Slow cooking is one of the easiest methods for cooking healthy, delicious dinners but the lengthy cooking times can make it energy intensive and even dangerous if left unattended on the stovetop.
The Aussie team behind the Magic Bullet blender have developed a new slow-cooking smart pot called Zega that’s designed to make the stove top process easier, safer and more efficient. Using dual-wall vacuum insulation structure, the steel pot heats up quickly and can maintain a stable temperature for long periods, like a thermos, even when there’s no heat source to keep it hot.
The Zega Analogue comes with a traditional thermometer to show you when the device has reached the appropriate temperature on the stove so you can turn the heat off and leave the pot to cook the food itself. Alternatively, this smart pot can be bought as the Zega Digital, which uses a rechargeable Bluetooth thermometer that connects to your smartphone to give you meal timing feedback via an app.
The former comes in at an RRP of AU$249, while the smartphone connected pot will set you back a little more at AU$299. We have seen these devices offering some pretty considerable discounts of up to $100 on their websites though, which makes them a competitive single pot slow cooking solution.
Zega Digital Pot: Build
Built from a high grade 18-10 stainless steel exterior chassis, 5-ply aluminum base and plastic handles, the Zega Digital looks great in a modern kitchen and is able to transfer heat around the pot quickly.
The edges and lid are built with an air gapped dual wall structure that works to insulate the pot and keep heat and moisture in. This insulated surface wraps around the largest areas of the pot and is the primary technology working to keep your meal cooking once you’ve turned the heat source off.
The Zega Digital also includes the Bluetooth thermometer that syncs with your smartphone app to alert you when the pot has reached the required temperature. It’ll also let you know if the pot drops out of the cooking zone and when your food is ready to be served.
This app provides access to around 50 recipes that have been tailored for cooking in the Zega smart pot. All of the included recipes are on the more approachable side of the cooking difficulty scale which is great for any novice cooks. The included recipes are also a good way to get acquainted with how the device works and what it’s strengths and weaknesses are.
Fortunately, because it's used on your stove, the learning curve is minimal and once you’ve used it a couple of times it’s easy to transfer many of your existing cooking skills for use with this pot.
Zega Digital Pot: Performance
Many slow-cook, stew and curry recipes that work in the Zega Digital will require you to sear the meat and some of the veggies before starting the bulk of the cooking. Since the majority of today's stand alone slow cooker devices are electric, you generally have to sear the meat in a separate pan on the stove, adding to the cleaning you’ll have to do at the other end, so it’s nice to be able to do all this in the one Zega Digital pot.
The insulated nature of this device means that the base takes longer to heat up than a good quality pan, and yet the base turns deceptively quickly into a pan-sticking hot surface that’ll burn meat and veggies easily. Fortunately, the stainless steel is easy to clean and for the most part you can recover any burnt bits when you add liquid for your curry or casserole.
Once your recipe is ready to go it doesn’t take long to get the pot to temperature, allowing you to turn the stove off and leave it to cook itself. The timer does a good job of letting you know how everything is tracking, but we found that some of the recipes could use a little further tweaking for cooking duration.
Using the app's beef casserole with red wine recipe, we found that two hours of thermos cooking wasn’t enough to really soften the chuck steak as much as you’d want. The dish was definitely still hot in the pot when the timer went off, but it was a lot cooler than the gentle rolling boil that you start it at. We reckon one or two brief infusions of heat during the process would have been enough to keep this pot at a suitable temperature for a two hour cook. Either that or add another hour or two to the cook time.
If you are into your cooking then you’ll probably want to transition from the very simplified cooking instructions you get in the app to something a little more complicated and tasty before long. The catalogue of recipes are fine, but we can’t see anyone falling in love with them enough to cook one on a regular basis.
The Zega Digital comes with a steaming basket that doubles as a grater, which is a clever little productivity tool, but because of the device’s design it actually works really well as a steamer. You also get an elevated rack for any pot dishes you might want to cook, but there’s not a heap of instances where this would be your first cooking method.
Zega Digital Pot: Verdict
There’s no doubt that the versatility of the Zega Digital pot is a little narrower than the latest one pot pressure cooker or air fryer, but it is a great energy saving device for anyone that slow cooks a lot.
The safety and flexibility it adds to your cook time means you can leave the house without having to stop cooking. Not having to worry about anything burning down is worth the investment on its own.
The Zega Digital pot is easy to clean and easy to use, so it’ll fit neatly into any collection of cooking equipment.
The Digital version doesn’t add too much to the equation since it’s really just a timing function, so we’d generally recommend you save the $50 and opt for the Zega Analogue if you're tossing up between the two.