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June 4, 2003

Things I wish I had in my kitchen
Posted by Teresa at 10:05 AM *

A centrifuge, for separating solutions. A vacuum chamber, the reverse of a pressure cooker, for reducing liquids without heating them, or anyway without heating them as much and for as long as you do when you reduce them by boiling. A serious freezer sub-compartment—it need not be large, perhaps the size of a gallon of ice cream—that produces zero or even subzero temperatures, for use in reverse distillation. A mixer stronger than I am. A central power plant. How many electric motors are there in my powered kitchen appliances? Many. One each. And the cheap ones invariably underperform and burn out, while the sturdier ones cost a mint. I want a single really good electric motor or compressed-air system, perhaps mounted underneath a kitchen counter with its attachment points located up top. That way you could have special-purpose attachments for it, rather than all these special-purpose appliances with their separate motors.

Optionally, I’d like an adjustable powered sauce and custard stirring device, with heat-resistant scraper blades, that I could attach to a saucepan for those “stir constantly at low heat for half of forever” recipes. And it would be nice to have something that would suck the heat out of a dish of food the way a microwave will put it in—but unless I’ve missed something, that would require magic, not engineering.

Comments on Things I wish I had in my kitchen:
#1 ::: jordan ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:15 AM:

it cost a ton, but my kitchenaid mixer was the best investment i ever made. it got rid of about a half dozen appliances with either broken bits or too-weak motors.
and on father's day, birthdays etc. everyone knows what attachments i would like.
i will truly be happy if they make an attachment that will take the clean dishes out of the washer and back in the cupboard, i don't know why, i just hate doing that.

#2 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:34 AM:

I want a single really good electric motor or compressed-air system, perhaps mounted underneath a kitchen counter with its attachment points located up top.

Back in 1969 or 70 my Uncle Jim (the mechanical engineer of the family) and my godfather persuaded my parents to invest in a NuTone under-the-counter motor. My mother's never regretted it. Still works, still churns, mixes etc. Never fails.

And, hot damn, here's their site.

But on closer inspection, it doesn't look like the do the Kitchen tool anymore. :(

#3 ::: marty ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:39 AM:

I looked at that Nu-Tone site and it looks promicing. They have a 'contact us here' type button.

It seems to me that most of what you want is on the edge of discovery. You might google inventors and see if someone could cobble some of those things up for you.

Also, would an ice cream maker be cold enough for your distillations? I have never had one.

#4 ::: thatwhichfalls ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:39 AM:

"A vacuum chamber"
You need a Vacuum Mud Still, apparently available here. Highly effective, although the ones I've used sadly don't have much capacity.

#5 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:50 AM:

I92d like an adjustable powered sauce and custard stirring device, with heat-resistant scraper blades, that I could attach to a saucepan for those 93stir constantly at low heat for half of forever94 recipes.

Yes, yes!

And it would be nice to have something that would suck the heat out of a dish of food the way a microwave will put it in.

I suppose a refrigerator will do that, only v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Flash freezing?

#6 ::: stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 12:00 PM:

"I want a single really good electric motor or compressed-air system, perhaps mounted underneath a kitchen counter with its attachment points located up top."

I think the compressed air system would be the way to go. You don't want belts or cogs or such (snagged hair, strangled cats, little kids taking rides and ending up with the nickname "lefty").

#7 ::: Sinboy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 12:57 PM:

I've always wanted a microwave heated swimming pool.

#8 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:11 PM:

All of those things are available as chemistry lab equipment, so far as I know; certainly the constant rate stirrer is.

Sucking the heat out is possible, but it's hideously, horribly inefficent and I don't think they can do large -- as in, 'big enough to see' stuff. ('laser cooling' is the term I recall.)

#9 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:18 PM:

As an organic chemist, I've had some similar thoughts about my lab equipment. As for your vacuum chamber, the thing to have is a rotary evaporator. That's a workhorse of any synthetic chemistry lab, since we spend a lot of time getting rid of the solvents we need to get the reactions to work. It rotates to speed up the evaporation, and to keep the liquid from bubbling and bumping so much. Just the thing.

