We’re all trying to save a bit of energy, and with Australia’s app-connected Zega digital cookware, we just might get there.
Being a chef typically means being near a stove, and that’s not something we all have the time for these days. Whether you’re a parent or someone who has other obligations, there’s a good chance you don’t simply have the time to stand by the stove preparing a hearty meal, not like you used to.
Yet that shouldn’t stop you from cooking. If you have to duck out and pick up the kids, but you know you need a meal sorted, there’s surely got to be a way to keep it going without necessarily needing to watch the stove.
Fortunately there is, and it comes from an Australian company, at that.
A recent arrival, Zega has launched a pot that comes with thermometer and an app, and this all works together to not only tell you when your food is cooking, but to hold all the heat inside and cook without your pot needing to be on the stove long term. Think of it as giving you the starting position for cooking, and using the stove in the smidgen of time that you have, but then being told you can turn it off and take it off the heat, and go about doing things all while it cooks.
No electricity. No gas. No nothing. You’re just using the heat inside the pot to keep on cooking what you had in there.
The idea of the Zega digital cookware is simple enough, and is all about retaining heat, with an app telling you when your dish is done. Is it worth the asking price?
What is it?
This is something that might be a touch foreign to regular readers, but Zega’s gadget isn’t your standard phone, tablet, headphone, camera, or even coffee machine we might normally touch here. Rather, it’s a pot, and a bit of a special pot, at that.
Simply put, the Zega Digital is a large pot made for your stove with a spot at the top for an app-connected thermometer. There’s no electrical or electronic parts in the Zega Digital outside of the thermometer up top, though that part does need to be charged separately in a made-for-purpose charger, and there’s an app that talks to the thermometer available for iOS and Android.
The Zega Digital thermometer won’t show the temperature of your food, however, opting instead for specific stages of cooking, which is largely what makes the Zega Digital different from another approach to digital cooking. Rather, the stages include “heating up”, “remove from heat”, “self cooking”, and “cooking complete”, and if that seems quite minimalist, the reason is because the Zega cookware is very, very different from most of the pots you might have in your home.
Built from a double wall thermal insulated design made from stainless steel, the Zega pot can carry up to five litres (5.0L), and includes a meat rack for holding meat off the surface, plus a steamer layer that also includes a grater on the reverse side, allowing you to grate veggies before throwing them into the pot.
What does the Zega pot do?
Much like a regular pot, the Zega is built to cook things, and is basically a nicely designed and heavily insulated pot that can keep on cooking provided the heat has been built up inside. That’s the magic that makes the Zega work, allowing you to cook things without having your cooktop running, which is more or less the advertised message.
What helps you know when to take it off the stove, however, is a thermometer that sits up top, designed to fit into the lid’s handle, with the thermometer probe resting in the centre of the lid. The thermometer on the Zega Digital is LED based and talks to your phone over Bluetooth, playing with an app which offers a handful of choices: use a recipe and follow the instructions, or pick a protein and let the app work out what to do. You can read the thermometer’s screen itself, listen for the beeps, or check out the app, and follow the instructions.
Does it do the job?
By and large, whatever you choose for the Zega typically follows the same process, because once you’ve sliced, diced, and prepared your food, it’s all going to go in the pot, sealed with the lid, and then have that insulated construction hold the heat, while the lid tells you to take it off the stove
Once that happens, you can take the Zega Digital pot off the heat or turn the heat off, and the double walled stainless steel insulation will retain the heat, while the thermometer monitors the heat. Kinda. Sorta.
What does it need?
The problem is the process is almost always the same, and there’s not a lot of room for customisation or flexibility within the app. One might even say there’s none.
While the pot is well designed, feeling sturdy and holding heat well, the problem is the app is almost always going to take zero consideration to what you’re making. That’s a little silly, given the time it runs on the app might be the difference between cooking something perfectly and having a protein break up, and the thermometer could be a little more useful if it was given constraints to work in.
Digital cooking thermometers aren’t exactly anything new, and really, this one just finds a way to talk to an app and sits in the centre of a lid. There’s nothing astonishingly new there.
