REVIEW – A multicooker is an appliance that has many of the cooking capabilities of other appliances, which means it can perform a variety of functions, like boiling, frying, stewing, baking, and steaming. This should allow someone with limited kitchen space to replace several single-function appliances, like a slow cooker, a steamer, an air fryer, a rice cooker, and a pressure cooker, with a single appliance. A multicooker also saves time. A busy cook can choose a recipe, prepare the ingredients, toss them into the multicooker, choose the right settings, and then come back when dinner is ready. “A multi-cooker is the modern and convenient solution for those with a hectic, fast-paced lifestyle or even busy families who treasure the routine of daily home-cooked meals but prefer a no-fuss cooking process.” Perhaps the most well-known multicooker is the Instant Pot, but ChefWave has recently added a new type of multicooker to the mix, the Chefe.
What is it?
The ChefWave Chefe is a multicooker that uses pressurized steam heat to cook the ingredients. It has 13 pre-defined programs, a four-quart pot, and a water tank. As a multicooker, it can slow cook, steam, and reheat. Its claim to fame is that it can cook meals with the temperature precision of sous vide but without the hassle of a bag. ChefWave’s goal is for their customers “to enjoy cooking at home, without having to sacrifice time better spent with their family and friends.”
What’s in the box?
- ChefWave Chefe with pot and water tank
- Steam bar and steam rack
- Rice paddle
- Measuring cup
- User manual
- Recipe book with 12 recipes
- Power: 1000 W
- Pot Capacity: 4 qt.
- Weight: 2 lb.
- Dimensions: 11” wide x 17 deep x 11 ¼ tall
Design and features
The ChefWave Chefe has a clear plastic reservoir for water on the back. The main body parallels the reservoir and has an arm that extends out and over the cylindrical pot. Everything is colored in muted grays and black, and there are plenty of gentle curves. The controls are on the top of the arm, and as they are touch sensitive, they are flush with the surface. Overall, it gives the impression of being a reserved yet high-quality appliance. The size is fairly comparable to our KitchenAid mixer. Perhaps the most standout feature is the size of the pot. It’s nearly identical to the size of the KitchenAid’s mixing bowl, yet it’s considerably smaller than the size of our Instant Pot.
Installation and setup
The Chefe arrived double-boxed and well protected. I took everything out, and then washed the inside of the pot, the water reservoir, and the various accessories.
I filled the reservoir to its max fill line, attached its lid, and then set it in its spot on the back of the Chef.
I place the steam bar into the lid and rotated it to lock into place. I popped the lid into place on the pot, then set it in its place. I then pushed the arm down, which locks it into place.
The arm cannot come up and the pot cannot be removed and opened unless the Chefe is plugged in and the release button is pressed. Once I add some ingredients, the ChefWave Chefe is ready to go!
The manual is well written, but it’s really sparse. I feel like a lot more explanation could have been added, as I was left with several questions, such as “What’s the difference is between using or not using the steam bar?” The manual is available online as a PDF file.
The control panel is on the top of the Chefe. It has three general cooking settings (slow cook, steam, and reheat) and ten food-specific settings (rice, pork, cake, etc.). There’s an LED that shows the time and a pair of plus and minus buttons to change the time. Everything starts with the Start button. The Chefe is easy to use: Put in the ingredients, put in the water, close the lid, and choose a setting.
The challenge to using the Chefe is recipes, or rather the extreme lack of them. There are a dozen in the included little recipe book, and I found two more on ChefWave’s website. Fourteen recipes is not enough. If you’re going to purchase the ChefWave Chefe, you’re going to need to figure out how to adapt existing recipes or learn to create your own. My wife is an accomplished cook—something I am not—and so I turned the Chefe and the recipe book over to her to see what she could do.
The first test was a simple place to start: Steam a cup of jasmine rice. My wife learned to do this in Thailand, and she can cook a perfect cup of rice every time in a pot on the stove in about 25 minutes. Looking in the recipe book, she found instructions for brown rice, the closest thing she could find; she thought it a bit odd that the recipe called for a lot less water she typically uses. She followed this pattern, but found it undercooked the rice, as you can see in the picture above. She experimented by adding more water and increasing the time until she was able to get it to work. After five tries, she was able to create a perfect bowl of rice, though it takes 70 minutes in the Chefe. Our conclusion is that the Chefe can steam a cup of jasmine rice well, though it takes over an hour to do so.
