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Cinder Sensor Cooker: Sous vide cooking without the bags or water

Cinder Sensor Cooker: Sous vid...
The Cinder Sensing Cooker brings precision temperature control to home grilling
The Cinder Sensing Cooker brings precision temperature control to home grilling
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing cooking temperature status
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing cooking temperature status
The Cinder Sensing Cooker precisely controls temperatures using a system of sensors
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker precisely controls temperatures using a system of sensors
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app status
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app status
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app menu
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app menu
The Cinder Sensing Cooker can adapt to frozen foods
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker can adapt to frozen foods
The Cinder Sensing Cooker automatically sears food before serving
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker automatically sears food before serving
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app meat slection
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app meat slection
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app doneness selection
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app doneness selection
The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks onions in various ways
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks onions in various ways
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing food status
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing food status
The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooking apple filling
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooking apple filling
The Cinder Sensing Cooker can keep food at optimum tempearture for up to two hours
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker can keep food at optimum tempearture for up to two hours
The Cinder Sensing Cooker showing manual stetting dial
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker showing manual stetting dial
The Cinder Sensing Cooker has a companion app
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker has a companion app
The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks fish
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks fish
The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks a variety of dishes
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker cooks a variety of dishes
The Cinder Sensing Cooker uses space technology
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker uses space technology
The Cinder Sensing Cooker has stainless steel construction
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker has stainless steel construction
The Cinder Sensing Cooker brings precision temperature control to home grilling
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The Cinder Sensing Cooker brings precision temperature control to home grilling
CEO of Cinder Eric Norman
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CEO of Cinder Eric Norman
CEO of Cinder Eric Norman and CTO Jim Reich
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CEO of Cinder Eric Norman and CTO Jim Reich
Cinder cooking showing rare setting
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Cinder cooking showing rare setting
The Cinder automatically sears steaks
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The Cinder automatically sears steaks
CTO Jim Reich
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CTO Jim Reich
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With its ability to cook foods with precision, sous vide has caused a minor kitchen revolution in recent years, but its reliance on water baths and vacuum bags, plus the need to sear some foods after cooking still makes it daunting for the busy or inexperienced home chef. The Cinder Sensing Cooker, developed by San Francisco-based startup Cinder, aims to make cooking a bit easier by combining the precision of sous vide with the simplicity of a countertop grill.

Sous vide is based on the idea that the most important factor isn't the time it takes to cook something, but the temperature that the food reaches. In other words, the difference between a perfect hard boiled egg and one you can bounce like a hand ball isn't how long you boil it, but how hot the egg gets. That's because all cooking is chemistry and that chemistry is based on temperature. If an egg can be brought precisely to a set temperature and kept there, certain chemical reactions will occur. Once these are completed, the perfect egg will stay perfect whether it sits in the water for an additional five minutes or five hours.

This principle has already been embraced by the catering industry because it means that, for example, an entire evening's service worth of steaks can be cooked to perfection during the day and be ready to set on a plate at a moment's notice. The problem is that sous vide requires a special water bath with precise temperature controls, as well as special plastic bags for vacuum sealing the dishes. This means that adapting sous vide for the home can be expensive, a bit involved, and that perfect steak still needs to be seared before serving to give it the right texture and taste.

The Cinder Sensing Cooker uses space technology
The Cinder Sensing Cooker uses space technology

According to Cinder CEO Eric Norman, the idea behind the Cinder Sensor Cooker is to combine the precision and control of sous vide with dry cooking, the searing ability of a cast-iron frying pan, and the small counter footprint of a panini grill. For a first look, we checked out a prototype version of the Cinder and during an online video chat with Norman.

Norman says that the resemblance of the Cinder to an oversized panini grille is deliberate because the company wanted to make a machine for the home market that was understandable and accessible while doing away with the complications and the slowness of a sous vide device. The method used is similar to sous vide in that it relies on precision temperature control, but instead of water, the Cinder uses plates heating an enclosed chamber combined with sensors and a computer control system derived from spacecraft design. This allows the unit to not only cook the food, but to also automatically sear it before serving.

