The holy grail of convenience cooking has always been the one pot solution. Since the early 1970s, the CrockPot and other less famous brands of slow cooking machines dominated the kitchen as the solution for “set it and forget it” meals. Whether it was pork roasts, applesauce, stews or chili, the Crock Pot lets users combine (mostly) raw ingredients, turn the device on and come back later in the day to a fully cooked meal. In 2009, with the rise of the electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot debuted and the debate began as to which technology was actually more useful.
The Instant Pot has a slow cooker feature, but the love of the device comes from its ability to produce cooked food in a much shorter amount of time through pressure cooking.
But whether you’re team Crock Pot or team Instant Pot, one thing remains true: one pot cooking tech hasn’t changed much in the last 40+ years. They still require users to dump a slew of ingredients all at once into a large bowl (or manually add different ingredients at different times) and hope it all cooks perfectly. But not every food item requires the same amount of time – or the same levels of heat – to cook.
This was the challenge Else Labs was trying to tackle with new one pot automated cooking machine Oliver. The technology and device design allows ingredients to be divided into dispensing canisters and then placed into the pot for cooking when the recipe-driven app tells it to.
Else Labs Founder & CEO Khalid Aboujassoum sat down with The Spoon’s Allen Weiner at the 2017 Smart Kitchen Summit.
“This technology takes slow cooking to a new level. You can taste every ingredient – they all have the right texture and right flavor because they were cooked correctly,” said Aboujassoum.
Oliver isn’t exactly a slow cooker; it mimics the way you’d cook on a stove top (saute onions first, add vegetables, cook meat around it, make the broth separate, etc) – but it enables automation and connectivity to take over and relieve the cook from standing over the stove for the entire process.
Oliver does what Crock Pot and Instant Pot can’t – understand the sequence and temperature of how each ingredient should be cooked and mimic those actions the way a human cook would. Oliver dispenses at the right time and heats to the right temperature with a robotic stirring arm built in to stir as needed.
“Tell Oliver ‘I need food by six’ and the machine will do the math for you in terms of when to start, stir, dispense and stop,” said Aboujassoum.
Another differentiator? Oliver records the work of pros so busy home cooks can replicate their work. According to Aboujassoum, the recipes generated from the Oliver app are all created with professional chefs. As the chefs make their recipes with Oliver, Oliver and the app capture all the actions, recording the sequence so it can be automated and replicated for Oliver users. Eventually, the plan is to let the Oliver user community contribute and add recipes using this same method to capture a more diverse range of content.
It took almost 40 years for the Crock Pot to have a serious competitor but it seems the Instant Pot may not enjoy the same length of time as a crowd favorite. Oliver is poised to launch in 2018.