GE FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop review

The Paragon Induction Cooktop is an easy way to take the plunge into sous vide cooking

The Paragon Induction Cooktop makes it easy for sous vide newbies to get professional results.
The Paragon Induction Cooktop makes it easy for sous vide newbies to get professional results.
The Paragon Induction Cooktop makes it easy for sous vide newbies to get professional results.

Highs

  • Versatile cooking surface
  • Easy to use
  • Reliable results
  • Fairly portable

Lows

  • The app could be more robust and helpful
  • Not as precise as competitors

Maybe you’ve been hearing about this whole sous vide thing, but you’ve been hesitant to buy a machine that costs hundreds of dollars just to try it out. Fair enough. GE FirstBuild’s Paragon is designed to let you dip your toes into the warm bath that is sous vide, while still giving you a piece of equipment that does other things. But this smart cooker, which pairs a Bluetooth temperature probe and an induction cooktop, makes the high-end-restaurant cooking style pretty unintimidating. How does it work? To paraphrase Teen Girl Squad, let’s get ready to cook sous good!

Give it room

While it definitely looks like an improvement over the hot plate you may have smuggled into your college dorm, the Paragon definitely sticks out, even in a modern kitchen. If it were smaller, it might look sort of like a newfangled game console. The cooking surface is 12 inches in diameter, but the angled legs make the overall footprint five inches larger. It weighs about six pounds, so it won’t be terribly cumbersome if you decide to store it in a cabinet. Take note that because this is an induction cooktop, you’ll need to use magnetic cookware: A stainless steel pot or pan that’s between 6 and 11 inches will work just fine.

There are six buttons on the control panel and the display has a sort of whitish glow. The buttons allow you to control the temperature up and down, as well as use the included Bluetooth probe to precisely regulate temperature. The flexible silicone probe has a black-and-gray plastic rectangle that houses all the electronic components (don’t stick it in the dishwasher), and it magnetically clips onto your pot.

You can use the Paragon sans Android or iOS app, but the app does make things easier. For one thing, a whole range of cooking times for sous vide are all set up for you. Once you have the app installed, you pair it to the probe via Bluetooth. Then you name your device (mine is called Paradactyl), review a few food safety warnings, and get ready to start sous vide-ing.

Turning up the heat — to a specific degree

If you want skip the probe — or if you’re using the induction cooktop to sear meat — the direct mode lets you choose a heat level between 1 to 10. These relate to power levels, from 50 to 1,200 watts. Figuring which works best for what you’re cooking takes some trial and error, though the same can be said of any burner.

To use the probe without the app, you submerge the tip in the water, turn it on, and set your desired temperature on the cooktop. Hit start, and the probe and cooktop will communicate with each other to keep the water where you want it — though I found it could stray from the exact temp by between 1 and 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use the Paragon sans Android or iOS app, but the app does make things easier.

With the app, you use the probe and choose from one of seven categories: beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. It will give a list of foods, and you can then choose how thick your hunk of meat is and how done you want it. Hit continue, and the cooktop will start heating your pot of water, alert you when it’s time to add your sealed bag of food, and let you know when it’s all cooked. The app displays a circle with a dashed ring that fills in with orange as your food progresses. Inside the circle, you see what time your food will be ready and the temperature of the water. One quibble I did have with the app is that it doesn’t tell you how much time has elapsed. You’ll have to remember what time you kicked off the Paragon if you want to change the cooking time on the fly.

The app is definitely not jam-packed with recipes. It’s more about guidelines. No matter what herbs and spices you have on your chicken, all that really matters with the sous vide portion of the cooking is the cut, whether it has bones, and how cooked you want it. Based on the beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and vegetables I made, the parameters GE based its settings on are pretty spot-on.

Still, it would be nice if there were some actual recipes included, though this is by no means a deal-breaker. There are countless places on the internet to find out how to sous vide almost anything, but Paragon’s sort-of competitor Anova, which makes an immersion circulator, has a lot of recipes that walk you through everything from bagging your meal to searing or grilling it after it’s done soaking in the bath.

As an induction cooktop, Paragon adds a little something extra. You’re not limited to using it as a sous vide machine, because you can also follow up slow-cooking a steak by searing it in a pan. You’ll use that direct mode button to use it as a standard induction cooker, meaning it uses an electromagnetic field to heat the pot or pan, not the cooktop itself. If you figure out the exact temperature where your soup is hot but not scorching, you can go ahead and set the Paragon at that temperature, insert the probe, and voilà: no more scalding the roof of your mouth.

