Tefal Cook4Me Connect review: Is this the smart cooker you’ve been looking for?
The pressure cooker isn’t something I associate with positive, fuzzy feelings. Back in the 1970s when I was a wee bairn, cooking with pressure was the latest thing – the microwave or halogen oven of its day – but it was responsible for a lot of awful cooking: massacred veg, over-cooked meat, bland watered-down curry. The stuff of childhood nightmares.
So the last thing I expected to see was the pressure cooker take its place at the forefront of the modern smart kitchen. But that’s precisely what the Tefal has done with the Cook4Me Connect. This is an electric pressure cooker for the modern age, equipped with Bluetooth, an app, and the ability to handle the cooking for you, so you don’t end up with mush for supper.
Why on earth would anyone want one? Because, as it turns out, when you hand over the pressure cooking-reins to a computer, you’re far less likely to get it wrong, over-estimate the cooking time and wind up with a pot of food that looks more like dog sick. And because when handled correctly and used to cook the right sort of dishes, pressure cookers do have their advantages.
Under pressure, water boils at a much higher temperature than normal – up to 120C, in fact – and this accelerates the cooking of food manifold. Pulled pork can be pulled off in less than an hour, and tough cuts of beef and lamb will be melting off the bone in minutes. Just make sure you don’t put your cauliflower in there.
Is this the smart cooker you’ve been looking for?
It might look like a droid, but the Tefal Cook4Me Connect won’t do the shopping for you, and it definitely isn’t fluent in 6,000,000 forms of communication. So what is special about it?
Let’s start from the top. It’s an electric, one-pot pressure cooker that you plug into the wall, rather than set on your hob – but these aren’t uncommon these days.
The difference with the Tefal is that it knows how to cook your meals for you.[gallery:0]
You can simply pick from the cooker’s database of stored ingredients and cook your own recipes with less guesswork. But the clever bit is that squirrelled away in its memory are 50 recipes to follow, complete with ingredients and methods. Pick one of these – they range from Asian Thai meatballs to creme brulee – and the Cook4Me will walk you through the process, even allowing you to select how many portions you want.
Alas, it doesn’t have arms or ambulant mobility, so it can’t get stuff out of the fridge, weigh out, measure, chop or otherwise prepare your ingredients for you (I know, the cheek), but you can do everything else in it, including browning meat and sweating down your onions. The pot inside is ceramic-coated non-stick and dishwasher safe, so there are no worries about cleaning it afterwards.
With your ingredients prepared and recipe followed, it’s simply a matter of closing the lid, locking it and waiting for the cooker to finish. In the case of the lamb rogan josh and lamb and prune tagine I cooked in the Cook4Me Connect, this took less than 30 minutes; the cheap stewing cuts I was using were meltingly tender and falling away from the bone.[gallery:4]
That’s smart enough, but what about the “Connect” part of the equation? That’s where Tefal’s companion app comes into play. Compatible with both iOS and Android devices, this lets you load extra recipes into the Cook4Me, in case you become bored with what’s already there, and it will mirror the instructions that are normally displayed on the screen of the Cook4Me.
And since your phone or tablet is connected with the cooker, it will heat up in readiness for each stage, as you go. It’s a useful extension of the Cook4Me’s capabilities, meaning you can have the recipe at hand, wherever you choose to work in the kitchen, and you don’t have to wonder over and peer at its small screen every time you need to refer to the recipe.[gallery:6][gallery:7]
The app also pings when cooking is complete, but this is less useful. The limited range of Bluetooth (10m) means it won’t work when you’re out of the kitchen, and when you’re in range it’s pointless. As anyone who’s ever cooked anything in a pressure cooker will know, it’s pretty hard to ignore one when it’s letting off steam at the end of cooking.
Slightly more useful is the app’s ability to organise recipes and bookmark favourites. It also has a handy shopping list feature, but that’s it for connected features. Disappointingly, the Cook4Me won’t let you build your own recipes and upload them to the Cook4Me Connect; you have to rely on Tefal to add extras, which is disappointing – it could have been so much better.
The Tefal Cook4Me is clever, there’s no doubt about that. It takes the guesswork out of pressure-cooker cooking, allowing you to prepare certain types of meals with a rapidity that simply wouldn’t be possible with any other type of cooker – and it adds a garnish of modernity to an unfashionable cooking method.
What’s disappointing is that the Connected part of this particular recipe is so limited. If Tefal had opted for Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, it would be possible to control it and monitor cooking from around the home instead of just the kitchen, and you might even be able to start cooking remotely – perhaps on your way home from work or the shops – to save even more time.
It’s expensive, too, at £300 – more than double the price of the standard Cook4Me, which lacks only the Connect’s Bluetooth capabilities. That’s a hefty premium to pay. If the idea of a semi-smart electric pressure cooker appeals, that might be the one to opt for instead.