Review: Breville PolyScience Control Freak Induction Cooker
I’m a teacher and avid home cook; I likes to think of myself as self-taught, but I of course have been influenced by others. I like geeking out in the kitchen with new recipes, techniques, and equipment.
Review: Breville PolyScience Control Freak Induction Cooker
Originally published July 23, 2019
Last updated March 23, 2022
An induction cooktop that gives you the ultimate control over temperature. Precision cooking has never been easier, but it'll cost you a pretty penny.
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December 2020: 2.5 years of ownership and counting...I've now owned the Breville PolyScience Control Freak, an induction cooktop with precise temperature control, for about 2.5 years. It is by far the best induction cooktop I've used. I truly am a Control Freak; I loved the unit so much that I bought a second one after only a few months of ownership! I figured I'd write a review for all those who may be hesitant to spend the big $$$ on this unit. Feel free to ask me any questions about this induction cooktop in the comments below. Also, if you own a Control Freak, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Super Accurate and Precise Temperatures on the Polyscience Control Freak
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 on the Breville Control Freak
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!
Safe and Easy Deep Frying with the Breville Polyscience Control Freak
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 use the travel bag to take my Control Freak to potlucks, dinner parties, and work (I’m currently a foods teacher)! I pair it with my chef knife backpack, and I practically have an entire kitchen ready to travel with me.
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.
There are a couple alternatives to the Breville Polyscience Control Freak available, including the Hestan Cue and the Tasty One Top.
I have tried both. First, I bought the Tasty One Top prior to purchasing the Breville Control Freak, thinking it may be a good alternative. But at the end of the day, it overshot temperatures by hundreds of degrees, and the unit I was sent had a malfunctioning temperature probe (which Tasty replaced). The unit is at the back of my closet and hasn’t been used since.
Hestan sent me a Hestan Cue to test out (full review is coming).While it hasn’t replaced my Breville Control Freak, I did find the guided recipes enjoyable. If you are someone looking to expand your cooking skills, it really could be a good teaching tool. However, as an avid and experienced home cook, what I found frustrating was that I could only use pans specifically designed for the Hestan Cue. Once you start adding in the cost of additional pans and cookware, you are approaching the same price as the Breville Polyscience Control Freak. The Control Freak is more versatile, better built, and doesn’t require an app to operate. While the app may be a selling feature for some, I find it becomes a hinderance and results in me using the tool less often.
There is also a newcomer to the induction precision game; the Njori Tempo. The Njori Tempo appears to have all the features of the Breville PolyScience Control Freak but with some added bonus features (e.g. an immersion circulator attachment and a built-in scale and reduce-by-weight feature). The Njori Tempo, like the Control Freak, can be fully controlled with a knob on the unit without the use of an app. It has a much smaller footprint than the Control Freak, which makes me wonder if it’s built as well as the Control Freak. One of the reasons for the large size of the Control Freak is to ensure proper cooling of the unit’s electronics and induction units via its two fans. The Njori Tempo is expected to hit the market in early 2022.