About this project
It All Began with a Vacuum Sealer
In 2007, Oliso reinvented the vacuum sealer and vastly improved food storage for thousands of devoted users. Some of those users began telling us that they loved using our bags and vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking, so we set out to try it ourselves.
Our first venture into sous vide cooking was with one of the many immersion circulators on the market. Although it was capable of maintaining a water bath at a given temperature, the experience left a lot to be desired. Some of the problems we found? We didn’t like having a pot with a piece of plastic sticking out of it on our counter, it could only heat water, we had to fashion makeshift lids if we wanted it to be able to hold a higher temperature. The water ovens were a little better, but they were large and expensive devices that only had one function.
So we set out to reinvent the cooktop from the ground up, making it capable of sous vide and other precision techniques by design. The result is the SmartHub™, a device that brings the capabilities of the professional kitchen to the home in less than one square foot of space.
What is the SmartHub™ and Top?
The SmartHub™ is a powerful induction burner that can plug into any power outlet and instantly give you the capabilities of a kitchen range. What makes it revolutionary is the gold plated contact module that allows various SmartTops™ to dock with the SmartHub™ so that the two recognize each other and communicate seamlessly all without the need for batteries or recharging.
The first SmartTop™ is the Precision SmartTop™, designed to heat liquid to a precise temperature and keep it there. This allows you to do sous vide, but the design also allows you to cook in the top without plastic bags. Now you can use precision temperature control for infusions, delicate broths, whole chickens, culturing yogurt or sprouting grains.
We’re running Kickstarter to make a Griddle SmartTop™, temperature probe and app to work with the SmartHub™.
So what’s the Kickstarter for? We want to develop the next SmartTop™, a griddle top, a temperature probe and an app that makes cooking with the SmartHub™ even better.
Why SmartHub™ and Top?
When we first started cooking sous vide we very quickly found ourselves reluctant to go through all the necessary steps when using a circulator. For some in our office, the idea of an open pot of hot water with their kids around wasn’t practical, for another, it was too noisy in their open plan studio apartment, and all of us were frustrated by the water evaporation on longer cooks. Makeshift lids weren’t secure, too much work, or just plain ugly.
When we designed the SmartHub™ and Top, it was also important to make the precision SmartTop™ without a cord so that users could feel free to get it dirty and then easily wash it. We created a tempered glass, silicone edged lid that keeps water from evaporating when cooking sous vide and flavor volatiles in when cooking directly in the bath. In the words of Joe Ray for Wired, the top “looks beefy enough to seal off a submarine airlock.”
We used induction because it’s fast(cutting the amount of time it takes to get your water bath up to the temperature by up to half) and it’s efficient.
Having an induction base also addresses one of the shortcomings of sous vide as a cooking technique, since sous vide alone leaves your food looking unappetizing and devoid of the wonderful flavors produced by the Maillard reaction. Users of circulators turn to their grills and blowtorches to fix this issue, but the SmartHub™ gives you another option. The powerful induction hub quickly gets a pan up to searing temperature, which allows you to put a perfect sear on your food without additional equipment. In addition, it’s pretty wonderful for when you want to boil a pot of water for pasta in record time.
We designed the SmartHub™ and Top to be an all-in-one cooking solution, as a powerful addition to the typical home kitchen but even as a replacement for a kitchen for those living in small spaces and as another station for restaurant kitchens. We plan on making this solution even more powerful with the funds we generate from this Kickstarter by manufacturing a Griddle SmartTop™, temperature probe, and a companion app as the next accessories to the SmartHub™.
The Griddle SmartTop™ allows you get a great sear on your food. Like all Oliso SmartTops™, it's designed to communicate seamlessly with the SmartHub™ for precise control.
Another use for the Kickstarter funds is to help develop an app. There are lots of things you can do with the Smart Hub and Top that you can't do with other appliances and we want a way for chefs and users to share their discoveries with the Oliso community.
Backers at most levels ($5 and above) will receive a digital cookbook made for using with your SmartTop™ written by chef Kyle Connaughton, a contributor and editor for Modernist Cuisine.
Here are a few of the recipes included:
and for dessert...
What about the Smart Vacuum Sealer?
It seems that many users of immersion circulators at home are using sandwich bags along with the “water displacement technique” to get most of the air out of their bags. If you are trying to sous vide something with a lot of liquid in it, this technique works pretty well. However, with dry food items there will almost always be some air left in the bag. The risk this presents is creating an area insulated by the air bubble that won’t get up to the temperature necessary to eliminate the bacteria that cause food borne illness. This is a risk that is unacceptable in the restaurant industry and many home sous vide cooks making food for their family and friends find it unacceptable too. The solution is to use a vacuum sealer.
