KitchenAid's Chef Touch: Whirlpool's Foray Into Sous Vide Appliances

Jean-François, over at sousvidecooking.org, posted about KitchenAid's first foray into a sous vide solution: Chef's Touch.  As a casual observer of the consumer sous vide market, I am excited to see the one of the largest home appliance manufacturers dip a toe into the space.  So excited, that I scoured their website trying to absorb as much as possible.

QUICK RUNDOWN OF THE  KITCHENAID CHEF TOUCH

Image of the KitchenAid Chef Touch

Their website indicates that the Chef's Touch Solution is comprised of three parts:


  1. Chamber Vacuum.  The chamber vacuum will support bags and containers, both sold by KitchenAid.  The only bit of technical details I could glean form the website was: "the residual pressure inside the bag is just 5 mbar compared to the 350-500 mbar offered by other machines, ensuring an optimal vacuum that means your food will be preserved for longer compared to traditional refrigeration.".   While not explicit, reading between the lines makes me think you cannot control the amount of pressure, which may limit compression applications.  Either way, it's still pretty impressive that they are shipping a chamber vacuum for home kitchens. 
  2. Steam/Combi Oven.  The website indicates two oven models, one exclusively using steam and the other a combi oven, using hot air and steam.  Alas, they are somewhat vague on the technical details.  I would love to see how temperature stable this is.  My initial inclination is that it won't actually matter if it is less accurate than a water bath.  
  3. Blast Chiller.  The blast chiller is used if you want to utilize the cook/store benefits of sous vide.  It two modes, one for refrigerator ('blast chilling') storage and one for freezer ('fast freezing') storage. The blast chiller will bring which will bring food temperature down to 3ºC and -18ºC respectively.  This might be an overlooked component in current home appliances.  The consumer market currently doesn't offer any solution other than suggesting manual methods of rapidly cooling down items in ice water.  Even though it raises the price significantly, it will simultaneously remove some of the safety objections people have with sous vide, and differentiate itself from smaller appliances.
These three components are not cheap, so I suspect this will command top dollar and be geared towards the upper end of the consumer market. I am expecting the starting price to exceed $7,500 USD.  I won't be shocked if it enters the 5 digit range, but if I had to guess, I'd pick a $9,999 price tag for the entry level.  Admittedly, this is probably a pipe dream.

Either way, unless your house could appear on MTV cribs, you probably will not be buying one of these.  The first microwave ovens were also prohibitively expensive, and now you probably can't give your microwave away.

Whirlpool's earnings press release also indicates that this was launched from KitchenAid Europe:
Whirlpool Europe Region launched:

[...]


-- The KitchenAid brand Chef Touch cooking system for  home use, a  cooking system that previously was available only for commercial use by top-rated restaurants around the world.  The Chef Touch system features three different products: the vacuum-sealing system; the steam-assist oven; and the blast chiller.
Which means, Americans are currently out of luck.

RANDOM MARKET THOUGHTS FROM AN UNQUALIFIED JACKASS

This won't compete with Fresh Meals Magic's offerings, the SousVide Supreme or any of the consumer focused sous vide devices.  If anything, this will help the space grow and mature, especially if KitchenAid invests heavily in the marketing of the Chef Touch.  It isn't even all that likely that this will eat into the portion of PolyScience customers that would have bought a chamber vacuum and an immersion circulator.  This would be true even if the Chef Touch was available in markets besides Europe.

Long term, KitchenAid or anyone of its ilk getting into this game makes for some interesting challenges for the current players in the consumer market.  Obviously, KitchenAid (or Kenmore) can achieve scale easily and have a lot of money to market their products.  But also consider this, many home kitchens today are built with microwave ovens.  They are as aestetically pleasing as we expect and they generally match the other appliances.  Of course, for the world of sous vide, that's far from tomorrow.

Finally, please remember that I am an unqualified jackass, who specializes in armchair analytics and shit talking.  Although, I have heard from some people that I am, in fact, a fully-qualified jackass.

Would you buy one of these?  How much would YOU spend?
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7 comments:

Jean-Francois said...

Pablo,

I agree with your post. Even though this Chef Touch System is a luxurious product, this this another step for sous vide at home. Remember the price of the first microwaves, induction tables...

JF

Pablo Escolar said...

I think the most interesting bit is the inclusion of a blast chiller. It seems like a big bet in that it increases the cost significantly, and isn't necessary for sous vide cooking. I wonder if they did some market research and found people really concerned about food poisoning.

SousVideMagic said...

I think the mini blast chiller is a very significant tool in modern kitchen:
1. Right now, not many homes have large capacity ice making facility to chill freshly cooked sous vide pouches for future consumption. This way it can chill it quickly to safe temperature range.
2. With this blast chiller, you can chill down any cooked food for safe refrigerator or freezer storage.
3. You can use it for other chilled dessert or cocktail recipes from hot to chilled state very quickly.

There is no other competitive products in the marketplace!

Mike Goodbacon said...

For those that say a blast chiller is not necessary, it is necessary when doing any large volume of sous vide.

Let's say you are doing four racks of ribs for instance (or two ducks) you will a very large container (about 16 litres) completely full of ice water (and salt!) to cool it completely. When doing very beef ribs or anything of that nature this sometimes isn't even enough and you need to add more ice. Food safety with something being stored long term is no joke with low temperature cooking and sous vide food due to its high moisture content is always a risk. Of course the best bet when doing sous vide (or any cooking) is open the bag and have a good smell before serving anything: the nose knows!

A blast chiller would have been great and I've wanted one for a long time for other projects (freezing fruits) so this is a feature I definitely would want in an appliance. That said I worry this is a jack of all trades and better be very well put together.

Pablo Escolar said...

@Mike:

Sure, for doing serious volume it would be awesome to have. But for everyday use, it increases the cost of an already expensive setup. I wrote about the Chef's Touch System Pricing, and the blast chiller costs are almost half of the total unit costs.

denise said...

I am into sous-vide cooking and have an immersion circulator, various gastronorms and a countertop vac packer. I'm also big into baking bread and the one thing I'm currently missing for loaves is an oven that can generate steam as well as high temperatures. The Chef's Touch would therefore certainly interest me as it would cover both bases. That said, each component part would have to be as efficient as those currently on the market for purchase separately.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denise,
Commercial combi-ovens do that. You will not get 100% steam at 500, you may get 70-80%

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