Cooking isn’t easy, but it’s straightforward. Take ingredients, add some heat and a little dash of technique and you’re more than half way there. It’s knowledge and confidence that hold many of us back in the kitchen though. As I’m no stranger to the culinary wasteland that lies between undercooked and Sahara dry I remained firmly in the unadventurous in the kitchen camp.
This was the challenge taken up a former MIT engineer and his co-founders at this Californian start-up. Could technology take the knowledge and experience of an experienced cook and automate it in a way that the amateur or burgeoning cook could replay to get a tasty, well cooked dish every time.
Pantelligent is the result of their research, design and clever engineering. It’s a 12” non-stick pan, with a difference. The difference being the Bluetooth connection the pan establishes to your smart-phone and the recipe and instruction app that guides you through the cooking process.
The pan arrives in a large box with just a couple of components. The pan itself and a kitchen apron emblazoned with the phrase ‘My pan is smarter than yours’. After washing the pan with soapy water I set about getting it set-up which was a simple process. I needed to open the Pantelligent app on my phone, hold it to the handle of the pan and wait a few second for it to make a connection. After I’d confirmed the pan and app were talking to each other, I tapped ‘Recipes’ and attempted my first recipe. Pantelligent suggest Simple Salmon for the first attempt, so I followed the recipe to add seasoning to the salmon and oil and a little butter to the pan.
Then I tapped ‘Start Cooking’ and was prompted to enter the thickness of the salmon at it’s thickest point, which is important for the pan to calculate the ideal cooking temperature. With the pan connected to the phone, I was instructed to turn up the heat, and wait for the optimum cooking temperature. When the temperature is reached, the electronics which are built in to handle of the pan communicate with the app and you’re instructed to put the salmon in to the pan. Pantelligent, as well as issuing instructions on the phone’s screen provides audible voice directions, which are incredibly useful if you’re busy getting other things together in the kitchen.
As well as the current step, the app also displays the next thing to be done and the estimated time to that task. The next thing I needed to do was flip the salmon and wait a few more minutes for it to be cooked. No wiggling the pan, no pressing down on the fish to ensure it was cooking to the end; I had quickly grown to trust this new piece of kitchen tech.
The pan’s built in heat sensor knows how hot your food is and by sampling that temperature every second it can predict precisely when dinner’s ready to get on to the table. When I got my salmon on to the plate it looked exactly as it should. A crispy crust but nicely pale and perfectly moist on the inside. I tried the pancakes, perfect. Chicken, perfect. Risotto, pretty good, but admittedly I did try to squeeze in a Champions League recap while making it.
The pan has been upgraded over the last couple of weeks with an Autopilot feature, so if you add a smart-home plug from WeMO you can even let a separate counter hob take control of the pan completely, making for an almost fool-proof cooking process. The pan is resistant to water, but you shouldn’t put it in the dishwasher, or oven as you risk damaging the built-in electronics, which are powered by two AAA batteries, which should last a year or more.
The biggest downside isn’t so much the pan, as the app and the number of recipes available. It’s a reasonable selection but does feel a little Midwest rather than Midlands. No doubt Pantelligent will add new recipes soon, but the ability for social sharing of recipes from global users could fix that even more quickly as you can use the Freestyle mode to record your own recipes and replay them. Then there’s the price. It’s not a cheap pan and if you’re someone who’s happy to do the bare minimum in the kitchen, it’s probably not for you.