Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System Review
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We purchased the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
As technology advances, ovens, stovetops, pots and pans, and other kitchen appliances and gadgets are making it easier to whip together any recipe. One such system that promises to deliver perfectly cooked meals—even for those who don't have much culinary experience—is the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System. It comes in two different versions: a 2-piece set and a 6-piece set. The 2-piece set includes an induction burner and an 11-inch smart frying pan, while the 6-piece set also includes a 5.5-quart chef's pot and a 3.5-quart sauce pot.
I love tech and I love cookware, so I was pretty excited when the 2-piece Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System arrived, complete with its induction burner and an 11-inch smart frying pan. I downloaded the app, perused recipes that used the pan, checked my pantry to see what I could make immediately, and compiled a shopping list for further testing. From breakfast to candy to supper, I let the app tell me what to do, and now I know exactly what the system is good for. Read on for my thoughts.
Design: Sleek and modern
The induction burner is rather minimalist, and aside from the power cord, it would make a good stand-in for a flying saucer in a sci-fi movie. The burner top is black, surrounded by a silver-colored ring. Below the ring is another black area with air vents. The controls are on the silver area. When unlit, there’s just a small circle, a long bar with rounded ends, and a small triangle. The round circle is the on/off button, the bar is the manual heat control, and the triangle is used when cooking with the app.
The pan looks much like any other stainless steel frying pan, except for the plastic end on the long handle. That plastic piece unscrews and a single AAA battery (included with the pan) powers the pan’s smart functions. The other available cookware on the Hestan Cue site looks just as attractive.
Surprisingly, the cookware is dishwasher safe, with the caveat to make sure the end piece is tight to prevent water from seeping into the battery compartment. I opted to hand wash my pan, but I was pleased to know that I wasn't going to damage anything by getting water on the handle.
Since some of the recipes ask how thick food is, this includes a small stainless steel ruler. It’s the most low-tech piece in the entire system.
Setup Process: Simple
For a smart device, this was simple to set up. When I plugged the burner in, I was able to manually control it right away, and when I installed the app it prompted me to set my cookware on the burner so it could be recognized. Connecting to my wifi was also simple, and then I was ready to start cooking.
Performance: Flawless grilled cheese
Smart appliances are slowly making their way into kitchens, from pressure cookers to countertop ovens. Now, there's smart “stovetop” cooking with the Hestan Cue Cooking System. Although in this case, the stovetop is a single induction burner that pairs with smart cookware to create a smart...well, a smart system, since both components are required. There are currently four different pans available. I tested the 11-inch frying pan.
For some of the recipes, I could choose different numbers of servings, and of course, I could choose the doneness of things like steak, which I appreciated. I started with something simple that’s easy to do wrong—fried eggs. I typically don’t use stainless steel cookware to cook eggs because they tend to stick, so it almost seemed like an unfair test. The first step after putting the pan on the burner was to choose how well done I wanted my eggs.
Another part of the system is the app that includes step-by-step recipes. Some recipes require one specific pan while other recipes can work in two different pans. If a recipe is chosen and the wrong pan is on the burner, the recipe won’t continue. I found plenty of recipes for the pan I received, so I was ready to cook.
Next, the app walked me through each step of the recipe, setting the temperature, telling me when to add the butter, when to add the eggs, and when to flip them. The result was a well-cooked egg, the temperature I asked for, and just a little sticking in the pan. I followed up with a country omelet, which was also successful.
Then I found a French omelet that was listed under recipes for the nonstick pan. The system let me cook the recipe in my stainless steel pan, but it wasn’t quite as wonderful. While there currently aren’t a lot of recipes listed for the nonstick pan, I can't argue that things like eggs would likely be easier in nonstick than plain stainless steel.
Continuing with the idea of making simple recipes, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I didn’t have exactly the cheeses specified in the recipe, but I carried on. While grilled cheese seems simple, it’s tempting to rush the cooking at a high temperature, so the bread burns before the cheese is properly melted. Using the Cue to control the pan, the cooking time seemed long, but the wait was worth it. The bread was perfectly golden brown on both sides and the cheese was warm and melted. It was better than the grilled cheese sandwiches that my mom made. I made that same recipe several times, with perfect results each time.