However Zega hasn’t included any actual temperatures in the readout, so if your recipe told you to keep it going at a simmer of a certain degree or time, you can’t really do that. All you can do is retain the heat at whatever temperature is going on inside the thing, and for how long the protein has been preset in the app.
You have two options for cooking via the app, using specific recipes — something that doesn’t offer a whole lot of choice — and then a “Quick Cook”, which basically consists of picking a protein, being told to load it in the pot, and then once the pot is hot enough, being told to take it off the stove and wait for some time. The time seems based around the protein, but it’s not customisable, which seems very strange.
For instance, if you only needed an hour of time for beef meatballs based on a recipe you were using — a specific example, but one that happened to this reviewer — the app would still lock in two hours all the same.
There’s no question to the user about how much time they need, only an assumption being made about how long it takes to cook, and that comes from the protein specifically. You can take the food off well before those two hours are up, but you can’t tell the app that you only needed one hour for its “self cooking” process, because it won’t simply let you.
The process of holding the heat inside isn’t far off how pots work anyway, you’re just using a thick insulated pot that holds the heat in a little more, so taking it off the stove really comes from the pot’s construction, not what the app is telling you to do.
But the app and the thermometer need a lot more work, and really are the weakest parts of the package.
If you were perhaps telling Zega’s app how long you needed to cook for, even that would make more sense. If you could monitor the temperature inside, and then decide whether it needed to go back on the stove to retain that temperature, that too would make sense. But the app seems to be the least thought out part here, and given it’s the only technical area involved, that’s a bit of a shame.
Is it worth your money?
At $299, though, the Zega Digital cookware might be worth your money if you’re looking to save electricity ever so slightly and cook without the stove, because even without the app, the pot can cook without being too fussed by needing to be on the stove.
More than once in this Zega review, we’ve cooked without really relying on the thermometer simply because it wasn’t necessary and didn’t add value.
Between the lack of real information and the app not being overly helpful, we just didn’t need to touch it. If we wanted to cook without the stove being on the entire time, we simply turned on the thermometer, selected a protein, waited until it told us to “remove from heat”, and then turned the app and thermometer off. At this point, they were no longer useful, as the time didn’t relate to what we were cooking, only what the app thought might apply to the protein we were cooking.
But the pot was excellent. Once it warmed up and the heavy construction allowed what was inside to get hot, the Zega pot held onto that warmth and allowed us to cook with ease, and without the stove necessarily being on.
Zega’s pot isn’t exactly unique in this way, mind you, and depending on what you use in your kitchen, you might be able to get by with something similar. A cast iron Dutch oven might hold onto the heat just as well, and so Zega’s option mightn’t bring anything else to the table beyond that thermometer. Frankly, if Zega made the app more useful, it wouldn’t just be a great pot, but a great way to help you understand how your food is cooking all while saving power.
At the $299 price, the Zega isn’t compelling with the app, but feels like a better purchase possibly on the analogue option, which is $50 cheaper. In that style, the temperature gauge is actually more direct, using a needle and hot zone to tell you when everything’s ready to be taken off the heat. Even that feels like more useful information than merely stating “self cooking” when the heat is being held inside.
Much like a pressure cooker, this becomes pretty obvious when you realise that if you open the lid, the heat will lower, and your cooking might take longer. Unlike a pressure cooker, there’s no searing pressure underneath, just a lot of heat.
Essentially, Zega’s Digital Cookware is just good cookware with a mediocre digital side, much of which feels underdeveloped. That means it could change over time, but that right now, is hardly doing the rest of the package justice.
There’s a great pot here, for sure, but after a few tries with the Zega Digital thermometer, you might be inclined to use the pot to tell you when it’s hot, and then take it off the heat and switch it off. That’ll give you roughly the same results as it is.
The Zega digital cookware concept is a neat idea, though, and one that might give people in the kitchen something that not only keeps them cooking without excess electrical use, but also without even needing to be there, at least until they work it out for themselves.