The Cinder weighs about 12 lb (5.4 kg), comes clad in stainless steel, and consumes 1,800 watts of power. The key to its operation are a pair of removable aluminum non-stick cooking plates, which are continuously monitored by a system of computer-controlled sensors that calculate the temperature of the plates as well as their distance apart, so the Cinder knows the thickness of the food and can adjust the cooking time accordingly. Norman says that the sensors are accurate to within a quarter of a degree and that the unit uses a virtual-thermometer algorithm to deduce the temperature of the food.

Cinder cooking showing rare setting
Cinder cooking showing rare setting

One major selling point of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled Cinder Sensing Cooker is its companion app for mobile devices. The idea is to allow the user hands-free control of the Cinder and to make operation easy by providing options from a menu, such as selecting various meats and degrees of doneness as well as an expanding selection of recipes that the user can rate and customize.

When activated, the Cinder reaches its operating temperature within seconds and remains within a fraction of a degree across the cooking surfaces. The food is then brought to the preprogrammed temperature and a notification sent to the user's handheld device when done. Meanwhile the Cinder keeps the food at an optimum temperature for up to two hours. If it's kept on hold for too long, a reminder is sent. When ready to serve, the device automatically sears the dish if needed at 550⁰ F (287⁰ C) in under 30 seconds.

The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing cooking temperature status
The Cinder Sensing Cooker app showing cooking temperature status

During the demonstration, we saw Norman cook a steak in a lab prototype of the Cinder. The results showed a very good sear and the cross section had an even medium-rare quality with very little gray. Of course, how it tastes will have to wait until a Cinder is available for review.

The Cinder Sensing Cooker is currently available for preorder at US$499 with shipping early next year. Customers who order before March 20 will be eligible for a choice of perks or discounts.

The video below introduces the Cinder Sensing Cooker.

Source: Cinder

Introducing Cinder - perfect food based on modern food science

Introducing Cinder from Cinder on Vimeo.