Oliso’s Smart Vacuum Sealer hit the market in 2007 and has revolutionized vacuum sealing for thousands of users. Unlike standard vacuum sealers, ours does not require you to cut and make your own bags, but instead uses zip-top bags that can be vacuumed again and again. Instead of vacuuming and sealing an entire side of the bag, the Oliso unit makes a small incision, pulls the air out, and then seals around the incision. Since the incision has a very small surface area, our vacuum sealer performs much better with liquids than competitor units that seal an entire side. In addition, its compact size makes it easy to store and push-button operation make it a breeze to use. It won the Madrid Fusion award, a prestigious culinary award presented to Oliso in January 2011.
An In-Depth Look At the SmartHub™
The induction burner is capable of delivering up to 1500W for extremely fast heating, but can also maintain temperatures with as few as 2W. Induction heats the pot directly, eliminating the inefficiencies associated with transmitting heat from electrical and gas stove tops to the pan.
Precisely calibrated to measure the temperature of the water bath to within 0.1°C (0.18°F), giving you greater control over cooking your food. There's no need to babysit those 48-hour ribs, just press the button and go.
The spacer plate keeps food off of the bottom of the bath and the adjustable rack holds your food in place, without the need to clip it to the side of the bath, allowing for even cooking on all sides.
The Griddle Smart Top has been designed to bring a commercial-style flat-top griddle to your kitchen. The large thermal mass of the cast iron plate will allow you to give your sous vide meat the perfect sear without further cooking it. The frame will securely attach the plate to your SmartHub and detach for easy cleaning.
Air is a really poor transmitter of heat compared to water, so removing all the air from the sous vide pouch will ensure that heat reaches every part of your food. This is extremely important for preventing food-borne illness.
Risks and challenges
Fulfillment of the first 500 SmartHubs and Sous Vide Smart Tops is all ready to go at the end of the campaign. We have our initial production run on hand here in our warehouse and they will be shipped as soon as the campaign ends, meaning that you will receive yours in early December. Regardless of which package you order, if it includes one of the first SmartHub and Sous Vide Smart Tops those two pieces will be sent right away at the end of the campaign. Any SmartHubs and Sous Vide Smart Tops sold after the first 500 will be put into production immediately and will be shipped out sometime in February.
Our vacuum sealer is also able to be shipped immediately. It is an established product that we have sold for years and we keep lots of them on hand, so we will have no problem fulfilling any number of orders.
Production hasn't yet started on the Griddle Smart Top. We've completed the design and prototyping, but there are still a few steps left before we are able to start mass producing them. We forecast that that these will be ready to ship in May, but ordering a package that includes the Griddle Top will not hold up the rest of the order.
Product Development—The Griddle Smart Top, temperature probe, and app are all new products for us and still early in their development cycle. The Griddle Smart Top and temperature probe are in the pre-production phase now, and once their tooling is completed we should have a smooth production due to the ease of sourcing the materials needed. The app is something that we have only barely started working on. We’ve identified several key features and functions that we want the app to have, but we will need to work with a developer to make the app a reality. Developers that we have discussed it with tell us that their average timeline for an app to go from concept to complete is around 18 weeks and we foresee our app following a similar timeline.
Shipping—Some reward packages include large items that are not normally packaged together. This may create some logistical challenges on our end, but our experienced shipping department should have no issue over coming them. Be advised, items may be shipped separately to keep weight or package size down.
Immersion circulators can be a good solution for sous vide in some cases, but they have shortcomings as well.
One such shortcoming with circulators is that they are only capable of working in water. This limits their use to only sous vide, making them an expensive device that can only do one thing. Sous vide is only one of the amazing things that precise temperature control allows. We've found chefs using the SmartHub for many techniques that benefit from temperature control, like extractions, infusions, and fermentation. If you wanted to try these things with a circulator you would have to first seal your ingredients into bags and even then the agitation created by the pump would effect the results. For an illustration of this ask a barista about the importance of agitation in the preparation of pour-over coffee, one of the most common extractions done in the kitchen.
Since the ability to hold liquids at exact temperatures for long periods of time hasn't been within reach of most chefs until now, we don't yet know many of the things that chefs will be able to do with it. To extend the coffee illustration; you probably know what cold brew coffee tastes like, but do you know what coffee extracted at 95 degrees F for 5 hours tastes like?
The fact that circulators are placed in pots and plastic tubs also presents issues for many chefs. Since you can't use lids with something sticking out of the pot, you are going to lose water to evaporation, which can become a big problem on a long cook. Some users have even resorted to using ping-pongs balls in a layer on top of the water in order to overcome this problem.
