10 Weird High-Tech Kitchen Gadgets You Don't Need
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 25 June 2016.
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 25 June 2016.
The intersection of science and food is a fascinating place. The rise of molecular gastronomy has introduced techniques from chemistry and physics to the palate, and having access to a database of nutritional information at your fingertips makes eating healthy easier than ever.
That said, a lot of the technology that makes its way into the kitchen is, for lack of a better word, useless. Some of the best chefs in the world do all of their work with just a good knife and a frying pan, after all. That doesn't stop the world's gadget makers from pumping out piles of ridiculous junk.
Year after year, products hit the shelves promising to make cooking easier, faster, and more fun, typically in the form of clunky devices that end up doing one thing very well: taking up space in your kitchen cabinets. Here we'll spotlight 10 of the most ridiculous, from wiener steamers to meat polishers.
Laziness is a curse in the kitchen. If you've ever cooked professionally (or watched Gordon Ramsay scream at people), you know that commercial kitchens are already in motion, chefs and assistants moving at top speed to get plates out on time. Kitchen gadgets seek to remove all that unsightly work, and one of the most ridiculous is the RoboStir, a tripod with silicone feet that rests inside your pot or pan and supports a mechanical oscillator that can tirelessly move a spoon for hours at a time, leaving you free to do other stuff like watch TV or go to the bathroom. That is, if it worked; customers unanimously deride the thing for its instability, low power, and general cheapness.
2. Rollie Eggmaster
For some reason, eggs are a popular inspiration for kitchen gadget makers. Everybody thinks they have a better way to prepare them, but nothing beats the classic "fried in plenty of butter." Especially not the Popsicle-like abominations dispensed by the Rollie Eggmaster. Crack the shell, pour the egg down the tube, and in minutes you have a weird-looking egg on a stick that's impossible to eat in any kind of human, dignified manner. If you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from eating anything that's not in tube form, this is the gadget for you.
Most of the gadgets and devices on this list are relatively inexpensive, hoping that novelty factor and low price point will let them sell through their inventory. And then there's Juicero, a US$700 cold-press juicer that doesn't let you use your own fruit and vegetables. In classic Internet of Things mode, the Juicero won't work unless it has an active Wi-Fi connection, which it uses to determine if the produce packs you buy from the company for as much as US$10 each are still good (by scanning a QR code, of course). This hot mess of unnecessary technology somehow managed to raise US$120 million in Silicon Valley funding, which is patently ridiculous.
4. Marivac Food Tumbler
One common theme you'll see in a lot of these gadgets is that people apparently hate to wait for anything. Marinating meat is an important step in the preparation of many dishes, and it's all about taking the time to let those juices seep in. But if you just can't deal with leaving it alone, there's the Marivac Food Tumbler, a US$179 device that lets you do it in 10 minutes with the aid of a vacuum-sealed container and a rotating barrel that looks like something you'd polish rocks with. Apparently the paddles on the inside of the drum "stretch food fibers," which doesn't sound terrifically appetizing.
5. Fat Magnet
There's always an enemy in the diet world. Sometimes it's carbs, sometimes it's fat. If you're freaked out about your lipid intake, please don't stoop to buying a Fat Magnet. The technology behind this gadget is pretty simple: pop it in the freezer and the cold plate on the end will cause grease and fat to coagulate on top of your dish, letting you easily remove it. Unfortunately, there are two major problems. One, fat is the vehicle which transports many different flavor notes, so you're ruining your palate. And two, the thing just doesn't work. It's made of flimsy aluminum and never gets cold enough to make the fat change state and clump up.
6. Towel-Matic Paper Towel Dispenser
There's lazy, and then there's "can't pull a paper towel" lazy. For those of you who can't imagine putting forth the effort to get a paper towel like a normal human being, meet the Towel-Matic, a US$60 "touchless" device that rotates out a fresh paper towel when you wave your hand in front of its integrated infrared scanner. A special device identifies the type of towel in the dispenser and automatically positions the perforation where it can be most easily ripped. This is the kind of thing that's so ridiculous it's hard to even write jokes about it, but thankfully all of the Amazon reviews are hovering in the one-star range.
7. Hot Dog Steamer
There's a reason hot dogs are a go-to meal for harried parents across America: they're insanely easy to cook. You can throw them on the grill, toss them in a pan, or dump them into a pot of boiling water and they'll be just fine. Hell, in a pinch you can eat them cold out of the fridge. So the very idea of a purpose-built device that does nothing but steam wieners is the height of absurdity. This model also has "bun warmers," because God forbid you put your hot dog on a room-temperature roll.
8. Flatev Tortilla Maker
Tortillas are the perfect peasant food. Inexpensive to produce, filling, and capable of transforming into tacos that can hold all kinds of ingredients, they're truly the backbone of Mexican cuisine. So why would you need a US$250 device that makes them one at a time from Keurig-like pods? Meet the Flatev, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter, and is set to launch in the summer of 2017. The toaster-sized device does just one thing: transform pods, which you can only buy from the company, into single fresh-baked tortillas, in about a minute. This is both insanely wasteful and fills a need none of us has ever had. Oh, and you have to keep the pods in your fridge, too, so set aside some space there.
9. Eddington Egg Cuber
Back to eggs for another device that's almost hilariously useless. Do you love to eat hard-boiled eggs but can't stand their elliptical shape? Do you wish you could stack your eggs into massive towers instead of eat them? Then you're the only human being on Earth who needs an Eddington Egg Cuber. Just drop a hard-boiled egg into the plastic mold, screw down the compression top, and put the whole contraption in the fridge for an hour. When it's done, your egg will be a perfect cube. Yes, it takes an entire hour to do a single egg, so you should probably buy at least a dozen if you're going to make anything interesting.
We've all marveled at the artistry of the cute barista down at the corner coffee shop who can make beautiful leaves on the top of your lattes. Guess what? She's about to get replaced by a robot, if the creators of the Ripple Maker have their say. With a tagline like "The full range of human emotion created in coffee, on coffee," you know that there's a lot of hot air being blown here. How does it work? Like many awful gadgets, it has disposable pods that contain a blend of coffee grounds, which it squirts in 3D on top of the foam in your cup to create just about any image that the heart desires in just 10 seconds. Right now, it's only available for specialty coffee shops in the US, Canada, and parts of China. With a retail price of US$1,300, this is a pretty steep investment for personalized lattes.
Top image: Flatev, the artisan tortilla maker. Credit: Flatev.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited.]