Gadgets’ necessity in the kitchen: It all depends

Kitchen gadgets, with their pitches to make cooking easier, faster and — dare we hope — more fun, can be hard to pass up.

Whether you’re buying them for yourself or as gifts, gadgets got some endorsement from Jan Roberts-Dominguez in this week’s A Fresh Approach column. She specifically recommended silicone cookware, a food processor, an apple corer and slicer and a garlic crusher.

But what about the plethora of other gizmos out there? Three writers for the Akron Beacon Journal recently tried out five of the newest kitchen products in the interest of recommending them — or not — to readers.

The Journal’s test-kitchen review included Perfect Pancake, a two-sided, flippable skillet that promises “four picture perfect pancakes every time”; ‘Ove’ Glove Oven Rack Shield, which promises protection from oven-rack burns; Pluck Sunny Side Out, a new egg separator; Tilt, a solid, stainless-steel ball that is supposed to offer an alternative to ice; and The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker.

The Five Minute Stackable Appetizer Maker / MCT photo

Here is what they found:

Perfect Pancake does what it says with four wells to hold batter and make perfect pancake circles. In fact, they were so round and perfect, they resembled crumpets more than pancakes. The pan, however, had some issues with even cooking. And testers felt it was an unnecessary addition to the home kitchen, saying it solves a problem that perhaps doesn’t exit: that cooks care about perfect circumferences in pancakes. For the gadget’s price of $19.95, buy an electric griddle that will make six or eight pancakes at a time, in addition to many other foods.

‘Ove’ Glove Oven Rack Shield does solve the problem of burned wrists or arms on the edge of an oven rack when putting a pan in or taking one out of the oven, even when using pot holders or wearing oven mitts. These strips are made of a heat-protective material that snaps onto the front of oven racks, covering them and protecting cooks’ skin. One reviewer likened them to an “oven diaper.” Able to withstand heat up to 540 F, they can remain in place when using the oven broiler, are machine washable and can be tossed in the dryer. For $11.95, they aren’t as cheap as potholders, but for avid bakers, they would be worth it. Two of the three reviewers said “snap it up.”

Pluck Sunny Side Out addresses separating eggs, which can be a challenge for many cooks. This egg separator claims to be “a magical white separator you have to see to believe,” which reviewers thought something of an overstatement. It works simply with suction, like a squatty turkey baster with a wider opening for sucking up the yolk. Crack an egg in a bowl, place the separator over the yolk, give it a squeeze and it sucks up the yolk cleanly and efficiently. Squeeze it again, and the yolk plops out into another bowl. One reviewer demonstrated the same feat using an empty plastic water bottle. Reviewers thought the price of $12.99 was a little high, and the gadget is available only online. But two of the three reviewers said “snap it up.”

Tilt, a “gourmet freezeable chilling sphere” is available online and in a limited number of stores. Freeze the ball for four to six hours, and use it in a drink or in a bowl of food to help it stay cold and undiluted. It’s slightly bigger than a golf ball, has a small loop on one side and comes with a retrieval stick that resembles a crochet hook, for pulling it out of drinks. But reviewers discovered that drinking a beverage with a giant ball bearing in it entails some problems, namely getting bashed in the teeth. “This is just stupid,” one reviewer said. In addition, iced water stayed cooler after 20 minutes than a beverage with the frozen Tilt. The device fared better in a bowl of potato salad. But one reviewer opined: “I can’t imagine making a nice dip for a party and telling people to avoid the silver ball.” All three reviewers gave it an “it depends” recommendation.

The Stackable Appetizer Maker looked like fun, inspiring reviewers to give it a go. It claims to be “the one-of-a-kind solution to make exquisite, gourmet, multilayered, perfectly proportioned, bite-sized appetizers in just five minutes.” Selling for $19.99 online, it’s about a foot long and comes with a body frame, a cut-and-carry base, a tamper for pressing down the layers, and a knife/spreader. The concept is to simply layer ingredients, tamp them down and layer more on top, until you achieve a multilayer stack. The included recipe book is nothing more than lists of combinations for stacks: The Elvis is bread, peanut butter, bananas, maple syrup and bacon bits; the Caprese is Italian bread, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, tomato slices and pesto; and the berry cheesecake is pound-cake slices, berries and premade, whipped cheesecake filling. It isn’t hard to use, but reviewers’ attempts yielded nothing like the ones on the promotional video. “It’s a big gooey mess,” one said, noting that a sandwich cut into small pieces would be more appealing than these stacks. Another felt they were too messy to serve at a party. Two of the three reviewers said “skip it.”

If you’ve tried any of these, or another miracle kitchen gadget, feel free to share your reviews here.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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