The second test was to slow cook beef stew. My wife followed one of the recipes in the book with only a few minor mods, such as using stew meat instead of brisket. One interesting detail that we learned is that unlike an Instant Pot, the Chefe cannot be used to brown the meat first; she had to do this on the stove. After finishing the recipe and letting it steam for nearly an hour, the result, unfortunately, was not stew; it was soup. The recipe calls for 1.5 cups of water, which turned out to be way too much. She attempted to thicken with flour, which normally works on the stove or with an Instant Pot, but it didn’t work in the Chefe. The resulting soup was rather bland (a fault of the recipe, not the ChefWave Chefe), so she spiced it up with fresh rosemary and other spices. Even though we had soup for dinner that night, the meat and veggies were very tender, and we served it with the rice she had previously cooked. Our conclusion is that the beef stew recipe is not very good, but the Chefe can slow cook meat and veggies for soup (or stew) just fine.
The third test was to bake a marble cake following the recipe in the book. My wife followed this recipe precisely, yet the end result was a complete disaster. The “cake” was rubbery to taste and hideous to look at. Our conclusion is that although ChefWave says that the Chefe can bake with its cake setting, it really cannot, or at least it cannot bake a cake. In fact, if you look at the picture of the marble cake in the recipe, you will see that it was baked in a bundt pan, not in the Chefe. ChefWave’s deception here is not at all appreciated; this makes me think they are overselling the capabilities of this gadget.
The fourth test was to make beef stroganoff. My wife used a recipe from Penny Pincher (Slow Cook #1 Series), modified it a bit, and used the slow cook setting on the Chefe for two hours. Once it was finished, there was a lot of extra water, much like there was in the beef stew; she speculated that because the Chefe uses steam, perhaps a lot of the recipes will have too much water. She removed a lot of this liquid, added the sour cream, and cooked it for another 20 minutes. The result looks pretty good, though it still had too much liquid. She thickened this up with flour and by stirring off some of the steam. The resulting stroganoff was quite delicious. Our conclusion is that the ChefWave Chefe is best for recipes that are intended to have a lot of liquid in them.
The fifth test was to make risotto. My wife has never made this dish before, nor has she used Arborio rice. She used the risotto recipe in the cookbook and then adjusted it based upon the package of Arborio rice that she bought. She used the risotto setting on the Chefe, and it came out perfect the first time. When finished, she added some salt, pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon. She served it with steak and sautéed mushrooms, and it was fabulous.
The sixth and final test was to boil pork tenderloin, another recipe in the book, one that uses the slow cook feature. The pork was tender and delicious when we pulled it from the Chefe. We left the extras in the bowl and reheated it later, but despite all the juices, this dried out the pork. This was rather disappointing, as it’s an important feature of this multicooker.
If you’re interested in any of the recipes that my wife used–not the cake, that was too nasty–you can find them all on GitHub.
There are several things that my wife and I like about the Chefe. One, it’s easy to clean, much easier than our Instant Pot, because of the non-stick surface inside the pot and the mechanism used to seal the lid to the pot. Two, the smaller pot is the perfect size for a family of two, like my wife and I. (If our kids were still at home, then we would probably consider it to be too small.) Three, the pot can be used as both a serving dish and as storage in the fridge. We don’t yet like how well the Chefe reheats, but perhaps it would do better with dishes other than the boiled pork.
Who is the Chefe best suited for? Because there are so few recipes available for the Chefe, it’s for someone who is a skilled cook, able and willing to modify and create new recipes on the fly. It’s also for someone who values the precision cooking of sous vide, which is something that we have not tried.
The ChefWave Chefe has a couple extra features that are worth mentioning. It has a delayed start option, which allows it to wait for a bit before turning on. It also has a self-cleaning function. Finally, it has voice alert feature that it uses to talk to me. It will say things like “hello” when I turn it on, and “water level low” if I start it without any water. The speaker is of very poor quality, so this feature is not very helpful.
What I like
- Good design
- Excellent at cooking with steam
- Easy to clean
What I’d change
- A lower price point that can compete with other kitchen appliances
- A lot more recipes, especially ones that were actually made for the Chefe
Should you buy the ChefWave Chefe? When I consider the Chefe on its own, it’s a good gadget. It’s well-designed, looks nice, and does its job nicely (except for baking), so my first reaction is “yes!” Unfortunately, the Chefe is not alone; it competes with other multicookers and kitchen appliances. The Instant Pot is its biggest challenge, as it has twice the number of features for about half the cost; additionally, there are thousands of recipes for it, entire cookbooks in fact. A good Crock Pot can have nearly twice the capacity yet cost about 1/6 of the price. Most people will want to get one or both of these before getting a Chefe; the good news is that ChefWave makes their own version of the Instant Pot, known as the Swap Pot. If cabinet and shelf space is not an issue in your kitchen, and you’ve got what it takes to adjust recipes on the fly, then absolutely, give the Chefe a try.