The popularity of food science has been on the rise for years. From Modernist Cuisine to the ketogenic diet and everything in between, incorporation of technology into food preparation introduces a convenient and innovative approach to common dishes.
Sous vide is no exception. What ten years ago was reserved for Michelin-star kitchens is now available in the home. “Sous vide” is French for “under the vacuum”, and can be described as a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control with water to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.
Cooking sous vide has always been a technological achievement, simplistic yet well ahead of its time. However, Mellow has stepped in to marry the technology and splendor of sous vide cooking with the convenience and user-friendliness of modern-day applications such as mobile device integration. The result is an efficiently-made, perfectly cooked, conveniently managed food preparation process.
Read on for our in-depth review of the Mellow sous vide cooker. Make it to the end and you’ll get Sous Vide Wizard’s exclusive offer for $50 off this incredible revolution in home kitchen cooking.
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MELLOW’S INTERESTING CLAIMS
Mellow touts six new technological innovations in the sous vide space: refrigeration, weight sensing, wireless connectivity, energy efficiency, instantaneous feedback, and intelligent controls.
- Refrigeration: Mellow keeps food at the optimal temperature for freshness, waiting for the perfect time to begin the cooking process. This allows machine owners the freedom to go about their usual schedule, and return home to an already cooked dinner.
- Weight sensing: As soon as you place your water-compressed food into Mellow, the machine’s weight sensor takes over the process. Intelligent technology cools the water bath and maintains a safe temperature until you decide the next step.
- Wireless connectivity: Mellow has fast-reacting inbuilt Wi-Fi, allowing owners the ability to control their cooking process in real time. This can be performed via smartphone from inches away or miles from home.
- Energy efficiency: Mellow’s sous vide tank is double-walled, maintaining strong energy efficiency throughout the refrigeration and cooking process. Less heat escapes through the walls, and less energy is required to maintain a consistent temperature.
- Instantaneous feedback: The Mellow sous vide machine provides feedback on a consistent basis. Post-completion, the app asks for feedback from the user as well, to custom tailor future cooking based on responses.
- Intelligent Controls: Mellow is one of the most advanced sous vide machines on the market, and is controlled solely by your smartphone. There are no buttons on the machine itself, everything is on the phone, and the controls available are off-the-charts.
On their website, Mellow states the following: “One of the things that makes Mellow special is its artificial intelligence and knowledge about food. Smartphone control is more than just remote control. Mellow can make suggestions and learn to cook food to your taste.”
I was quite intrigued to find out what the hubbub was about revolving around Mellow. I contacted the company, and they sent a unit for testing purposes. Follow along with me!
UNBOXING THE MELLOW SOUS VIDE MACHINE
The box the Mellow came in was intimidatingly large.
Extremely well-branded, the Mellow box continued their claims in large lettering: Meet your new sous-chef. It was extremely tightly packed inside, encased with dense foam cut to the perfect size.
After breaking the plastic bands securing the tank and the base, I lifted them out (which took a little while, as they truly were tightly packed in) and set the box and all the foam aside. The packaging and design reminded me of an Apple product: simple and minimal. The entirety of the contents were as follows:
- Sous vide machine base with cord
- Sous vide tank, double-walled for energy efficiency
- Two boxes of sealable bags for placement of food
- Instructional booklets in English and French
That was it! One side of the instructional booklet was important safeguards. The other side were disclosures, troubleshooting, user maintenance, and setup instructions. The setup instructions were simplified to four main steps to get started:
- Download the Mellow App in the App Store or Google Play and create an account.
- Plug your Mellow into an electrical power outlet.
- Follow the pairing instructions in the Mellow App.
- When you are ready to cook, fill the container with water and use the app to start cooking.
INSTALLING AND CONNECTING MELLOW
The app install was quick and simple, and required a login and email verification to complete:
Once installed and verified, I was instructed to watch a quick, informational video, and was then able to connect the Mellow machine to the app. The process was unlike anything I had done before, and consisted of waiting for an orange light on the Mellow logo at the back of the machine to flash, and then touching my smartphone screen to the back of the sous vide machine for several seconds while they paired.
