EDITOR'S NOTE, 11/7/2016, 11:15 AM: 3 Squares has issued a recall for Tim3 Machin3 models with non-detachable power cables due to a potential electrical hazard. For more information, click here.
I'll admit, I felt a certain degree of skepticism when I first heard about the Tim3 Machin3 multi-cooker from 3 Squares. Though it's built like an everyday rice cooker, the Tim3 Machin3 promises to do much more, with additional presets for quinoa, oatmeal, and yogurt, along with three dedicated slow cooking settings. It also claims it'll automatically sense how long your food needs to cook -- just hit start, and the Tim3 Machin3 will largely do the rest.
Skepticism aside, the Tim3 Machin3 actually worked quite well when I tested the thing out. Though some recipes yielded better results than others, none of the presets failed to produce decent food -- a better outcome than I had expected going in. The catch, of course, is that the Tim3 Machin3 costs $70. (That's few pounds under £50, or about AU$90, converted roughly. Though not currently available in the UK or Australia, 3 Squares tells me that they're looking into possible international expansion in the near future.)
Seventy bucks isn't all that bad for a countertop overachiever, and if that's what you're in the market for, then I think the Tim3 Machin3 deserves consideration. Still, shop around, and you'll find scores of well-rated rice cookers that cost a lot less, including ones with sensors and slow cook settings. Unless you cook rice regularly, or you're especially excited by those dedicated quinoa and yogurt presets, the Tim3 Machin3 might not bring quite enough to the table to justify the splurge.
Design and features
3 Squares didn't re-invent the wheel here -- the Tim3 Machin3 looks a lot like the rice makers it's competing with. There's a small degree of style to the thing, thanks mostly to the futuristic font on the buttons, but typeface alone does not a time machine make. Given the high concept name, and that it's priced as an upgrade, I wish the Tim3 Machin3's build was at least a bit more unique.
Look over the Tim3 Machin3's display, and you'll quickly get a sense of just how versatile it's trying to be. Along with the dedicated white and brown rice presets, you'll find a "Quick Rice" preset that promises to shave several minutes off the cook time. Beyond rice, there are presets for oatmeal, quinoa, yogurt, and steam cooking, as well as three distinct slow cook settings and a delay timer mode that'll let you fill the pot with your ingredients in the morning, then come home to a freshly cooked dinner in the evening.
The Tim3 Machin3 comes packaged with a silicone rice paddle and a plastic steaming tray insert that sits over the pot for cooking things like meat and veggies. You can use the steaming tray above liquid, or above a batch of rice -- in one my of my first tests, I made garlic rice, chicken breasts and asparagus all at once, and all three came out tasting great.
You also get a smallish measuring cup, and 3 Squares recommends you use it as you follow along with the recipes in the manual. One "cup" actually measures just over a half cup, so when the manual tells you that the Tim3 Machin3 can accommodate up to 10 "cups" of uncooked rice, it really means 5 or 6. That's still pretty good, capacity-wise, but it can get a little confusing.
Inside the Tim3 Machin3, you'll find a
1.21 gigawatt 900-watt heating element with a pressure sensitive "Fuzzy Logic" sensor in the middle. This sensor monitors the weight of whatever's in the pot, along with the temperature. That, combined with the Tim3 Machin3's ingredient-specific presets, is how the cooker knows how long to run each cook cycle for.
You'll also find the Fuzzy Logic sensor in high-end rice makers that sell for nearly twice as much as the Tim3 Machin3 -- if you cook a lot of rice and you've been coveting a cooker like that, then you might be particularly interested in what 3 Squares is offering here.
Performance and usability
Using the Tim3 Machin3 is a cinch. With rice, you'll just add your ingredients, hit start, and wait twenty or thirty minutes. That's a lot more convenient than making the stuff on the stovetop, where you'll need to keep an eye on the pot and be careful not to overcook your batch. The same is true for the oatmeal and quinoa settings.
Once the cook cycle is completed, the Tim3 Machin3 will automatically kick into "Keep Warm" mode, and begin counting the minutes back up so you know how long it's been since your food finished cooking. 3 Squares claims you can keep rice warm in the pot for up to twelve hours after a cook -- we tested it out for 90 minutes, and while the batch had definitely dried out a tad, it was still perfectly edible.
All in all, I came away impressed with the Tim3 Machin3's rice-making performance. Throughout my tests, it never produced a bad batch of the stuff, and also delivered on its promise of not scorching the bottom, or creating that unappetizing yellow film around the edges that you'll see with some rice makers.
I was also satisfied with the "Quick Rice" preset, which dials up the heat to cook the rice a bit faster. In my tests, a standard batch of rice would take about thirty minutes to cook from the time I pressed start to the time the cycle was complete. The Quick Rice function shaved that down to twenty-two minutes, and did so without a noticeable compromise in flavor or texture. You can also use the Quick Rice feature to speed up brown rice, though you'll need to add some extra water.