An apparatus and method for cooking food, such as meat, protein, vegetable, or soup is disclosed. In one embodiment, the food items are supplied in a flexible polymer package that can withstand the temperature needed to cook the item. The cooking apparatus has two cooking surfaces in the form of heated platens, which may be arranged in a vertical orientation. These platens come together to simultaneously contact both sides of the food item. The cooking apparatus further includes a controller, configured to prepare the food using various control system algorithms. The apparatus cooks the food item from both sides to affect rapid and even cooking. It uses a combination of temperature, time, food thickness, platen force and a cooking code that is unique for each food type. The control system algorithm uses some or all of these parameters to determine precisely when the food item is cooked correctly.