5 Gadgets That Make Simple Foods Way Harder to Prepare
Many people are not gourmet chefs, and that's fine. You don't need to know how to whip up Saddle of Venison to keep yourself and your family fat and happy. But some people don't want to make anything at all, perhaps out of fear they'll burn down the whole neighborhood while struggling with an Eggo waffle. Or worse -- they'll have to clean stuff.
Luckily (as we've shown before), the Stuff-Making Industry is here to save the day, unleashing mountains of "simple food prep" products that are almost universally for foods that a preschooler could figure out between naps. Each of the following should come bundled with a book of hacks for fast and easy deduction of 2 + 1 and how to put on your socks without choking to death. "But hey, at least they save on cleaning!" Guess again ...
The Toastabag: Sandwiches In the Toaster, Wrapped In Wax
Grilling up a sandwich is probably the easiest thing in the world, aside from blinking. You make your meal, heat up a pan, throw the food on, flip it a couple times, and you're done. The only possible way to screw that up is throw it on the pan and then leave it alone for 20 minutes while you go rub one out into the sock drawer. But if three minutes watching a pan is simply too much to ask (or if you have an insatiable sock fetish), then the Toastabag is for you.
Don't rub one out into it. Toasted mayonnaise tastes terrible, anyway.
It's literally nothing but a wax bag big enough for two pieces of bread. You slide your sandwich into the bag, pop it into your toaster, and a few minutes later, out it comes "perfectly toasted." I can see the benefit of this if you step into a wormhole and suddenly find yourself in the stupidest parallel timeline ever, one where Hitler won and immediately banned all frying pans as tools of Zion. But otherwise, think outside the bag and buy a damn Cuisinart.
Originally, the Toastabag people zeroed their marketing strategy on a singular niche market -- people who sucked at making grilled cheese sandwiches. That was the only food they featured on the packaging -- and not just once -- because apparently people fly into a panic whenever they come within 50 feet of a skillet, even if it's there to help create what's literally the easiest sandwich in the entire cosmos. They've since opened up their product to those who also enjoy lettuce and tomatoes, and their commercials now put a real emphasis on cleanliness and convenience.
Whoever organized the Wicked Witch family reunion should've checked the forecast for rain.
Down with minor stains that require minimal elbow grease to remove. Viva la revolucion! If your life is so hectic you can't take the time to wash A pan to make A sandwich, maybe it's time to cut back on the Never Ending Pasta Bowl that is your hustle hustle go go go schedule. Unless your kid is clearly going to be the next Pele, maybe ease up on the soccer and use that now-vacant square of time to properly feed the little tyke. Besides, you still have to wash the bag.
"Curse you Satan, you infernal trickster!"
Also, despite knowing full well what kind of spaced-out slackjaw would actually buy this product, the Baggers devote an entire page to legitimately complex recipes, like the chimichurri steak sandwich. This requires you to not only cook the steak, but also to "puree together garlic, seeded jalapenos, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, and white wine vinegar" to make the sauce. Toastabags: for the busy sous-chef who's always on the go.
Pasta Perfect / Express: Cooking Pasta In a Tower of Boiling Water
As I've established in the past, I have a knack for buying useless shit simply because some neighbor stuck a 50-cent sticker on it and threw it on a picnic table. One of my prouder finds was the Pasta Express, or Pasta Perfect if you're nasty. Either way, it's basically a long tube like the kind banks use for customers who are too good to walk in and talk to the tellers, only with hot water and pasta in place of dirty dollar bills.
Dear Every Italian: I am so sorry.
You pour pasta into the tube, fill it with boiling water, and let it sit there for ten minutes. Then you pour the water out and eat the pasta. That's all. You have saved exactly no steps from the typical pasta-making method. You still boil water, you still mix in pasta, and you still drain water when you're done. And despite the company's insistence that "you won't need to use any extra pots or pans," you most certainly will, unless you enjoy eating plain, unflavored snooze pasta. If you crave sauce, seasonings, or even just butter, you're likely to add that shit with the aid of a pot. Doing so in that narrow tube would simply be too much of a pain. The Express has saved you literally no steps, and actually added an extra one.