The closest thing to your sauce stirrer would be either a good magnetic stir plate or an overhead stirrer. We don't usually set either one up to thoroughly scrape the sides of the flask, but it's an option. (I can never look at an overhead stirrer without remembering getting my hair wound up in one as a graduate student, but that's another story.)

Centrifuges we don't use as much (try a cell biologist!) The biggest pain would be separating your dish into balanced containers to spin them down. An unbalanced centrifuge is (at best) noisy, and at worst capable of causing real special-effects style damage to its neighborhood.

And the biologists have -80C freezers, too, which sounds like just what you're looking for. They run up a pretty useful electricity bill, though. . .

#10 ::: Caryn ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:21 PM:

Definitely. And I'd add that the attachments for the central power plant must be easy to get out, use, and put away. I ended up buying a new hand whisk for those recipes that say, "Mix 2 minutes by mixer or 3 minutes by hand." Takes longer than that to get all the pieces of the mixer out from around the kitchen, even though the main part is right on the countertop.

Think of the cooking I could do!

#11 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:28 PM:

The Kitchenaid and a Cuisineart are pretty much the only motors anybody needs, I'd say, but both have not insignificant footprints. The Cuiz is small enough to put away and take out, but the Kitchenaid is a behemoth. It's changed the way we approach a lot of cooking, though. It'll whump up more of what you need, faster, than anything I've ever worked with. Feel like making a couple laves of bread? The mixing is over in under five minutes. Cookies? Why not mix a triple batch? Souffle9s are merely a question of having the oven at the right temperature. I haven't gotten into the sausage making yet (too much like work), but I will.

I'd like a refrigerator cooled marble surface-- nice for pastry, or working with chocolate. And a stove with a built in deep fryer, although that's just begging for trouble

#12 ::: ralph ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 01:45 PM:

It's funny that you ask for a single motor, because 100 years ago, when motors were expensive, that's exactly how they were sold. You could buy a motor that was carefully crafted to last a very long time, then hook up all your motor-related conveniences to it.

That pretty much died out when motors got cheap enough to put into everything.

#13 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 02:18 PM:

You might take a look at the heavier-duty Kenwood models. The Kenwood KM800 Major Classic Stand Mixer (gratuitous affiliate link) has an 800-watt motor, a seven quart bowl, and can handle 3-1/3 pounds of bread flour, 10 pounds of cake mix, or 16 egg whites.

Delonghi recently purchased Kenwood, but they are still made by the same team in England. The DeLonghi DSM800 (gratuitous affiliate link) seems to be identical to the KM800 and now also includes the glass blender attachment.

Anyway, these monster mixers have a whole range of attachments, including shredders, meat-grinders, grain mills, pasta makers and juicers, and may (hopefully) satisfy all or most of your power kitchen appliance needs.

Fair warning: The mixer weighs in at around 25 pounds, so it'll probably be taking up space on your counter, even when you're not using it.

#14 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 02:25 PM:

Graydon writes:
Sucking the heat out is possible, but it's hideously, horribly inefficent and I don't think they can do large -- as in, 'big enough to see' stuff. ('laser cooling' is the term I recall.)

Laser cooling (which is what I do for a living when I'm not teaching) does a marvelous job of cooling things (we can get samples of gas down to temperatures of a few millionths of a degree about absolute zero), but depends very strongly on the detailed structure of atoms. It's a wonderfully efficient process for cooling dilute samples of atoms, but cooling even a diatomic (from the Greek for "one atom too many") molecule is a fiendishly difficult problem.

That said, there was a paper a few years ago that used laser cooling principles to lower the temperature of a macroscopic chunk of semiconductor. By about a degree, which isn't worth much, but it did serve as a nice prof of principle...

The closest thing to what TNH is after would probably be something like a Peltier cooler. We use these to stabilize the temperature of diode lasers-- they're little ceramic gadgets that literally pump heat from one place to another. If you run a current through them, one end of the stack gets cold, while the other gets hot.

Of course, I think they're probably significantly less efficient at cooling large items than just packing things in ice.