Some of the recipes require other kitchen equipment—or at least it suggests them. A few recipes called for a Thermomix, for example, but I probably could have made those recipes using other methods to accomplish the tasks. There were also recipes that used sous vide to start the cooking, but there were nearly identical recipes that skipped the sous vide and just used the pan to do the entire cook.
I tried two recipes that started with sous vide: a chicken breast and a steak. Essentially, the pan did the final searing before the food was served. While I'm capable of heating a pan really hot to sear foods, the Cue heated quickly, it was correct when it told me to flip the food over, and it didn’t overcook the food. The seared steak was impressive, and the chicken was browned but not overcooked.
I was quite surprised to see that a recipe for walnut brittle was sized to fit the frying pan—I'm used to making larger quantities of candy in a saucepan. I'm also used to relying on a candy thermometer to make sure the sugar is at the proper temperature. I decided to give the recipe a try, letting the Cue handle the heat and the timing, while I added ingredients and stirred as instructed.
Toward the end of cooking, I was instructed to stir every 10 seconds, and the video that accompanied the recipe showed the pan being stirred repeatedly, so I followed that rather than watching the clock or counting "one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi." Without ever measuring the temperature, I ended up with a perfect brittle. Wow.
Extra Features: Using the induction burner solo
If I'm being honest here, this entire system is a feature. Aside from the ruler, there’s nothing mundane about this burner or cookware. While the available smart pots and pans can’t be used on the stovetop or in the oven, the induction burner can be used with almost any cookware that’s induction compatible. I grabbed a few pieces of cookware and gave it a test.
While it certainly worked, I found that controlling the burner through the app was easier, but the app only works with the smart cookware. But still, if an extra burner is needed, it’s good to know that this induction burner can fill in, or it can keep the gravy warm on the buffet.
Heat is controlled by running a finger along the bar between the circle and the triangle, and lines light up on the bar to show how hot the burner is. While that’s a nice visual, there’s no suggestion of the actual temperature, much like turning the heat up or down on a stove.
Unfortunately, this burner shouldn’t be used with cast iron cookware, which can overheat, and it shouldn’t be used for deep frying. Also, the glass could crack from too much weight, so it shouldn’t be used with cookware (plus food) that weighs more than 16 pounds.
Price: Breaking the budget
Retailing around $400, yes, this is expensive. The induction burner is expensive alone, and the pans are expensive. For lovers of quality high-tech kitchen gear, this will be appealing. But it’s definitely not going to please the budget-minded.
Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System vs. Vermicular Musui–Kamado
While the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System doesn’t have any direct competitors, Vermicular's Musui–Kamado has some similarities. Both pair an induction cooker with cookware. In the case of Hestan Cue, it’s a flat induction cooker along with smart stainless steel cookware. The Vermicular looks a bit more like a traditional slow cooker, but with a cast-iron pot nestled into an outer cooking shroud. Hestan Cue comes with an app, while Vermicular comes with a cookbook and online recipes.
I suspect that cooks who like one will also like the other, but Vermicular is more limited since it has just one pot (it also retails higher at around $670). Hestan Cue is a system that can grow, possibly with more cookware, and with easy access to recipes in the app. I’ll give it my nod.
- Product NameSmart Cooking System
- Product BrandHestan Cue
- Weight4.6 lbs.
- Product Dimensions12.5 x 12.5 x 2 in.
- Pan MaterialTri-ply clad nonreactive 18/10 stainless-steel construction with a proprietary aluminum alloy core
- Induction Cooktop MaterialBlack glass ceramic cooktop with silver metallic finish
- What’s IncludedInduction burner, fry pan, app, ruler
- Induction Cooktop Power1600 Watts
- Pan Dimensions (11-Inch)19.75 x 11 x 3.75 in.
- Pan Weight (11-Inch)2.8 lbs.
- WarrantyInduction burner, 1 year; cookware, 2 years