After the devices paired together, I was asked to select some foods that I am most interested in, receiving a selection of three choices from beef, chicken, eggs, pork, seafood, turkey, and vegetables. I made my choices, and then began the actual cooking part of the process.Check Price on Amazon
COOKING STEAK WITH THE MELLOW SOUS VIDE MACHINE – PREP AND COOLING
I had selected two beautiful New York Strip steaks of USDA choice quality for the initial test of the Mellow device. The steaks were about an inch and a half thick, and both had a relatively robust fat ribbon present. I thoroughly salted all sides of both steaks and let them sit to room temperature, ensuring that the salt properly absorbed and released into the steaks.
Medium rare, thick steaks were always a bane of my existence. I estimate I have made them at least 100 times over the past few years, half of which on a cast iron pan (which led to a smoke-filled house and a center that was a little too raw for my tastes), the other half on a grill (which led to over-charred edges, a lack of buttery finish, and uneven overall cooking). I was ready for a solution.
After the meat came up to close to room temperature, I placed them individually into two of the bags included with the Mellow sous vide machine. I then added water to the tank until the midpoint between the minimum and maximum line. As soon as I placed the water tank back onto the weight sensor, my phone received a notification that weight had been detected.
I added the steaks to the water bath, checked to make sure the water didn’t encroach past the maximum line, and then set the necessary settings on my phone.
I was then able to select what type of food was in the tank (beef) and then drill down to select what type of beef (New York Strip steak). From there, I could select if the steak was fresh or frozen (it was fresh), and how I would like it cooked (I chose medium rare, because I’m not a heathen).
Once these selections had been made, I was asked to choose when I wanted the steak to be ready. As can be seen by the above screenshots, it was about 10:45 in the morning. I wanted the steaks ready to sear with a torch at 4:00pm, but apparently, the cook time was only two hours and 20 minutes. I set it to 4:00pm to see what would happen.
The bubbles began to emanate from the base of the tank, and within a very short period, I checked the stats on my phone again to see that the temperature had actually dropped to the mid-40’s Fahrenheit. That’s right, the Mellow sous vide machine was keeping the water temperature cold enough to keep the steaks refrigerated for several hours while waiting for the optimal start time for cooking.
I touched the outside of the tank to see how cold the water had become, and was surprised to feel nothing but room temperature, dry plastic. The double-walled design was incredibly effective at maintaining a steady temperature both at the inside layer and the outside wall.Check Price on Amazon
COOKING STEAK WITH THE MELLOW SOUS VIDE MACHINE – COOKING AND FINISHING
At approximately 1:50pm, the pressure of the bubbles in the machine changed slightly, and I checked my phone again, watching as the temperature slowly began to rise.
The most impressive thing to me about sous vide and the Mellow machine is that the steaks, once finished, could essentially sit in the hot water bath for hours upon hours without overcooking. Optimal temperature for a medium rare steak of this thickness is 131 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water never rises above that mark, the steak will never get warmer than the peak 131 degrees. Provided the water does not lower in temperature, the steak will also never drop below 131 degrees.
After about an hour, I checked on the steaks to see that they were turning an awful shade of greyish-pink. I was slightly concerned, but put my faith in Mellow to come through.
At exactly 4:00 on the dot, I received a notification that the steaks were ready, and simultaneously the bubbles in the Mellow began to pulse rhythmically to notify that the meat was fully prepared. I received the option to remove the steaks from the bath, or leave them at temperature. This function will surely come in handy on days I am trying to perfectly time meal preparations, but find myself stuck in traffic on the way home from the office. I was impressed at Mellow’s timeliness.
The meat was still that strange shade of greyish-pink. Luckily, ten minutes before they were ready, I had started heating a pan to a high temperature for a suggested quick sear on all sides. I threw a few tablespoons of Kerrygold butter into the pan and let it get to a bubbling consistency, and then slowly laid the steaks into the butter. 45 seconds on the top, 45 seconds on the bottom, and 45 seconds on the fat ribbon was all it took.
