Breville PolyScience Control Freak

Review: Breville PolyScience Control Freak Induction Cooker

Overall Rating:
What is induction?

Before I get started with the review, I’m going to explain what induction cooking is for my readers that are not familiar. If you are already familiar with induction, feel free to scroll down to the review.

Induction cooking technology differs from traditional cooking methods because it uses the direct induction heating of the cooking pan instead of radiation, convection, or thermal conduction. Induction accomplishes this through a magnetic field that directly heats up the pot and not the cooktop itself. Since the cooktop doesn’t heat up, it is much safer than traditional cooking. If you place your hand on an induction stove top that was just in use, it will only contain the residual heat from the pan. Induction is easier to cleanup than other electric cooktops because the temperature is much more regulated and the cooking surface is only indirectly heated. Induction allows  for fast increases in temperatures, and unlike traditional electric stove tops, the changes in temperature are instantaneous.

Breville PolyScience Control Freak
The Breville PolyScience Control Freak induction cooker

Induction cooking requires compatible pans made out of ferrous metals. To quickly check whether or not your cookware is compatible with induction cooking, try attaching a magnet to the underside of the pan. If it sticks, it’s compatible,  and if it doesn’t, it’s not compatible. Cast Iron and stainless steel cookware will work, while purely aluminum cookware is not compatible.

What is the Breville PolyScience Control Freak?
Pan temperature sensor on the Breville PolyScience Control Freak
Pan temperature sensor

It is an induction cooktop built for the commercial kitchen, but it is very useful for the avid home cook. What makes it unique though is its ability to precisely hold any cooking temperature from 77°F to 482°F. It does this with both a “through the glass” temperature sensor that detects the pan/pot temperature and through a connected probe that measures the temperature of pot’s/pan’s contents. As the cook, you choose which one you want to use depending on what you are trying to achieve.

It’s like sous vide on steroids. For sous vide applications, it will heat up your water within a matter of a minute, compared to immersion circulators that can take much longer. But not only can you heat up water within 1 degree of accuracy, you can also heat up oils, resulting in effortless oil-poached fish, confit, or deep frying! And you can precisely hold the temperature for dry ingredients, making sweating, sautéing, simmering, and searing easy. You will never burn anything ever again and get perfect brown crusts on everything.
Breville and PolyScience claim that the induction unit checks the temperature 20 times per second; while I have no way of measuring this directly, my experience with this unit gives me no reason to doubt this claim. The heat intensity (speed at which you come to your target temperature) can be controlled with the options of slow, medium, and high. This is very useful as it allows you to quickly boil some water or to slowly heat up a custard while avoiding overshooting the target temperature. Unlike other induction units on the market, the Control Freak contains not one but two cooling fans that help ensure the longevity of the unit’s electronics. This is especially important for longer cooktimes; e.g. simmering a stock for hours on end. I have yet to have the Control Freak shut off on me due to overheating—something that unfortunately has happened to me before on cheaper induction units.
Probe, probe holder, USB stick, and container for the Breville PolyScience Control Freak
Included is a temperature probe, a probe holder, and a USB stick for sharing recipes between multiple devices. There’s also a handy case to store these three components when they are not in use.
Why the Breville PolyScience Control Freak?
When I first started looking for induction units, I had just graduated from teachers’ college and got my first contract in another city. I was temporarily living in a basement suite that came equipped with a $100 Salton induction unit and a generic toaster oven. As an avid home cook, I was not happy with this setup, and my first quest was to find a good portable induction unit for stove top cooking. When I came across the Breville PolyScience Control Freak, I was immediately interested, but I was intimidated by the high price tag. I kept my eye open for a deal, and I jumped on an opportunity to buy a discounted demo unit on eBay. This turned out to be one of the best kitchen purchase decisions I’ve ever made, and I have no regrets.
Basement kitchen with the Breville PolyScience Control Freak
The basement suite I was living in when I procured my Control Freak. It was small but more functional than a lot of full size kitchens I’ve been to thanks to this amazing induction unit!

Super Accurate and Precise Temperatures
One of the first things I did when I got my unit was test out Breville’s/PolyScience’s claim of accurate and precise temperatures. I did this with my trusty Thermapen. I first tested boiling water using pan control at a random temperature (134°F) using pan control. Since pan control measures the temperature of the bottom of the pan, I did not expect it to correlate 100% with the temperature of the contents in the pan. Boy was I surprised. It took just a little bit of time for the water to match exactly what the Control Freak was saying the pan temperature was!

