The first thing to make cooking easier is to move past recipes to cooking methods, and with the right tools and some appropriate methods, you can collapse your time in the kitchen dramatically. I do a lot of experimenting, but in the end what matters is boiling it down to repeatable routines that make it possible to be efficient in the kitchen. Tools and smart buying for your pantry are all part of the winning formula. What that looks like in your kitchen will vary depending on what types of food you like.
One of the things I do, is I do use commercial veggie broth, but I also save up a lot of cuttings from vegetables that are usable in making my own broth and every so often I will make my own veggie broth. I just freeze those cuttings that are useful for broth and when my bag in the freezer fills up, it’s time to make broth again. I will combine the cuttings with some fresh vegetables and roast them in the oven, and from there I will cook the broth. Very satisfying on a lot of levels.
In terms of tools there are the basics, such as good knives and a cutting board, then appliances like an immersion blender, some sort of a food processor, an instant pot, an air fryer, and do in my experience having at least one induction cooktop can really help, especially if it has a timer function. A rice cooker for cooking grains can also be a great help.
If you don’t have a clue, here comes the HestanCue
This year, Santa brought a HestanCue cooking set, being a very nicely made IH-cooktop with a set of pans that have built-in sensors and allow you an unprecedented level of control. It is marketed with a collection of pre-programmed recipes, but from my viewpoint those are not the reason to buy this device, for they are all SAD (Standard American Diet), albeit upscale versions of SAD, very protein-centric, and mostly animal proteins, which is good for the cardiologists, the kidney dialysis business, and the cancer business, but not how I like to eat. The reason to buy this device for me was in recipe development, and to be able to see what difference the better controls make. Eventually, I would hope to work with the company to develop #WFPB recipes as well.
The Usability Test
From a usability standpoint, it will depend on your kitchen routines how this works for you. Evidently, if you did not already have an IH-cooktop, this is a wonderful expansion of your arsenal. In my case, I already had an IH cooktop, which had basic temperature settings, and a timer. In general, I would joke that I I cooked more on my IH-cooktop more than on my 5 burner gas stove, certainly when I include my Instant Pot, Rice Cooker and Air Fryer in the count. I have a giant 11″ diameter pan with a steamer basket that is large enough to steam my daily bunch of kale. I had the routine down to knowing the water level, and 12 minutes on 275F got the water to the boiling point, and 15 mins steaming ( setting at 210F) was perfect. I could set the timer and walk away.
It turns out that I could not do the same thing with the HestanCue in its current form. Specifically, the so-called control mode, where you set temp and time directly, works only with the HestanCue pans and my steamer arrangement which is IH-cookware, would not work. You are then reduced to manual mode via physical controls on the cooktop, where there is no timer, nor any automatic shutoff. Given that I do this every day, this issue for me would end the experiment right there, but I am still fascinated by the opportunity to benchmark my cooking routines with the greater control that the HestanCue gives me. In short, I will improvise with the steamer routine, until I find a new solution, or perhaps HestanCue could address the issue. I could see several possibilities with the HestanCue:
- If the “Control Mode” could work with non Hestan-enabled cookware, that would solve it. The loss of accuracy is survivable – we cooked that way for years. Again, in this case, this one simple routine would be bring the water to the boil, and then steam for 15 mins. And that could be approximated with say level 7 on the burner for heating up the water, and level 5 for the steaming portion.
- If Hestan offered a 3″ deep steamer basket for their 5.5 Qt Chef’s Pot, that would solve the problem.
- Alternatively, in the future there should probably be a hardware timer, so that you can accomodate non-Hestan-enabled IH cookware the old fashioned way but still have a timer. I have quite a few very good IH pans from these last few years. I continue to use my near 50-year old set of Demeyere Sylvinox Venus series, but I have replaced one large Dutch Oven with a steamer with the newer IH-capable Atlantis series from Demeyere. While it lacks the Hestan sensors, construction wise, it is still a better pan, with its 5-ply bottom, which produces a more even heat than the Hestan cookware.
In general, I would say it was a bad idea not to implement the basic functions in hardware. The recent Google outage reminded us of that. Some folk were unable to control their smart appliances or even enter their homes or turn on the light. The same is with Tesla, with dropping the whole idea of an instrument panel for a tablet, and now many are starting to say it is unsafe to drive that way. At the very least it was inconvenient to insert that many extra steps between the driver and the controls. The company even has an ad where they call themselves the Tesla of cooking – not a good idea, given the level of lawsuits Tesla is already facing. So, my vote would go to a new and improved version of the cooktop to include at least a timer, so you can set it at a level for x minutes, and that way, it would at least equal existing cooktops and then using Hestan-enabled cookware would go with the program functions and a much higher level of control, as well as the pre-programmed dishes.
As to the cookware itself, it is very serviceable and nicely designed. I comes with a mirror finish, but it is only three-ply and therefore prone to uneven heat. Also the Stainless Steel is a bit soft. My big Chef Pan looks all scratched up already after using a whisk in there. By comparison my Demeyere Silvinox Atlantic 5.5 Qt Dutch Oven, which is my most used pan, after three years still looks as new. No signs of scratches on the bottom, and with a heavy, five-ply bottom, the heat is much more even.
And now for the cooking
Control mode is the real thing from the standpoint of researching your cooking. Presumably this is to be further updated (via Internet) as we go along, and offer greater flexibility. For now, even my first few efforts have already convinced me that this is a worthwhile tool. In general, when you are writing recipes it is not possible to be accurate, for every stove, every kitchen is different. Given the settings on my previous IH-cooktop, I equated 425F with Medium/High and 275F with Medium, but I could keep water boiling with a setting of 200F, once it was boiling. So I knew it was not accurate.
With HestanCue, I have a new level of control and accuracy, which is good for benchmarking as I develop recipes. My normal routine for caramelizing onions is to dry-roast them first and then to stir-fry them with water or veggie broth. On the old IH-cooktop that tended to be about 5 mins on 425F and another 5 mins at 425F while stirring in garlic, peppers, turmeric, and other seasonings, all the while gradually adding about a cup of water or veggie broth.
On the HestanCue, sofar my experience suggest that I get perfect browning around the edges, and stop well short of burning the chopped onions with 5 mins at 350F, and this time, I know 350F means 350F and that is at least an objective measure, and depending on the cooking methods you use, you can then adapt that to your own uses, but I now have a more objective way of describing the process.
I made some great broccoli rabe this way, after caramelizing the onions first, with some garlic, and then adding in the veggie, and steaming it on top of the bed of caramelized onions and garlic for about 7 mins at 230F. I squeezed about a half a lime in there also. I plan to have a field day with reviewing, and revising all of my recipes and cooking routines gradually based on what I can do with the HestanCue, I will hope the company will address the issues that concern me. Some day this is going to be a must have solution.