The resulting combination looked like a beautiful, buttery crust of a fifty-dollar steak at your area’s fanciest restaurant. But the beautifully-seared outside drew no conclusions about the performance of the Mellow sous vide process. The machine could have all the bells and whistles imaginable, but if the inside of these tender New York Strips were raw or as grey as the outside of the meat was, I had just wasted several hours of time and twenty dollars in nice steak.
After letting them rest for just a few minutes, I cut into the steaks to see what the final verdict would be. Imagine my surprise when I was looking at the most perfectly cooked medium-rare piece of meat I had ever seen.
The taste rivaled steaks I had eaten at upscale restaurants in large cities, and even that of the infamous 1,800-degree seared Ruth’s Chris steak. I attribute all the success to the Mellow sous vide cooker.
CLEANUP, FINAL THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS
Cleanup was the simplest cleanup I had ever performed on a steak main course, and one of the simplest cleanups for all sous vide operations. I threw the bags out with the leftover steak juices and emptied the water from the tank. I gave the tank a quick rinse, and then placed it back on the Mellow base. That was it. Under 60 seconds start to finish.
Since cooking the above beauties, I have also delved into pork chops sous vide (turned out wonderfully, just like the steaks) and a makeshift version of the Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites with the Mellow.
Overall, I am incredibly impressed with the ease of use for this machine. The automation process, hands-off approach, and minimal opportunity for user error made this a breeze. I would highly recommend the Mellow sous vide machine to anyone who fits into any of these categories:
- On a busy schedule, but still wants the ability to cook incredible homemade meals
- On a paleo or ketogenic diet that is high in meat-based proteins
- Tired of the same old slow cooker meals, but is too bogged down to cook fresh daily
- Used to sous vide, but interested in getting into the next new thing
Editor’s note: we received a free unit from the Cook Mellow team in exchange for our review. this did not impact our thoughts on the product.
Here’s our Q&A with Mellow CEO Gary Itenson:
Joe: Hi Gary! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Over the past several months we’ve had a lot of readers write in asking about the Mellow and when it’s finally going to ship. Now that the ship date is right around the corner (2-3 weeks from today), our inbox is getting filled with people asking about it! Clearly our readers are excited to have the Mellow in their kitchens.
How are you and your team feeling?
Gary: Joe we feel great! It has been a long road to get to this point, but I think we have taken the right path to get to where we are. It is very important to our team to deliver a great product and a user experience that will be second to none.
So now that we are shipping soon, we feel very confident that our early backers, new customers and sous vide lovers everywhere are going to really enjoy the Mellow experience.
Joe: For those readers who aren’t familiar with the Mellow, would you please tell us a bit about it, and how it came to be?
Gary: I think the best way to describe Mellow is that it is all about experiencing the taste and texture of sous vide cooking in a very intuitive and convenient manner. The core of Mellow is creating a great user experience. Mellow is the only sous vide cooker that controls HOW and WHEN to cook. We enable you to refrigerate, precision cook and hold your meal to a be ready when you are.
In 2014 Mellow was co-founded by two young engineers turned entrepreneurs in Lisbon, Portugal. Their focus was to design the first sous vide appliance with refrigeration to keep your food as safe as it were in the fridge. Today we are on both sides of the Atlantic and building an amazing team that I am really proud to lead.
Joe: There are a lot of sous vide machines on the market, with many more getting released each year. What sets the Mellow apart?
Gary: Again, it’s the convenience factor and our user experience. Mellow is the only sous vide cooker that controls HOW and WHEN to cook. Our system enables you to refrigerate, precision cook and hold your meal to a be ready when you are.
Imagine within your busy household you place your salmon or steak into Mellow at 8 AM, you tell Mellow how and when you want it done and then you continue on with your day.
Mellow starts by refrigerating your meal and begins to slow cook sous vide to your schedule; to how you want it done and when you want it ready for. When you arrive home you can quickly prepare your sides, finish and plate.
Joe: Can you please explain the thought process behind the design of the Mellow? It’s rare to see a standalone unit that allows you to see the full contents of the container while it’s cooking. Frankly, I love it and wish every unit was like that.
Gary: The thought process in designing Mellow was to create and all-in-one sous vide appliance that you will want to use every day. It is a good looking countertop appliance and not something that goes in the kitchen drawer to forget about.