View gallery - 24 images
16 comments
BeWalt
Hmm, my Arduino version is one-twentieth of the cost and has a larger cooking area, but in fairness it *does* look like a hack compared to this shiny beau.
Sid Whiting
Looks great, but the main reason for vacuum sealing in sous vide cooking is to prevent growth of aerobic bacteria at the low temperatures involved. This is not addressed in this article . . .
nicho
so .. another Tefal Optigrill ?
DemonDuck
It reminds me of a guy named George....
JPAR
Or for the same money, buy a cast iron griddle, learn to cook and buy 50 prime rib eye steaks. You ain't a real man unless you can cook a steak!
Richard Guy
Regrettably the author of this article doesn't understand sous vide cooking very well. It is absolutely not the case that in sous vide cooking time is not a factor. One of the great advantages of sous vide cooking is that the technique enables the chef to make the best of cheaper, tougher (and usually more flavourful) cuts of meat because it's possible to slow cook the meat for a very long time at a precise temperature. Sous vide doesn't just provide the accuracy of temperature (though this is important): the fact that the meat is vacuum sealed in a bag means that the meat doesn't dry out. I strongly suspect that if you tried to cook, for example, shin of beef in the "Cinder sensing" cooker, it wouldn't work terribly well. Though the meat wouldn't overcook, it would dry out to the point of inedibility the the time (4 hours +) it takes to cook this cut well. This Cinder... is a crap chef's way of cooking steak well. It's not a replacement for sous vide. I am sure it can indeed cook steak to near perfection with little effort but $500 is a high price to pay for not learning how to cook a steak properly. If you want to achive pretty much the same effect: [preliminary: season the steak with salt and spices to your taste and leave it to rest at room temperature until it has lost it's fridge chill - probably about 45 minutes]. 1. put on your oven to about 130 degrees C 2.heat a couple of spoons of good frying oil in a pan until it is very, very hot and starts smoking. 3. Gently lower in your steak(s) and cook them on each side until they are brown to your taste. 4. Remove the steak from the pan and wrap it up tightly in kitchen foil. 5. Put it in the pre-heated oven, 6. Remove from the oven after a short time. I suggest 6 minutes but this will vary according to your taste. 7. Leave the steak in the foil and put it in a warm (not hot) dish/container or wrap it in a tea towel or something insulating and let it rest for 10 minutes (while you cook the vegetables) 8. Remove the steak from its tea towel and foil and serve it on warm plates immediately, with veg and sauce as required. There will be much juice in the foil if you wrapped it up properly, which you should pour over the steak or stir into a sauce if you are serving your steak with sauce. 9. Eat the steak. 10. Decide if it was well enough or too well done and adjust the time you will leave steak in the oven next time you cook it. There: $500 saved.
Jim Reich
Hi, I'm CTO of Cinder, and I'd be glad to clear a few things up and answer any other questions. Just to start, there's actually a lot more here than just a new form factor for sous vide. It uses the same target temperature idea, but unlike a water bath, Cinder can go above boiling. This is actually where a lot of the fun reactions are that can add a lot to your cooking -- browning (maillard), caramelization and others. You can brown without burning -- so you can do things like making grilled cheese sandwiches where the cheese inside is browned, not just the stuff that dripped on the grill. You can make butternut squash evenly brown and sweet, or make apple pie filling with no sugar, because the caramelization cranks up the natural sweetness of the apple, or make onions exactly how you want (brown and sweet to top a burger, or crisp with a bite for fajitas) with minimal stirring. This is really an entirely new cooking method which can get results not possible with pans, grills or sous vide. If you look at steaks produced by experienced cooks in pans, the Foreman or the Optigrill (which, BTW, is really just a regular grill with a timer plus thickness sensor), you'll see a "bullseye" effect -- the outside of the steak is well done and the inside is rare. They're less moist than they could be, and tougher. This isn't any fault of the cook, it's just that they are cooking on a too-hot, uneven surface. And they can't caramelize well, because it requires temperature to stay within an 8 degree or so band -- hotter and the food gets bitter, any cooler and it doesn't get sweet enough. And just try leaving a steak or chicken breast on a foreman for 2 hours -- it'll be destroyed if you don't take it off immediately. On Cinder, it'll still be perfect, even if your guests are an hour or two late, or the kids won't come down for dinner when called Addressing vacuum bagging: The most important reason for vacuum sealing in sous vide is to actually to improve heat transfer. In a vacuum, you just exchange aerobic bacteria for nastier anaerobic ones like botulism. But in both cases, the important thing is to be sure you've reached an appropriate temperature long enough to kill the bacteria -- it's just a different selection of bacteria. And in Cinder's process, you know the internal temperature with great accuracy, so you can cook safe without ruining your food.
Nicolas Zart
I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the WI-fi and bluetooth enabled things. Seriously, for a cooking utensil? Pros and cons, I understand, but definitely not something I need.
nicho
@Jim Reich - On the subject of leaving a chicken breast or steak on the grill for a couple of hours. Won't that dry it out (particularly chicken) unacceptably no matter how controlled the temperature ? Without a hermetically sealed environment (vacuum bagged) do you not run the risk of ending up with beef or chicken jerky ?
Jim Reich
@nicho. Nope, 2 hours is just fine, we do this all the time for chicken, steak and pork. At the temperatures Cinder and sous vide use, moisture release is largely a function of temperature, not exposure to atmosphere. We take food quality very seriously, and have done multiple blind side-by-sides and measurements of moisture loss for sous vide vs. Cinder. Our development chef for these tests was one of the foremost sous vide experts, so we know the sous vide was done optimally. We were actually surprised by the results— the Cinder actually had slightly _less_ moisture loss than sous vide. Our best explanation was that the vacuum process or water pressure of immersion had squeezed some liquid out. For overnight cooking, I’d probably concede to sous vide — but more likely due to oxidation than moisture loss. But no jerky. Honest.