There’s a big difference between a steak made at a restaurant versus at home. The latter usually never tastes as stellar as the former.
But The Paragon Induction Cooktop, released in 2015, promises to help you prepare high-quality steaks in your kitchen. First Build, a subsidiary of GE, developed the appliance, which is available online for $299.
It employs induction cooking, meaning it uses copper and an electric current to sauté, sear, or fry food. But it also lets you do sous vide (which cooks food in a a temperature-controlled water bat), thanks to a water temperature sensor that hooks to the pot’s side.
To switch between sous vide and normal induction, you just need to change the setting on the device.
I’d never used a sous vide or induction cooktop before this week — I’ve always made steaks using my oven’s broiler or stovetop. Sous vide takes much longer. To sous vide a steak with the Paragon, for example, the meat must sit in a water bath for at least two hours.
After a few friends raved about the magic of sous vide machines, I decided to try making a steak sous vide-style using the GE cooktop. Here’s what happened.
The Paragon Induction Cooktop comes in a huge, heavy box. Though I made a steak first, it can also cook chicken, pork, eggs, and vegetables (though you should only prepare veggies with the sauté feature). Normal induction cooks your food rapidly, while sous vide cooks it in a water bath for a few hours.
Because sous vide and induction lets you control the temperature down to the degree, they ensure your food cooks evenly all the way through. Here's a steak sous vide-broiler comparison by First Build (although the second steak could just be overcooked):
The cooktop comes with a digital thermometer and a cord for charging. I supplied a gallon-sized plastic bag, an induction-compatible* pan and pot, oil, water, seasonings, and the steak.
*To check if your cookware is induction-compatible, try putting a magnet against the bottom. If it sticks, you're good to go.
I turned on the cooktop, and then pushed the thermometer's button for a few seconds to pair it with the device.
Next, I attached the thermometer to a the pot full of water and placed it on the cooktop, as instructed. The thermometer has magnets on both ends so it stays put.
The manual told me to set the cooktop to 'rapid precise' and 131 degrees for sous vide-ing a one-inch, medium-rare steak. You can also control it with your smartphone using an app, which features recipes and lets you monitor your food in real-time. I didn't feel like downloading it immediately, so I just pushed the buttons.
I fully submerged the steak in the water. You can cook as many pieces of meat as you want, and it will take the same amount of time.
Because I wanted my steak medium-rare, I needed to wait between two to three hours. This seemed like an awfully long time and a huge range, so I set my phone's timer to two hours.
After two hours, I pulled out the steak, which I'll admit didn't look too appetizing in the bag -- but certainly juicy.
I got it out and set it on the cutting board, and the juices covered it. Slicing open part of the steak, it looked pink and finished after two hours.
As the last step, I poured a little oil on my pan and changed the cooktop to level 10 on 'direct' (the default induction setting).
50 more seconds later, I took it off the pan and turned off the cooktop. Upon first glance, the steak had a nice sear texture and was rich with juices.
The meat was a constant pink all the way though -- which is hard to achieve with a stovetop or broiler. When I tried it, it was tender and juicy. The steak tasted just like it was from a four-star restaurant. It might have been even better with fancier seasonings.
For $300, the Paragon isn't the most ideal appliance for me: a New Yorker with limited spare time who cooks only for herself. Other sous vide machines sell for about $100 less -- though they can't multi-task like the Paragon. But for a family that wants to cook multiple steaks and has hours to wait, GE's cooktop might be the right fit.
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