The industrial design is beautiful and Mellow looks great in any kitchen. Couple this with the amazing results from sous vide cooking, an intuitive app that learns your cooking preferences and it makes for a great product that you will want to integrate into your daily life.
Joe: I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am for the built-in-refrigeration. How did your team come up with the idea and what were some of the design challenges behind it?
Gary: Our co-founder and lead designer, Catarina Violante, is one of the most brilliant innovators I have met and as a food lover she was determined to design something very unique. Early on she surrounded herself with a team who I think are some of the most brilliant minds in hardware and software design.
Refrigeration is our key differentiator as it makes the slow cooking method of sous vide ultra-convenient and because of this you can literally prep it and forget it.
Joe: The Mellow app seems to be incredibly comprehensive. The few other manufacturers that have apps simply focus on the basics (e.g. making their machine turn off/on/setting timer), but Mellow has gone way beyond that with the in-app assistant chef. Can you tell us a bit more about the app? How have you personally been using it?
Gary: The great thing about Mellow is there are no mechanical buttons and you control the unit from your app. From the time you connect to Wi-Fi and start cooking you will see how intuitive it is.
We have incorporated weight scales into our unit, so Mellow knows when to start to refrigerate or start the cooking process. As you will see it is very easy to use and takes all of your needs into consideration and learns how you like your meals cooked.
Joe: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your team?
Gary: I have three decades of manufacturing, operational and business development experience within the electronic hardware industry and I have lead teams that have scaled fast and effectively. I am a passionate home chef and I was really enamored with the Mellow product.
It has a fantastic potential for busy people to truly bring healthy and convenient eating options to the home. What really sold me on the company are our people, we have a fantastic group of tech savvy, food loving innovators that are so passionate about Mellow that I could not resist the opportunity to contribute and build this company.
Joe: You joined the Mellow team back in March 2016 as the COO/Adviser and have recently taken over the role of CEO. What are the biggest challenges that you have faced thus far?
Gary: Designing, producing and scaling a hardware/software product as complex as Mellow is never easy and it creates numerous technical challenges. But in my mind for any business time is always the biggest challenge. Mellow is past its challenges and I think our time is now.
Joe: On a lighter note, what are your favorite meals to cook sous vide?
Gary: I am a lover of sous vide cooking and a good steak. Pairing sous vide with a flank or skirt steak takes you from tough and chewy to tender and buttery. Add to this a homemade chimichurri and it is an amazingly juicy and flavorful entrée.
Salmon, lightly seasoned with lemon and a side of asparagus is a mainstay for me too. But I think the very best is waking up to my Mellow to perfectly cooked eggs, as it is a great way to start my day.
Joe: Clearly you folks are very innovative. What can we expect in the future from the Mellow team?
Gary: I agree we are very innovative, we have a great team and a very definitive path for Mellow, home chefs and sous vide lovers. What I can say at this point is stay tuned.
Joe: Final question, I promise! For someone that’s new to sous vide cooking, why should they choose the Mellow as their first sous vide machine? For someone that’s experienced with sous vide, why should they trade in their current unit for a Mellow?
Gary: I think we agree that for 2017 sous vide is a very hot trend in home cooking. If someone wants to have an app and system to act as your sous chef, then Mellow is it. So for newcomers or sous vide pros Mellow is a very different experience from any other machine out there. We take a legendary cooking method and pair it with smart convenience.
Joe: Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions, Gary. We’re all very excited for the launch of the Mellow! Any final words or comments that you want to let our readers know?
Gary: For our early backers, thank for your patience and we look forward to you soon enjoying your Mellow! For those intrigued with our product, I think it is a very wise choice to buy sooner than later, as we truly believe Mellow will become a favorite thing for families and home chefs everywhere.
Our Key Takeaways:
Takeaway #1: Built-in refrigeration is a game-changer. We can finally safely keep food in our machine from morning to night
Takeaway #2: In-app assistant is extremely comprehensive and will make your busy life that much easier
Takeaway #3: The Mellow truly is an all-in-one sous vide machine that’s great for beginners and experts alike.Check Price on Amazon
What do you think about the Mellow? Let us know in the comments!