Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

Service of Cooking Under Pressure: The Instant Pot

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Photo: instantpot.com

The burns on my mother’s hands from an exploding pressure cooker—and going with her to the doctor who was caring for the injury–are among my earliest memories. While I love time-saving cooking appliances and gadgets, I’ve never once been tempted to go near anything that operates like that.

I was drawn to Ellen Byron’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Is America’s Anxiety Rising? The Instant Pot,” to read what, if anything was new about this new iteration. Seems the Instant Pot does everything: steams, slow-cooks, sautés, pressure cooks and makes yogurt, rice, cakes and preserves. According to Byron, last year Amazon “delivered Instant Pots to 27,000 U.S. Zip Codes.”

Photo: successfulhomemakers.com

Byron’s title alludes to something else it does: It makes its owners nervous—for good reason– even though she said the pot comes with 10 safety mechanisms.

“Double Insight Inc., the company that makes Instant Pot, says common mishaps include overfilling the machine or releasing the pressure too quickly when cooking foods that expand,” wrote Byron. The company recommends that owners read the manual.

Her first story confirmed my apprehension: This pot is not for me. She wrote about an IT specialist who tried to clean the pot he burned while cooking spaghetti. He followed instructions to add water, put the pot on “pressure cooker high” but when he “did a quick release,” hot red sauce splashed all around from ceiling to cabinets, on him and the floor.

Photo: kittydeschanel.com

Another Instant Pot owner in Byron’s article was afraid to open the box because the gadget has so many buttons and returned the item. She eventually bought another one and went through trauma before making stew with it for the first time. She was petrified to release the pressure valve and even though nothing happened when she did, and the stew was “pretty good,” she felt “overwhelmed” and hadn’t used it again. And after all that, is “pretty good” worth all the sweat?

A retired chef who for years used a traditional pressure cooker ended up with Thai coconut shrimp bisque that “resembled cheese curds.”

There are “200 groups devoted to the device.” The largest one includes 1.2 million people in the company’s Facebook group. After yogurt boiled into the machine, another user asked her fellow groupies what to do and was advised to clean with Q-tips. Her pot works “though it smells like burned milk.”

Photo: presurecookrecipes.com

Another owner was intimidated by the manual and took a few days to recover. “There were triumphs: hard-boiled eggs, chicken, pork carnitas and chocolate cheesecake—as well as two pots of burned rice, an overcooked pork butt, a sour Key Lime cheesecake and a Christmas Day crème brûlée that looked more like a side of cottage cheese.” One said a prayer after assembling the ingredients for beef barley soup. When she “turned the quick-release valve, soup shot across her kitchen, hitting the cupboards, curtains and window.” She returned her pot.

Do you have an Instant Pot? Are you tempted to get one? Do you think the gizmo may be too good to be true? What’s wrong with pots and pans?

Photo: simplyhappyfoodie.com

Service of Gizmos You’ll Never Use

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Gifts wrapped

Tis holiday gift giving time again so what are you giving the person who has everything? Here are some frivolous things to avoid for folks who like to cook.

Gizmos and gadgetsI’ve written about my pasta maker bought years ago and never used. I had high hopes which never materialized. Who has time, anyway, when a box of excellent spaghetti from Italy costs so little?

I thought of the pasta maker when reading “Don’t Be Such a Tool,” in The Wall Street Journal in which Keith Blanchard writes about “questionable and highly specialized culinary tools.” [The online title: “Why Hipster Cooking Gizmos Are Killing Cooking.”]

The article’s subhead in the print version is: “A humble home chef bemoans the rise of sauerkraut-making kits, mini-donut machines and other dubious cooking gadgets.”

macaronsIn addition to the donut machine he identified a pen to draw a design on cappuccino foam with a spice; a mat to “perfectly size 48 macarons;” an ice cream cone maker [at this time of year?] and a tube you stuff “with rice and blowfish, then wrap with nori” to create your own sushi.

Are you tempted by gadgets for the kitchen or anywhere else in your home or office? Are there any you can’t live without? Are you the first to own the newest and latest? Do you have a robot or drone? Are you planning to give a specialized gizmo to someone this Christmas or Hanukkah?

ice cream cone

Service of Too Smart For Your Own Good

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

 

Photo: makeuseof.com

Photo: makeuseof.com

I love helping to introduce new products but because I do, I’ve noticed the risks for those first to buy them. Unless the investment is minor, I wait a cycle until the manufacturer has ironed out kinks.

However it’s for another reason I will stand on the sidelines happy with my dumb house and apartment, as much as is reasonable and as tempting as some of the new fangled appliances sound. I first want to know that there is a solid handle on hacker prevention.

Security camera

Security camera

Leigh Kamping-Carder’s Wall Street Journal article only served to confirm my reserve. She wrote: “Keep Your Smart Home Safe From Hackers–As Internet-connected devices in homes grow more popular, so do the risks of unwanted intruders.” What’s smart in a house? Anything that connects to the Internet such as security cameras and lights to appliances and thermostats.

