A futuristic new kitchen appliance that’s being called the “Keurig for food” could forever change home cooking.
Called Tovala, the countertop machine is a broiler, steamer, oven, microwave, and toaster in one.
It’s meant to replace all major cooking appliances and eliminate most of the work involved in making healthy meals.
The Tovala is launching on Kickstarter Tuesday at an “early-bird” price of $199 for a limited number of machines.
The price of the machine will eventually increase to up to $279, Tovala founder David Rabie told Business Insider. The machines will start shipping out before the end of the year.
“Our goal is to sit on every countertop in America and bring fresh food to everyone,” Rabie said in an interview.
Rabie recently stopped by Business Insider’s office to show us how the machine works.
The Tovala cooks pods of ingredients, including fish, chicken, pasta, vegetables, popcorn, and oatmeal, and it even poaches eggs.
Users can create their own recipes, or they can subscribe to get fresh, chef-designed meals delivered to them weekly that are specifically developed for the machine.
Tovala's meal delivery is similar to services like Blue Apron and Plated, which deliver groceries and accompanying recipes to customers.
The cooking technology differs depending on the meal. In the case of one of the company's roasted chicken recipes, the Tovala will steam the food for about 12 minutes, then switch to broil mode for five minutes to crisp everything.
We tried baking cookies and cooking three meals: a Miso baked Chilean sea bass with a side of broccoli, stuffed chicken and steamed asparagus, and chicken posole stew.
First, we tried the sea bass. The fish was 'shockingly good' according to our reviewers and 'could have passed for something you would order in a restaurant.' The broccoli was steamed perfectly -- not too mushy (overcooked) or hard (undercooked).
Next on the menu was a chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, and cheese, with a side of roasted asparagus.
The stuffed chicken was 'just OK' but the side of asparagus -- which was served with a basil and parmesan pesto -- was a crowd favourite.
Tortilla chips and yogurt crema came with the dish as garnishes. We were instructed to add those ingredients after the stew was finished cooking.
'The fresh avocado, tortilla chips, and yogurt crema made the dish feel elevated and fresh,' said Business Insider retail editor Ashley Lutz. 'It was the furthest thing from the 'aeroplane food' we expected.'
The Tovala is targeting people who want to eat healthy but don't have the time to cook -- which is a rapidly growing demographic. The company could initially face some hurdles, however, in getting consumers to pay for the initial cost of the machine and helping them understand the technology behind it. When we described the concept to people who had never heard of it, many thought it sounded like a glorified microwave that cooks Lean-Cuisine-style meals.
But it's nothing like that, says Rabie. 'The machine's cooking technology has been used in really high-end commercial kitchens,' Rabie explains. 'We're bringing that to consumers at an affordable price.'
The food is fresh -- never frozen -- and it will be sourced locally and organically whenever possible, Rabie says. The company has hired experienced chefs, including some Michelin-starred chefs, to develop Tovala's recipes.
If the company decides to produce and distribute a user-submitted recipe, it will pay royalties to the person who created it. Rabie is hoping this encourages the growth of a passionate online community around the Tovala.
The company has more than $600,000 in funding from Chicago-based Origin Ventures and Mountain View, California-based Y Combinator, and several other firms. The machine won the University of Chicago's annual New Venture Challenge last spring.
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