As for the amount of food you can fit on our bath compared to a circulator, there are a few things to consider. First, our bath is very large (maximum capacity of 10.4 liters) and has no problem fitting a a whole chicken. Circulators will work in a multitude of containers, but there are limits to the amount of water they can heat. I've maxed out a few of them when trying to cook at a high water temperature in a large tub.
The Sous Vide Smart Top retains heat more effectively than a circulator due to the combination of its tempered glass lid, deep bath that minimizes liquid surface area, and the double-wall insulation of the bath. This means that the Smart Hub only has to use minimal energy to maintain bath temperature, as opposed to a circulator that must constantly be running. While it is definitely nice to have lower power bills and reduce your ecological footprint, this feature is the biggest boon to people interested in cooking sous vide on boats and in RVs.
Finally, there is convenience and appearance to consider. When you have to set up a pot and circulator, fashion a lid from saran wrap, and wait for the circulator to get up to temperature you will probably find yourself cooking sous vide a lot less often. For many owners of circulators, this restricts there use of sous vide to special occasions and it means that they aren't going to be learning the technique as well as they would if they did it more often. I know that when I had a circulator I was very unlikely to break it out just to make myself a chicken breast for dinner when I could do it in a quarter of the time in a pan, but with the SmartHub it's a no-brainer.
The other reason I'm more likely to use it is that it is that I like the way it looks in my kitchen. I don't want to have a pot with a plastic wand coming out of it and saran wrap or ping pong balls over that sitting out on my counter top. The SmartHub, on the other hand, is elegant and improves the appearance of my kitchen.
The Precision Smart Top is engineered to withstand the dish washer, but hand washing it is easy and recommended. The induction base should never be cleaned in a dishwasher.
It seems that many users of immersion circulators at home are using sandwich bags along with the "water displacement technique" to get most of the air out of their bags. If you are trying to sous vide something with a lot of liquid in it, this technique works pretty well. However, with dry food items there will almost always be some air left in the bag. The risk this presents is creating an area insulated by the air bubble that won't get up to the temperature necessary to eliminate the bacteria that cause food borne illness. This is a risk that is unacceptable in the restaurant industry and many home sous vide cooks making food for their family and friends find it unacceptable too. The solution is to use a vacuum sealer!
Think of it like a refrigerator. When the power goes out, you need to rescue it before the food goes bad. With a sous vide appliance, it’s the same way, if it were to power off, you would have to immediately ‘rescue’ your food before it goes bad. Because there is no danger in ‘over refrigerating’, it is fine to leave the food inside for longer than the timer, as food does not overcook immediately.
The Smart Hub is only available in stainless steel and black.
The best way to sear is to begin heating your induction-ready pan on the power level 8 setting with a thin layer of oil. While the pan is getting up to temperature (about 3 minutes) use a towel or paper towel to pat your food dry. Once there is no moisture left on the food, place it in the oil and cook 1-2 minutes on each side, or until you've achieved the desired amount of browning. It is possible that with very heavy cast iron pans on power level 10 that too much heat will radiate downwards through the glass and the unit will turn off to prevent overheating, so if you are using cast iron don't leave the pan empty on level 10 for too long.
Any type of induction ready pan will work fine. We like cast iron and sandwich construction steel/aluminium pans - cast iron will do better at retaining heat and sandwich construction pans will do better at distributing heat. Generally pans that don't have non-stick coatings will do a better job and giving a nice, crispy sear.
The warranty on the unit is for one year from the date of shipment. Details can be found on our webpage at www.oliso.com.
We have already produced some of the SmartHubs and they are in our warehouse waiting for the end of the campaign to be shipped! The Griddle Smart Top hasn't started the production stage yet, but we forecast that we will be ready to ship it in May 2016. If you order a package that comes with a Griddle then everything else will ship immediately.
Yep, you can change or cancel your pledge whenever you want. Please see their policy at https://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/backer+questions for more details about this.
Based on the type of reward, you will be receiving the reward via UPS ground or other postal service. A tracking number will be sent to the email address we are given for the order to process. Additional costs will be assessed for shipping to outside the continental United States.
We have a limited stock of Smart Hubs in stock here in our warehouse and we are making those available for our Early Bird backers. For all other backers, their Smart Hub will be manufactured after the Kickstarter campaign and shipped to them. Our factory has the tools and is ready to manufacture Smart Hubs as soon as we place an order. The accessories we are developing have yet to be tooled and the accessories will only ship after the tools are built and we have verified the product meets our quality standards.
The Griddle Smart Top has not yet entered production and will not be shipped until May 2016. If you back the Griller Kit or any other kit that comes with a the griddle top, the rest of your reward will ship immediately and you will only have to wait until May to get the griddle.
Shipping and handling is FREE to residents of the United States. Unfortunately at this time the Smart Hub is only shipping to US addresses.
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