I also tested the accuracy of the probe control and got the same results. I knew based on this experimentation that cooking delicate foods, like custards and emulsions, would be a whole lot easier using the Control Freak.

Walk-Away Cooking of Delicate Foods
With precise pan control, I’ve learned ideal temperatures for cooking ingredients that can easily burn if not monitored carefully. Now I can sweat garlic, brown butter, temper chocolate, caramelize onions, make caramel, and create custards without worrying about anything burning. In fact, one of the first things I made using the Control Freak was a caramel sauce, and I was able to leave the kitchen and do some chores in the living room without worrying about burning the sugar. Unheard of!

Accurate temperature reading on the Breville PolyScience Control Freak
Heston Blumenthal's lemon tart
A slice of Heston Blumenthal’s lemon tart. Lemon curd made using the Control Freak.

I even made some butterscotch pudding from scratch effortlessly on the Control Freak:

Safe and Easy Deep Frying
I like deep fried chicken wings, french fries,  and donuts as much as the next guy. But doing deep frying at home has always meant a hard-to-clean dedicated appliance or closely monitoring a dangerously hot pot of oil on the stove top. With the probe control on the Control Freak, I don’t need to clean another appliance, and the induction cooker monitors the temperature of the oil for me. The precision of probe control is bang on, which allows me to be confident when deep frying. So far I’ve deepfried Heston Blumenthal’s triple cooked french fries, Modernist Cuisine’s Korean chicken wings, Chinese orange chicken, and vegetable pakora. For each of these applications, the temperature of the oil quickly recovered after the food was added. I’ve been fully satisfied with the deepfrying performance of the Control Freak.

Finally, one of my favorite things about the Control Freak is the ability to program in your temperatures. Figure out the perfect temperature to make your sunny side up eggs? Don’t worry about forgetting it. Program it in with your temperature and time. You can even tell the Control Freak what to do after the timer runs out (continue cooking at set temperature and count upwards, turn off the heat, keep warm at 140°F, or repeat the timer). This is very useful! I only wish you could program multistage recipes where the temperature will change to a selected new temperature after the first timer is finished; right now, you can only change the temperature to 140°F by using the “Keep Warm” setting. It would also be nice if you could add programs to the USB stick using your computer. It can be bit of a pain typing in the recipe’s name using the the unit’s knob. If you’re listening Breville, maybe include these requests in a future firmware update? 😉

The Control Freak also comes with a nifty travel and storage bag. I’m not a caterer, but I’ve already used it to take my Control Freak to potlucks and dinner parties!

Throughout my first year of owning the Control Freak, I posted my findings on the eGullet forum. I collaborated with members on the forum to create a database of cooking temperatures that work with the Control Freak’s style of cooking. Click here to see the database, and feel free to contribute through the comment section. I will update the database regularly with readers’ suggestions.

Carrying and travel case for the Breville PolyScience Control Freak

More images of my experience with the Breville PolyScience Control Freak:

In Europe, the Breville Polyscience Control Freak is known as the Sage Control Freak; don’t worry, they are manufactured by the same company. Do you own the Breville Polyscience Control Freak? I’d love to hear about your experience with it in the comments below. 

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4 thoughts on “Review: Breville PolyScience Control Freak Induction Cooker”

  1. Wow. This looks amazing! I own the Tasty One Top and have been disappointed in it 🙁 Your experience with the Control Freak seems to live up to the expectations I had for the Tasty. Still trying to decide between the Hestan Cue and the Breville Polyscience Control Freak. Do you have experience with the former?

  2. Sizzle and Sear

    Hey Naomi. Luck would have it that I will be receiving a Hestan Cue shortly for testing. My goal is to have a review up by the end of the summer. Stay tuned.

  3. Sizzle and Sear

    I’ve boiled water. If I’m just using a 4 quart pan, I have no problems with the Control Freak… I haven’t timed it but I don’t find myself getting impatient.

    If I’m boiling water in my 8 quart pot (e.g. pasta), I tend to find myself going to my more powerful induction range as it can take quite some time to get to boil. Don’t mind doing that as when I’m boiling water I don’t require precision and will trade it for speed. Can only boil large amounts of water so fast at 1800 watts.

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