No-pot pasta: the crunchy snack treat kids love.
So what's the selling point then? Oh, tons. You don't have to stir, and the water won't boil over and make that gosh-darn annoying hissssss sound on the burner. If you're old enough to handle boiling water, and can't get the hang of double double toil and troubling it, skip the Express and just live off Chef Boyardee for the rest of your life. Provided you can open the lid.
And as far as water "boiling over," I've been cooking for years now and can't think of a single situation where water hitting the burner was anything more than a minor inconvenience. It hisses, you turn down the heat, and the boiling over quits. Boom, like that. It won't set your stove on fire, nor will it cause the burner to melt. It's just water. You, your food, your stove, and your house will survive.
Man is 90 percent water. But water is 100 percent death.
Worst of all: the thing just plain doesn't work. I poured the boiling water in and added spaghetti, just like the packaging commanded me to. After ten-plus minutes of hardcore boiling, I drained the tube and immediately regretted my decision. The pasta wasn't just still rigid -- everything was completely stuck together. It's almost like stirring is an actual important step and not an optional annoyance. I confirmed this by boiling more water, this time in an actual pot, stirring the pasta in that, and having it come out perfectly. Just like it did every other time before I bought that stupid bank tube. My poor 50 cents died in vain.
Butter Spreader: A Butter Spreader
Putting aside racism, sexism, child abuse, homophobia, war, rape, mass starvation, transphobia, sex trafficking, poverty, the New York Jets, global warming, and terrorism for a second, there's nothing worse than trying to spread hard butter. And since popping a stick in the microwave for even a second too long transforms it into an oozy mess that takes forever-plus-more-forever to clean up, what's a churned milk aficionado boycotting tub and spray butter on religious grounds to do?
Market tested, Jesus approved.
How about sticking your Land O'Lakes in an overgrown billiards chalk stick instead? That's exactly what the inventively-named Butter Spreader is -- a white stick you add butter to and push across your food like an eraser. Naturally, like just about every other product I've discussed, this supposedly helps save on messes. This is a huge selling point no matter what's for sale, because when we're not busy picking our noses and asses or not wiping properly, we're apparently a society of utter neat freaks.
The only remotely legitimate use for this thing is for corn on the cob, since its curves can easily send a piece of butter toppling to the plate below. In which case, you could do what I do -- turn the cob into a rolling pin and sop up the butter that way -- or become one with the pool chalk. But the various companies that produce butter spreaders (yes, there's more than one, and yes, they're all the exact fucking same) clearly feel their product is the perfect solution for even the flattest of foods.
The evil Aunt Jemima has finally met her match.
Do people really have trouble spreading butter on pancakes and bread? That's like the tee ball of food moistening. On a similarly moronic note, are there truly people basting their chickens and turkeys by eschewing basters, grabbing gobs of butter, massaging it into broiling hot bird, and burning their hands clean off, as this peddler so proudly insists? If so, can we give these people a reality show? We can pay them in butter spreaders.
Scrambly Egg Shaker: Scrambled Eggs In a Ball
Of the many ways to prepare an egg for its inevitable swallowing (swallow eggs not required), scrambling the incredible, edible embryo has to be the easiest. You crack it into a bowl, add some milk if you're feeling fancy, whisk it into a frothy liquid, pour it into a hot pan, and manipulate it with a spatula until its ready. The only way that could take more than two minutes is if you forget to turn the stove on. The problem with this method is that whole whisk-and-bowl thing, evidently. That's a whole two items you have to wash later on, and what if every time you attempt whisking, you lose control of your limbs and fling chicken goop all over the wall and floor?
It's the closest to flying they will ever come.