Why would you want to connect your coffee maker, washer/dryer, fridge, lights or house alarm to the Internet? With your mobile phone as action central in partnership with the right apps, you can set a brewing schedule; control washer/dryer and hot/cold temperature settings; look up recipes and track expiration dates on food. You can also program lighting to turn on and off and have a system notify you if someone has opened a door in your home while you are away, for example.

Samsung smart refrigerator

Samsung smart refrigerator

Coldwell Banker Real Estate conducted a survey, wrote Kamping-Carder, in which over 4,000 respondents in the US said they already own such technology or plan to add it this year. What was unusual–given the presumed smarts and education of wealthy folks who own luxury homes and normally try to protect what they’ve earned or inherited–is that “only recently has security become a priority. While there have been few reported incidents, online-security experts expect smart-home hacking to increase.”

According to Kamping-Carder, “The risks range from relatively harmless (pranksters cranking up the heat) to outright criminal (disabling security cameras to orchestrate a break-in). One of the biggest dangers is that poorly secured smart-home devices could be used as a ‘backdoor’ to gain access to more sensitive information.”

Topnotch insurance companies, such as Chubb Personal Risk Services, recommend security measures. Another company Kamping-Carder mentioned provides the level of security services to monitor home networks that corporations subscribe to, [hopefully with more success, say I], starting at $500/month.

Belkin WeMo smart light switch

Belkin WeMo smart light switch

Kamping-Carder shared tips from security experts such as “changing the password on your device from the default, protecting your WiFi network with a password and ensuring that your wireless router uses some form of encryption. If you have given a password to someone who should no longer have it (like a former dog-walker), it is important to change it immediately.”

She quoted an architect who tested home automation and lighting systems by having them installed in his home and found them satisfactory. “The system cost $135,000 in 2012. He chose the provider partly because of its reputation for tight security, and liked that the installation company could monitor the system remotely and shut it down in the event of fraudulent activity.” [I highlighted the last 21 words.]

Wall Street Journal reader CJ Hall, in a comment about the article addressing the highlighted copy re. the system providing remote monitoring, wrote: “…So can hackers or anyone with access to the installation company [monitor the system].” Hall continued: “Bottom line?  If there is outside access to a system, it can be accessed/monitored/controlled from outside. Do you REALLY want your installer (and anyone with his password) to know when you’re home? Away? Awake? Asleep?  What show you’re watching?  (oops. The cable company already knows the last one.) My personal rule is NO outside connections unless I NEED them more than I need the privacy they sacrifice.”

Do you agree with CJ Hall? Are you tempted or have you already installed smart devices? Are they worth the risks? How do–or would–you protect your privacy?

 

Smart garage door opener Photo: electronichouse.com

Smart garage door opener Photo: electronichouse.com

 

Service of Eye-Catching Gifts

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

 

Qlocktwo wall clock

Qlocktwo wall clock

 

I’ve highlighted some of the products that caught my eye at NY Now that ended this week. I’ve covered this tradeshow since well before the International Gift Show changed its name. I’d need more than a day to see everything and I was there only four hours hence the warning: This list is imperfect.

QLocktwo wall clocks by Biegert & Funk  [photo above] were showstoppers. The handsome clocks tell time in words: “It is ten to eight,” for example. The sales rep said they are made in Germany and Switzerland. The exhibit was clearly so popular that the staff had run out of marketing materials. I noticed that there were plenty of other timepieces at the show both to wear and display, a curious trend given the universality of smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, automobiles and televisions all of which also display the time.

A French company, Cookut, introduced Creazy, a cup that you shake to make whippedRenova toilet paper cream in less than a minute. The secret: Three multi-faceted silicone beads. I stopped to admire myrenova’s toilet paper in juicy colors such as Marigold, magenta and lime. At the Ameico booth grownups had fun coloring a 71 x 39-inch coloring wall by OMY Design & Play.

Richard Upchurch founded and runs a two year old Brooklyn-based company, Brandnewnoise. He hand makes voice recorders and sound gadgets in his Red Hook studio.

sagegreenlife Edelwhite hydroponic gardenAt another booth I inspected the hanging indoor hydroponic garden, Edelwhite, made possible by sagegreenlife, [photo left], and had to touch Craft Advisory’s bubble wrap-like glass bowl [photo below] to confirm it wasn’t the real thing.

In the category of familiar if mislaid brands—I’ve not seen Louis Sherry chocolates in stores for years—I was glad that the 135 year old brand continues to sell its sweets in its traditional purple boxes [as well as boxes in other designs/colors]. My mother kept knickknacks in a kitchen drawer in a Louis Sherry tin box.

Whether or not you like to go shopping for gifts what catches your eye: Color, function, pattern, originality, or something else? With time evident from countless devices around us, to what do you attribute the burst of timepieces offered to the marketplace?

 Craft Advisory glassware

Craft Advisory glassware

 

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