cook + dine

Weigh Your Options

Gadget Love

Do you get a little weak in the knees in a cookware store?  If you’re like most of us, your love for kitchen gadgets knows no bounds. Cherry pitters and fondue pots, rice steamers and egg separators,  presses for garlic and sandwiches, grinders for coffee and spices— no gizmo is too esoteric or uni-tasking to lust after.

First the bad news: with all that kitchenware overflowing your drawers and cupboards, you’re missing a most essential piece of equipment. The good news: you get to buy a new gadget.

A scale will make you a better cook. Recipes work better when you weigh the ingredients. Measurements depend on how you purchase, store, and scoop dry ingredients: a cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 4 to 6 ounces. If a recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, without a scale you can end up with as little as 16 ounces or as much as 24 ounces. That means your main ingredient could be off by as much as 50%.

Even if you’re not a baker, a kitchen scale makes measuring quicker, easier, and cleaner. A good scale will have a repeatable tare function that reports the net weight of each ingredient as it’s added in sequence. You can measure and mix in one bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup.

What to look for

Measurements should be precise. The scale should update instantaneously so that you can see the changing measurement as you add ingredients.

The display should be easy to read and  switch between metric units and U.S. pounds and ounces.

Need more bells and whistles? Take a look at these:

For smaller tasks, try a measuring cup or measuring spoon with a built-in digital scale.

The Rhianna combines a digital scale with an ipod dock and speaker system.

The Breville Ikon scale adds a kitchen timer and temperature probe.

Old Will Knott Scales maintains a folksy website, human phone-answerers and order-takers, and stocks an enormous selection of kitchen scales.

Posted in appliances + gadgets, cooking, gadgets | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

What’s New With Toast?

photo courtesy of Smash It Up!

photo courtesy of Smash It Up!


The toaster recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its invention.  It seems like a good time to reflect on the oft-overlooked workhorse of the kitchen.

That first toaster was dreamed up in 1909 by a technician at General Electric who was looking for a way to make stale bread more appealing. He devised a gadget with central heating elements surrounded by a wire cage to hold the bread; add a casing and a pop-up function and it is virtually indistinguishable from modern models. An immediate hit, it actually pre-dates commercially sliced bread by a few decades.

GE D12 toaster GE D12 toaster

Absent a true breakthrough in the past century, we have seen only minor tinkering with toasting technology. While the basic utility is unchanged– the bread gets brown and crispy–there are a few interesting bells and whistles out there.

This hand-held, portable toaster (above left) is brushed across the bread like a butter knife, browning the bread as it comes into contact with its surface. An LCD readout display of butterflies represents its toasting temperature. It operates cordlessly, and returns to its base charger after breakfast.

Patentee rotary toasterPatentee rotary toaster

Who else but the French would come up with a toaster that accommodates croissants, brioche, and le petit baguette? Looking like it would be more at home at a bingo game than in your kitchen, the wire cage of the Patentee rotary toaster (right) twirls bread and pastry above the heating element for uniform, toasty deliciousness.

Electrolux has not yet gone into production with its Scan Toaster (seen below), but imagine the possibilities: you can capture an RSS feed of the morning’s headlines, sup on the weather forecast, or maybe generate a post-breakfast to-do list. Inside the Scan Toast is a network of heated wires that align themselves to toast the surface of your bread with the desired content. They toast the pixelated image at a resolution high enough for text or photography.

scan toasterscan toaster
image - text - photographyimage                    text               photography

Have you ever wondered why we call it a toast when we raise a glass before we drink? It dates to an early Roman ritual (which goes even further back to the ancient Greeks, hemlock, wine, and the disposition of unwanted political rivals). A small bit of burnt toast was dropped into a glass before it was raised, to reduce the acidity and improve the palatability of inferior wine. And this does indeed work: toast’s surface is slightly carbonized by burning, creating a simple approximation of the oxygenated form of carbon contained in activated charcoal– not unlike the substance found in Brita and other water filtration systems.

If you haven’t had your fill of toast, head over to the Toaster Museum home of the world’s largest online toaster exhibition.


Posted in appliances + gadgets, gadgets | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments
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