Baby steps to sous vide

If Paragon is meant to ease you into the world of sous vide, there could be a little more hand-holding. One of the freakiest things about the cooking process is how different your food looks, if you’re not used to it. A bloody steak is the way many people prefer it, but the sight of an extremely white chicken breast can induce panic, until you cut it open and see zero pink inside. I had to fight the urge to leave my scrambled eggs in longer to cook, because they definitely didn’t look like they do when I make them on the stovetop.

You’re cooking chicken at temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit, so Taylor Dawson, product evangelist at FirstBuild, admitted it took him a while to get used to eating sous vide pork without worrying he’d contract trichinosis. But beyond that, you’ll probably find yourself hitting Google to find tips on how to make your Ziploc bag stay submerged and so forth. There are a few videos on FirstBuild’s YouTube channel showing you how to use the induction cooktop to make pork chops or steak, but novices might need more guidance.

That said, FirstBuild wants to foster its community of users. Dawson says he’s working with a candymaker to help her figure out how to use the Paragon to temper chocolate, for example. If enough enthusiasts buy and try the Paragon, its own cache of recipes might rival Anova’s.

Conclusion

If FirstBuild set out to make an easy way to get into sous vide, it succeeded. The interface and app are both straightforward, and the results are delicious. Though it’s not as precise as immersion circulators, steaks came out perfectly done, chicken was juicy, and veggies just the right amount of crisp. It was also nice to go from sous vide to sear on the same cooktop. However, the app is light on the recipes, tips, and tricks, so newbies will want to do some sous vide research.

What separates the Paragon from immersion circulators is that it’s an actual induction cooktop. That gives it some versatility as a device, especially if you’re going to leave it on your countertop — and shell out $299.

Smart Home

Instant Pot has another winner with its Accu Slim sous vide

We all know that Instant Pots are the bomb, but did you know that Instant Pot has a sous vide immersion circulator too? The Accu Slim lets you cook sous vide recipes at home. How does it perform? We tested the device to find out.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Computing

Teens are using Google Docs as the modern version of passing notes in class

Google Docs is reportedly being used by teens as a secret communications app. Instead of passing notes, students are now using the software's live chat function or comment boxes to talk with their friends while in the middle of classes.
Deals

Amazon shaves $50 off the Coway Mighty air purifier ahead of allergy season

When it's allergy season, a good air purifier is a must-have for sufferers. The Coway Mighty air purifier (now on sale from Amazon) is one of the best, greatly improving the air quality inside your home by removing dust, dander, pollen, and…
Smart Home

Dyson’s newest products strive to keep your home cool, clean, and well-lit

Dyson launched products to keep your home cool, clean, and well-lit. A Dyson intelligent task light cycles with nature and a personal air purifier harnesses unique airflow. Microprocessors in Dyson's vacuum self-adjust 8,000 times a second.
Smart Home

Walmart serves up a rare deal on the Google Home Max at $100 off

Some deals are predictable and others are pre-announced, but today Walmart posted a rare deal: $100 off the powerful Google Home Max. Since it rarely goes on sale, waiting may not be prudent. If you want one, grab it.
Smart Home

Smart light switches have become more affordable: Here are the best ones

The ability to control the lighting in your home can have a big effect on your living space. To have more control over your lighting, check out the best smart light switches on the market. 
Smart Home

Update your kitchen with the best refrigerators you can buy in 2019

There are tons of factors that go into buying a fridge, from size and capacity to color. It takes lots of testing and research, but we've chosen the best refrigerators to get you started, regardless of what you're looking for.
Smart Home

The best smart locks to increase your home security in 2019

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.
Deals

Suck up the savings with these vacuum cleaners on sale for $100 or less

Keeping your floors clean around the home is a constant chore. To help make things a whole lot easier, we've picked out some great vacuum cleaner deals available right now, from full-sized upright models to robot vacs.
Smart Home

Is your coffee maker hiding mold inside? Here's how to clean it

Are you a coffee drinker? If you brew your coffee at home and you don't clean your machine, you could be drinking mold, yeast, and other bacteria. Here's how to clean your coffee maker.
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Google Home Hub and Lenovo smart displays

Walmart slashed the prices of Google Home smart displays for two highly regarded Lenovo models and the original Google Home Hub. We can't think of a better way to improve your smart home setup and these deals can help you save up to $100.
Deals

Amazon lowers Echo Dot cost and slashes price of the Dot and Smart Plug bundle

Amazon just unleashed extraordinary price cuts on third-generation Echo Dot smart speakers. The Alexa device is back in stock following the blowout sales last holiday season. The Echo Dot is the best-selling Alexa smart speaker worldwide.