For those who fear goop-flinging, God hath bequeathed the Scrambly Egg Shaker. Instead of bowling and beating like the Neanderthals before you, just crack your eggs into the Shaker and shake it like a Polaroid poultry. Soon, the eggs are scrambled, and your bowls and whisks are free to rot in the cabinet, unused and unloved. But at least you don't have to clean them.
Eggs still got to get cooked though, which involves a pan and a spatula that you'll have to clean, because the Illuminati is testing you. Unless you're a bodybuilder who drinks the shit raw. And if you are, please post a video of yourself chugging your raw egg from this generic Happy Meal toy marketed as an actual kitchen tool. I'm at least 24 percent certain you'll go viral within hours.
Chug enough of them, and you'll go bacterial too, broski.
Joie claims their product is "fun for all ages." So basically, they know how pointless it is, and are relying on the "it's for the kids" crutch, which apparently makes your crappy product suddenly immune to all criticism. This formulaic, unfunny movie isn't for you, old man, so quit complaining. This pandering, whiny, poorly-written TV show is meant for children, not you, so shut up and enjoy it. I've read reviews from professional critics -- who get paid to offer their opinions -- in which the critic refuses to critique a kid's product, instead letting some toddler do so (with an inevitable thumbs-up) because they're "the right audience." This is why so much kid stuff sucks -- quality control goes out the window in favor of "eh, kids are dumb, fuck it."
Oh right, eggs. Them. Yeah, this product's dumb.
Potato Pocket: Baked Potatoes In a Pouch
What's worse than a pointless product? A pointless product that doesn't work, like the Potato Pocket -- a sleeping bag that claims to make perfect baked potatoes for the ten people on Earth who can't wrap their skulls around "wrap potato in foil." And while my traumatic experience with the Pasta Express might have been avoided with less food (every hungry kid's solution), testers far more professional than I have tested the Potato Pocket and practically shit inside of it.
That ain't bacon.
The Pocket is your quintessential "as seen on TV" product. It's SO easy! Works every time! A mere two steps to Spud Heaven! It even has a psuedoscientific "secret" that they immediately give away, because hawkers of bad products are worse at keeping secrets than a stadium full of 11-year-old girls. In this case, the "unique design of the insulated bag creates the perfect steam pocket, significantly cutting down on your prep time, giving you the perfect baked potato every time." That's an awful lot of Beakman talk to justify charging $15 for what you can easily accomplish with foil or some paper towels.
And if you want a unique design, just draw dicks with the faces of the Burger King Kids' Club members all over the foil.
Worse still, it turns out the real "secret" behind the Pocket is the same secret behind Pinocchio's nose -- pure bullshit. A recent consumer report tested the Pocket and found that the only truth in its advertising is "you can put potatoes in there." And even that truth needed a good stretching -- they claim the Pocket can fit up to four potatoes, but the reporter could only squeeze in three. Hopefully Mom and Dad don't have more than one kid, or somebody's going to starve.
"Who wants to recreate The Hunger Games? Not that you have any choice."
The ads also boast a near-miraculous four-minute microwave time, but those four minutes came and went, and the potatoes were still hard as ever. It probably doesn't help that you're not supposed to use high heat, lest the bag gain sentient life and terrorize the countryside like Frankenstein's Dinner. It also doesn't help that the "four minute" cook time can vary based on microwave power, something conveniently edited out of the final ad copy.
In the end, the report got ONE decent potato, and it took seven minutes of cooking to get there. But, according to the Pocket's instructions, you're only supposed to cook it for four minutes -- if it still needs time, add one minute then recheck. Repeat until you finally get your precious perfect baked potato. So you buy this thing because you're the worst cook on Earth, and suddenly you're doing way more work than every other cook on the block. That is goddamn poetic.
For more from Jason, check out The 5 Most Wasted Opportunities in Video Game History and 4 Children's Books That Will Unintentionally Scar Your Kids.
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