We can thank TV shows like Top Chef for introducing the mainstream to sous vide cooking and induction stove tops. As more cooks seek to dabble with new tools and techniques, kitchen appliances like the Oliso’s SmartHub & Top are helping bring restaurant kitchen equipment into homes. Their product comes in two parts: The base is an induction burner base that plugs in to any outlet, and the SmartTop heats liquid to a precise temperature and keeps it there, for sous vide cooking or otherwise.
Want to test drive the SmartHub & Top? They’ll join us at this weekend’s Food Loves Tech event (tickets here!): a first of its kind expo allowing you to taste the very near food future. We recently chatted with Oliso product engineer Jonathan Seclow to learn more about this cutting-edge kitchen tech, which surprisingly involves a collaboration with Heston Blumenthal:
Edible Manhattan: Oliso didn’t start out developing kitchen appliances. What was the company’s first product?
Jonathan Seclow: We first made a steam iron with a sensor in the handle; when the sensor’s released, the iron lets out a set of legs so it can stand up. The objective with this design is to alleviate the discomfort people with arthritis or carpal tunnel might have while ironing. There’s also a number of home accidents associated with resting a regular iron on a board or clothing, so the legs can prevent those problems. The iron was actually the founder and CEO’s thesis project while at the design institute at Stanford.
EM: Do all of Oliso’s products have such thoughtful design elements?
JS: Absolutely. We’re not trying to come out with products that are the same as others on the market. We are disrupting the market by introducing products that change how we think about home appliances while still applying great value to them.
EM: That’s definitely clear in the design of Oliso’s vacuum sealer, which cuts down on food waste.
JS: Totally. There’s two types of vacuum sealers: chamber and out-of-chamber sealers. Chamber sealers are great but can cost upward of $2,000. Out-of-chamber sealers are much more affordable and common in homes but are more wasteful. You’ve probably seen a video of how these work: There’s a roll of textured bags, from which you cut the size you need and put food in. The vacuum removes the air and seals the bag. These are great for items you want to store for a while and will use in their entirety, but the bags can only be used once.
Our vacuum sealer works differently. The bags have zipper tops that can be opened and resealed many times, allowing users to remove some of the contents and continue to use the same bag. When you want to seal the bag, you just put an edge of the bag under the vacuum sealer and it cuts a hole, removes the air through that hole, and then heat seals the hole shut. One of the benefits of this method is that, since you’re pulling air from a smaller hole, it’s better at sealing and better for liquids, which are often challenging to seal without chamber sealers. The popularity of the vacuum sealer is what led to the SmartHub.
EM: Because vacuum sealing is used in sous vide cooking?
JS: Exactly. We were contacted by Heston Blumenthal, an English chef known for his restaurant the Fat Duck, who told us that our sealer is his preferred option among the out-of-chamber sealers for sous vide cooking. His team was interested in working with us to develop a better sous vide cooker, which is a cooking method that requires a high degree of precision and control.
The SmartHub is an induction cooktop that can be plugged in to any standard American outlet and is compatible with any induction-ready pot or pan.. The SmartHub also has four electrodes on the top that allow it to communicate with attachments that fit on top of the cooker. The first attachment we developed is the SmartTop: a three-gallon stockpot with a built-in thermometer that connects with electrodes on the front of the base and controls the cooking temperature within 0.1 degrees Celsius. This allows chefs to use it for sous vide cooking, among other precision temperature techniques.
EM: Sous vide cooking is such a specific technique to invest in. Can the SmartTop be used for other purposes?
JS: Of course. The SmartHub is a full-featured induction cooktop that plugs in anywhere and works with any induction-ready pot or pan. We’re also starting production of a griddle top that will use the same technology to control the temperature.
Since there aren’t any moving parts and the SmartTop’s easy to clean, you can cook any liquid in it and control the temperature. We’ve experimented with making the mash for home-brewed beer as well as fermented beverages and foods like kombucha, yogurt and sauerkraut.
EM: This sounds like a pretty perfect appliance in a time when consumers are more willing to experiment with making traditionally store-bought foods.
JS: Yes! We’re really excited about the different possibilities the SmartHub & Top will create for home cooks.