By Michael Hiller
This portable induction cooktop offers all the power and none of the heat
Summer is staring us in the eyes, which means it’s about to get steamy hot.
That’s no time to turn on the stove. Take your cooking outside instead — without firing up the grill or wrestling with a tank of propane. A portable induction cooktop called the Control Freak is all you need.
As long as you have access to an electric outlet, the Control Freak packs enough steady power to fry chicken and sear rib-eye steaks. And precision controls allow you to gently poach a lobster in butter, sous vide the carrots and peppers you plucked from your garden, and slowly temper egg yolks, butter, vinegar, shallots and tarragon into a Top Chef-level bearnaise sauce.
Induction burners also boil liquids rapidly and hold temperatures steady, meaning you don’t have to fiddle with stovetop knobs or stir sauces constantly to avoid scorching.
You’ve heard that induction burners only work with magnetic cookware? You don’t need to buy fancy pots and pans. A $20 cast-iron pan can do a lot of the heavy work. And most stainless steel and nearly all cookware made from multiple layers of metal are also magnetic.
The portable design allows you to cook food or keep it warm anywhere you can plug in: a kitchen counter, your back porch, a getaway cabin. It heats up quickly and evenly, has simple controls and is easy to clean thanks to the ceramic-glass cooking surface.
It’s also significantly more powerful, more accurate and faster than other induction burners, though its $1,499.95 price may give you pause. But that chunk of change buys you a pro-level piece of gear built by two appliance powerhouses — Breville and PolyScience — designed for chefs and serious home cooks.
Unlike induction burners that cost less, the Control Freak allows you to set a specific cooking temperature between 77 degrees and 482 degrees, then maintain the pan temperature within 1 degree for up to 72 hours (you can also set a built-in timer to shut off the power). Want even more control? A digital food probe can monitor the temperature of the food (or the fry oil), then adjust the power output to keep the water simmering or the oil bubbling.
During my testing, the Control Freak had no difficulty producing a dark roux for a pot of gumbo, a task that’s always a tightrope walk on a stovetop. I also had no issues using it in a simple sous vide setup to cook vacuum-packed short ribs in a pot of water at a low temperature for 48 hours. Butter-poached lobster tails and that bearnaise sauce also turned out flawless. So did caramelized onions and blistered peppers.
Big-deal restaurants like The French Laundry and Ivan Ramen are devoted fans, too; their chefs take the burner with them to cooking demos and off-site events, and program recipe settings onto the Control Freak’s USB thumb drive for speed and accuracy.
Looking for the right gift for Father’s Day? Your dad already has a grill and maybe a cool apron. He doesn’t have this.
The Control Freak The portable induction cooker is available from breville.com, polyscienceculinary.com and Williams Sonoma, williams-sonoma.com.