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.
What is the Breville PolyScience Control Freak?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.