Review: Breville PolyScience Control Freak Induction Cooker

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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Breville PolyScience Control Freak.
Kitchen Equipment Review: 5 stars, High Recommended.

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 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!

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 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’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.

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.

Highly Recommended

Breville Control Freak Alternative

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. 

Interested in more products by Breville Polyscience? Check out the Breville Polyscience HydroPro immersion circulator for sous vide cooking. 

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Naomi
2 years ago

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?

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
2 years ago

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.

daniel hoffmann
1 year ago

has any one boiled a large amount of water with the breville control freak and what were your results?

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
1 year ago

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.

dan
1 year ago

How is the breville holding up?

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
1 year ago
Reply to  dan

They are both holding up fine. Just finished recording this video where I used one of them: https://www.sizzleandsear.com/recipes/extra-tender-beef-and-broccoli-recipe/

agavin
1 year ago

Just got a control freak as I do a wide range of technical cooking, particularly making artisanal gelato and all sorts of pastry/candy “related” (add ins). Loving it so far. I’ve found a couple large supposedly inductive pots it doesn’t like, for example a 6QT all clad stainless (couple years old) and most cheap Chinese stainless. Seems happy with most of my quality stainless that isn’t big, cast iron, and even a big enameled cast iron crock (good for deep frying). Should be more programmable as you mentioned (I’m a computer programmer too :-)). Are there any handy guides online… Read more »

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
1 year ago
Reply to  agavin

Glad to hear that you are enjoying your Control Freak. Breville/Polyscience has sure put together a quality product. A lot of my friends balk at the cost initially, but when they see it’s capabilities and how it’s replaced my stovetop 95% of the time (I only use my full sized induction range for boiling large amounts of water because of the increased wattage), they come around. It certainly has revolutionized the way I cook; I’m sure you will also get as much enjoyment out of it as I have. That Sucks about the 6QT All Clad. I have 2QT, 4QT,… Read more »

Jim
1 year ago

What is the largest size pot it will take? I have been thinking of getting one for a while now. I make a lot of marmalade and jams. My old induction plate has gone to heaven, my jam pot measures 24cm / 9 + 1/2 inches.

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim

I use pans with a 10-inch diameter base all the time (12-inch frying pans and large sauté pans). The manual says the maximum size should be 10 inches. There’s nothing stopping you from using something slightly bigger, but you’d want to make sure it is made out of materials that conduct heat well (e.g. thick layers of aluminum or copper sandwiched between the induction-compatible stainless steel)

Moclippa
10 months ago

For the sous vide aspect of the Control Freak, I can’t find anything that compares it with a dedicated water circulator like the Joule. Does a Control Freak fully replace the need for a dedicated circulator, or does it have any gaps, such as the need to occasionally stir the water, that a dedicated circulator may not have?

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
10 months ago
Reply to  Moclippa

I use it for short sous vides (1-2 hours) and will occasionally give it a stir. It does lack circulation which would make me worry for longer sous vides. That being said, I find myself sous voiding more often as it’s more convenient than an immersion circulator.

Keith
6 months ago

Thanks so much for this. I’ve been looking at the Control Freak, and wished there was someplace with some recipes, or as you have also done, created a list of temps for various things. Bravo!

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
6 months ago
Reply to  Keith

Thanks Keith! Be sure to check out the Facebook group if you decide to purchase a Control Freak (see link at top of article).

dan Hoffmann
5 months ago

When dialing in a temperature, how accurately does it hold it and how often is that temperature reflected in the temperature of the pan

Admin
Sizzle and Sear
5 months ago
Reply to  dan Hoffmann

The feedback is pretty immediate and you will get real time updates as the temperature rises.

If your pan is small and you are a high intensity, there might be a little overshoot and temperature will have to come down. Once it comes down, it maintains the temperature within 1-2 degrees. You can avoid the overshoot by lowering the intensity to “low” for smaller pans.

Luke
2 months ago

I think you posted something a little while ago about using this with a pressure cooker: ‘Pressure cooked on the unit for the first time tonight. I calculated at my current elevation the temperature in the pot would be ~249F before the regulator kicked in. I ended up having going to turn it down to 230-235. I think it makes sense that the contents could be hotter than the pot because they are under pressure?’ It was the only post I could find on this. I finally got an induction-capable pressure canner: it has a gauge going from 0 to… Read more »

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