The ultimate foodie gift? This heavy-duty induction cooktop lets you take your cooking to pro level

Summer is staring us in the eyes, which means it’s about to get steamy hot. Who wants to turn on the stove and heat up the kitchen when the air conditioner is already peddling as hard as it can? Take your cooking outside. You don’t need to fire up the grill or wrestle a tank of propane. A portable induction cooktop called the Control Freak is all you need.

As long as you can plug into an electric outlet, the Control Freak packs enough steady power to crisp-fry chicken and turn out rib-eye steaks with warm pink centers and deeply seared exteriors. It’s also crammed with a precision controls that allow you to gently poach a lobster in butter, sous vide those carrots and peppers you plucked from your garden, or slowly temper egg yolks and butter with vinegar, shallots and tarragon into a Top Chef-level Béarnaise sauce for those steaks.

Portable induction burners allow you to cook food or keep it warm almost anywhere with an electrical outlet: a kitchen counter, your back porch, the getaway cabin on your Back 40. Induction ranges boil rapidly and hold temperatures steady, meaning you don’t have to fiddle with knobs repeatedly or stir sauces constantly to avoid scorching.

Induction burners only work with magnetic cookware, but that’s not as limiting as it might sound. You don’t need to buy fancy cookware. In fact a $20 cast-iron pan can do a lot of the heavy work. Most stainless steel and nearly all cookware made from multiple layers of metal are also magnetic, but glass and aluminum won’t do the job.

A good induction cooktop heats up quickly and evenly, has simple controls and is easy to clean. The Control Freak hits those marks, constructed with a smooth, ceramic-glass cooking surface, an easy-to-read color display, and straightforward controls that allow you to intuitively and precisely adjust the power mode, temperature, and timer.

The Control Freak is also significantly faster, more powerful and more accurate than induction burners sold in the big box stores, though its $1500 price may give you pause. What does that premium price buy you? A pro level appliance built by two cookery powerhouses – Breville and Polyscience – who designed the Control Freak for chefs and serious home cooks who know their way around the kitchen.

Unlike mid-tier induction burners that cost no more than a few hundred dollars, the Control Freak allows you to set a specific cooking temperature between 86 degrees and 482 degrees then maintain that temperature within one degree for up to 72 hours (you can also set a built-in timer to shut off the power). Want even more control? A digital food probe can monitor the temperature of the food (or the fry oil) then control the cooking temperature, eliminating any doubt about whether the chicken is cooked enough or if those steaks have reached medium-rare nirvana.

In my testing, the Control Freak had no difficulty producing a dark roux for a pot of gumbo, a dish that’s always a tightrope walk since temperature can fluctuate on the kitchen stovetop. I also had no issues using the Control Freak and a pot of water as a simple sous vide set-up to cook short ribs at a low temperature for 48 hours. Those butter-poached lobster tails and that Béarnaise sauce also turned out flawless with the Control Freak in charge. So did flour tortillas, caramelized onions and blistered peppers.

Fancy restaurants like The French Laundry and Ivan Ramen are devoted fans, too; their chefs take the burner with them to cooking demos and offsite events, and program recipe settings onto the Control Freak’s included USB thumb drive for speed and accuracy.

Looking for the right gift for Fathers Day? Your dad already has a grill and maybe a cool apron. He doesn’t have this.

A version of this story also appeared in 360 West Magazine