Photo: Vermicular

Vermicular is a beguiling kitchen appliance. Part hot plate, part Instant Pot, part Instagram Like bait, it’s a gadget that you should almost definitely not buy, at least not at its astronomical list price. But dammit, it makes some great food.

To understand Vermicular, you have to first understand that it’s two separate products. You cook your food in the Musui, a cast iron pot with a precisely cast, tight-fitting lid. But the Musui is designed to fit (again, precisely) in the Kamado, a kind of three-dimensional induction hot plate that heats the Musui evenly on all sides. By using both in tandem, Vermicular can offer extremely—you guessed it—precise temperature control (one degree increments, up to 200 degrees, though it can get hotter for searing), with no hot or cold spots.

Starting an hour-long rice cooking process
Photo: Shep McAllister

Vermicular claims that the Musui is cast to within .01 mm tolerances, which is what allows the lid’s seal to be so tight without any clamps, rubber sealing rings, or mechanical mechanisms. It’s not as tight as a pressure cooker—steam does still escape—but it’s tight enough to enable the Japanese Musui method (which literally translates to “waterless”) of cooking foods in their own juices.

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As befitting such a unique and expensive product, Vermicular ships with its own full-color, hardcover recipe book to get you started, with extremely specific cooking instructions and ingredient quantities. I started out with some simple jasmine rice, as Vermicular has long been marketed in Japan primarily as a rice cooker before it made its way to U.S. shores. Friends, it was amazing rice. Perfectly cooked, extremely consistent, and with none of the overcooked crispy grains around the edge of the pot that you can get when cooking rice in the Instant Pot. That being said, it took an hour to cook from start to finish, and even though setup was as simple as adding a cup of rice, 1.05 cups of water, and pushing a few buttons, I’m not sure it was worth the wait compared to the 15-20 minutes the same amount of rice would have taken in a pressure cooker.

My seafood “boil”
Photo: Shep McAllister

From there, I graduated to a chicken curry, which again, was one of the best things I’ve ever cooked for myself. It’s tough to say how much of that was due to the recipe, and how much was due to the device, but it was jaw-droppingly good. It was not, however, truly a one-pot meal. I had to use a blender at one point, and I also had to pull out my Instant Pot to cook rice to serve with the curry, since the Vermicular was occupied with the chicken. My final meal, a seafood “boil,” didn’t require any liquid beyond a few tablespoons of butter and the moisture from the ingredients, resulting in an impressive concentration of flavor.

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Incredible meals aside, Vermicular’s not perfect. Again, I’m a devoted worshipper at the Church of Instant Pot, so Vermicular can feel frustratingly slow, especially on a weeknight. Its pressure-sensitive buttons are also far too difficult to push. Most importantly though, it costs $670, though you can buy the Musui separately for $300. At that price, you shouldn’t really consider buying it unless you frankly have too much money. It’s a great appliance, but it’s certainly not $570 better than an Instant Pot, or ~$400 better than a top of the line rice cooker. Hell, with a tiny bit more effort, a sous vide circulator can achieve results with the same single degree precision, at least for certain types of meals.

But Vermicular’s new to the U.S., and I can only hope that its price comes down significantly over time. If it got cheap enough to get into a modest number of homes, maybe more online recipes and recipe books would be published, which might in turn lead to more Vermiculars being sold, perpetuating the same popularity cycle we’ve seen with pressure cookers and air fryers over the last few years. Frankly, I doubt this happens—the pricing is just too far out of whack with reality—but the food was so damn good that I really hope it does.