I haven’t grilled a steak indoors in 15 years. Good beef means high heat, open flames and fast reflexes. You don’t cook a steak for 45 minutes, you give it four searing minutes on each side. It’s simple and deceptively easy to screw up.
Cinder’s method of steak cookery goes against every meat-eating, steak-grilling instinct I have.
The company’s new cooking product, the Cinder Sensing Cooker ($500) uses sous vide-level temperature control and timing to cook steak to perfection. At least that’s the promise. And ever since I first encountered the technology almost two years ago, I’ve been itching to put it to the test.
Now that test is…*URP*…done.
Putting on my chef’s cap
Cinder, which looks like a chrome inkjet printer, is a smart cooker. It measures steak thickness and the temperature of the steak many times per second. Bluetooth enabled, it can be remote controlled via your smartphone. Put simply, Cinder is nothing like my outdoor grill.
Cinder sent me the 12-pound cooker so I could test it in Mashable’s own kitchen (you can watch the test in the video above.)
There’s no assembly, you just slide Cinder out of the box, remove the packing materials and plug it into a 3-pronged outlet. Cinder bears some relation to George Foreman Grills. Both press meat between dual heating plates and both let the oil drain away into a catch pan for healthier eating. That, however, is where the similarities end.
When I opened Cinder using the large front handle – reminiscent of a handle on a big grill – I discovered a deep cooking chamber with two black, totally flat, non-stick heating plates. There were no grill ridges, making it look a little like a griddle press.
The lid is designed to lift the heavy top plate up and place it back down parallel to the bottom plate so that the pressure and heat are evenly distributed across the meat. That design also allows the device to measure the meat’s thickness, which will help it properly cook it.
After I installed the app and turned on Bluetooth, it instantly discovered the cooker.
The app guides you through a selection of meat types. It can handle beef, pork, veal, lamb, ground meat, chicken, fish (even shellfish) and eggs. I chose beef and then the type of steak I bought: sirloin. I also chose how I like my steaks cooked: medium rare. The app set a temp of 133 degrees and a 25-minute cook time. In the meantime, I salted and peppered my steak.
Then I opened Cinder, threw the steak on the bottom plate (there was no sizzle) and closed the lid. The temperature dial pulsed pink and the small blue digital readout on Cinder reported that it was remote-controlled as the app counted down the minutes and told me the exact temperature of the heating plates. It took a bit for it to reach 133 degrees. One thing that app did not report was the current steak temperature. To be safe, cooked beef should be about 165 degrees. Throughout the cooking process, I never knew the exact temperature of my steak.
After exactly 25 minutes, the app told me my steak was done – sort of. It was ready for the next crucial step.
When I pulled the 3/4-inch slab of beef from the Cinder, it was, gray and looked uncooked. I’d been warned by Cinder reps that this is how a steak would look after the initial 130-degree slow-cook process. The crucial-finishing touch was next and promised to fix—or at least make edible—my sirloin steak.
On the app, there was a message asking if I wanted to sear the steak.
“Yes, oh, god, yes.”
This entailed raising the temperature of the grill to 450 degrees. But before I could so do, I had to gingerly wipe down the top and bottom with wet and dry paper cloths. 130 degrees doesn’t sound like much, but it can still burn you.
With that done, I turned the physical Cinder dial until the temperature read 450 and then watched on the readout as the temperature slowly climbed. I found it odd that I could not use the app to raise the temperature. What’s the point of remote control if you can’t control a basic function?
Cinder reached 450 degrees in a couple of minutes. I opened it up and dropped the steak onto the plate and was met with a very satisfying sizzle.
The searing process is fast and there’s a 45-second countdown on the Cinder screen to help you keep track. I let mine go 15 seconds longer, which meant the Cinder readout changed to let me know I was going on an extra-long sear, counting each extra second of my cook time.
Then it was time to pull the steak.
I opened the Cinder to find a steak transformed. Gone was the grayish undercooked slab. In its place, I found a delicious-looking piece of grilled meat. It smelled amazing, too.
We plated the steak, cut it up, noted the near perfectly medium-rare interior, and ate all of it. It was, tender, juicy, and delicious. I may have over-salted the steak a bit, but Cinder can’t be blamed for that.
Clean and consider
Clean-up is a bit of a pain. You must wait 30 to 40 minutes for the plates to cool off and then you can press a button on the bottom to release the lower plate and a release on top to drop the top one. Then I washed off both with a gentle scrubbing brush. There was also the pull-out drip tray, which was filled with clear oil. I also wiped around the edges of the cooker where all the oil run-off first collected before draining into the tray.
There are a lot of reasons to like Cinder. It works as promised: slow cooking at 130-degrees with an all-important 45-second high-heat sear results in a near-perfectly cooked steak. It’s how I wish each of my grilled meats would come out. It also lets you do all of this on your counter top.
Cleanup is not quite as easy as I would like, but it’s not bad either.
At 12 pounds, roughly 15 by 15 inches across, and 8 inches tall, Cinder takes up space and is not easy to move around. Think about if you have permanent counter space you can devote to it.
And then there’s the price. $500 is a lot for a cooking device. Even a smart one. A digital George Foreman Grill costs $99. You can get a regular one for $29.
Cinder Sensor Cooker is not just a prettied up Foreman grill. It cooks differently and much more intelligently. The results are delicious.
So you have to ask yourself, do you have an appetite for a $500 smart cooker?
Cinder Sensing Cooker
Proves you can slow-cook a steak • Results were delicious • Easy to set-up and use • Well-built
No live temperature readout for steak • Remote control can’t raise Cinder cooking temperature for searing • Cleanup is a bit tough • Cost
The Bottom Line
For those to love to cook and want technology to help them grill the perfect steak, Cinder is your new favorite home appliance.