debuted in 2015 -- you used the temperature probe to set the the temperature for a water bath in which you cook vacuum-sealed foods. The addition of the Paragon Mat means that you can set the exact temperature for your cookware, which brings precision cooking out of the water bath and into a pan.

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8.3

FirstBuild Paragon Mat

The Good

The Paragon Mat is the latest addition to the $299 Paragon Smart Cooking System. The mat lets you set specific temperatures when you're using a pan to cook, and it will automatically maintain a steady temperature. The automation makes it easy to cook multiple items like eggs or pancakes that are nearly identical to one another, and the accompanying app is helpful.

The Bad

There's a limited number of food guides in the Paragon app that guide you through temperature-controlled pan cooking, which means it could be hard to figure out at which temperature to cook your dish.

The Bottom Line

The Paragon Mat is a good value-add to the Paragon Smart Cooking System. The countertop system is a good investment for enthusiastic beginner cooks who aren't afraid to use technology to give them a hand with common dishes.

The Paragon Mat is a good addition to the Paragon Smart Cooking System. The added functionality of precision pan cooking makes the system's $299 price easier to swallow (you can get the system for $100 cheaper if you order directly from FirstBuild's website). The Paragon Cooking System is a helpful tool for novice cooks who are eager to try new methods of cooking and need a little coaching. Plus, the mat is a fun tool to use.

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The Paragon Mat goes on top of the Paragon Induction Cooktop and lets you set the temperature at which you want to pan-cook food.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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The Paragon sensor attaches to the Paragon Mat. It makes it possible for the app and mat to talk to one another and track the temperature of the cooktop.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Paragon Mat keeps your pan's temperature relatively steady so your food will turn out exactly how you like it. You attach the Paragon Bluetooth sensor to the mat. The mat goes on top of the Paragon Induction Cooktop, and you then place induction-friendly cookware on the mat. 

With FirstBuild's app, you manually set the pan's temperature or select a specific food for which FirstBuild has already set a temperature. The mat monitors the temperature of your pan and tells the cooktop via Bluetooth to heat up or cool down to keep the temperature stable, which it does automatically. You'll need to keep you phone handy -- though the cooktop has some manual controls, the bulk of the cooktop's operation is in the FirstBuild app.

The Paragon Mat was at its most useful when I used the preset food settings. For example, I selected the "pancake" option in the app, and the app told me to add a tablespoon of butter. Then, the app let me know that the cooktop was preheating, and alerted me when it was time to pour in the batter. Rather than having to guess about when the pancake was ready to flip, the app counted down the cooking time and sent me another alert when it was time to flip. And sure enough, each pancake turned out golden brown on each side and done through the middle.

The preset modes were easy to handle, but it was hard to determine at what temperature you need to cook food. We're used to cooktop directions that tell us to heat things over "medium-high" or "low" heat -- but what do those settings mean when you need to apply a specific temperature? FirstBuild provides a time and temperature guide with the Paragon system that is helpful, but you're on your own if you want to cook hash browns, sausage, scallops or other foods that aren't included in the guide. You can always just adjust the cooktop's heat levels without even using the mat thanks to the buttons on the body of the Paragon cooktop, but you lose the appeal of precision that the mat promises.

The Paragon Mat isn't as precise as sous vide cooking. We've seen immersion circulators that can maintain a water bath's temperature within a degree of the set temperature. However, when I cooked chicken breasts with the mat in place, the temperature varied from 373 degrees Fahrenheit to 378 degrees Fahrenheit (the target temperature was 375 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Despite that, the mat is a good addition to the Paragon Induction Cooktop system. The added functionality of precision pan cooking makes the system's $299 price easier to swallow. 

Paragon Mat makes it fun to flip pancakes

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8.3

FirstBuild Paragon Mat

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Usability 9Performance 9
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