#15 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 02:45 PM:

Bill Altreuer: The Kitchenaid mixer is too big to take out and put away? Since when? And convenient though I find our Kitchenaid for mixing bread dough, the way I make bread I wind up kneading the dough by hand for a while anyway, as part of working the salt into it. (You oughtn't put the salt in with the leavening and liquid ingredients, because this results in an environment that is saltily toxic to the yeast, at least until it gets diluted by adding sufficient flour. Work the salt in as a last step before rising, and the dough will rise faster and stronger.) In truth the Kitchenaid doesn't save enough time to make the difference in deciding to bake bread. In a two-day cycle of refreshing the starter, re-refreshing that starter into sponge, and rising the final dough, the five minutes of mixing and kneading saved by using a power mixer is almost negligible.

I like the vacuum sauce reducer; but do bear in mind that the sucker would be a bitch to clean. (Pun not intended, but I wish it was.)

The sub-freezer is falling-off-a-log easy, if you keep a big dewar of liquid nitrogen around. The LN2 would be a good first cut on the reverse-microwave task, too.

#16 ::: India ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 04:17 PM:

Now, that's what I call Domestic Science.

Your request for a central power plant got me Googling, as I knew I'd recently seen an ad in Gourmet for something like this. I'm pretty sure what I saw touted was the Bosch built-in mixer, which sounds like the discontinued NuTone motor:

It's far stronger than my KitchenAid mixer, which is, in turn, stronger than I am (and gets bored with stirring much less quickly).

Sorry, no centrifuge.

#17 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 04:30 PM:

This discussion got me thinking about the mobile power tools we use in a kitchen, not just the stationary ones. I wonder how practical it would be to have tools (like a hand mixer) that attached to an outboard motor like a Foredom via a flexible drive shaft. (aside: Foredom's 1/4 hp motors are a heck of a lot better than Dremel's 1/5 hp ones).

#18 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 05:38 PM:

that produces zero or even subzero temperatures

Your regular freezer is set to -20degC. Do you know any biomed researchers? They could bring you a big bag of solid carbon dioxide whenever you needed faster cooling (if you move to Portland OR I will volunteer to do this). It should be possible to hack a food processor to make a low-speed centrifuge, otherwise a benchtop Beckman GS-6 or similar is probably what you want, and will only set you back a few thousand dollars (it has a big footprint though, so you'll need a monster kitchen). I think a Peltier block the size of the ones in PCR machines (3x2x1 or so, in inches) could easily provide the cooling needed for most meal-sized samples, and those things ramp at about a degree per second. I have often wondered about turning lab equipment into kitchen gear.

#19 ::: Chuck Kallenbach ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 07:30 PM:

Your central power plant request reminds me of my visit to Edison's Lab in Florida (Fort Myers? I think).

He had a large motor at one end of the lab and a long shaft with a bunch of belts hanging off all along the long length of the place, so he could get some power to do whatever the heck he wanted wherever he wanted.

Pretty cool. Could be kitchen of the future. Don't give up on that idea.

#20 ::: Julsy ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 07:46 PM:

Some of those things are available already in commercial food service. There's a device called a rapid chill that can cool several gallons of liquid to a partially frozen block in 45 minutes. Most large restaurants and hotels with fine dining facilities have them. They cost less than the scientific equipment, but more than a home refridgerator.

As for the sauce /custard stirrer, -got those, too. You drop them into hot or cold liquid and fire up a motor. It'll whip, stir or frappe. Commercial cookery uses one the size of an outboard boat motor. Costs about a grand. Braun makes a smaller, hand held model. The stainless steel version for professional use runs about $150, the plastic home version is about $20. You need to fork out the additional $10 for the clip that hooks it to the side of your pot.

Alternatively, may I suggest a domestic slave might be just the thing?

#21 ::: lightnng ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 09:29 PM:

Your kitchen sounds like an exciting place. I just want more counter space and a real pantry. A vent hood with a motor that doesn't whine would be nice too.

As to cooling things -- there are "chillers" available that will cool a bottle of wine from room temperature to nice & cool in three minutes. Basically, it's a water bath held at just above freezing, with a motor to create a whirlpool. Shouldn't be too hard to put together a chilled water bath, if you have the room.

For cooler temperatures, you want to invest in a dewar for liquid nitrogen. Just the thing for ice cream.

#22 ::: vfc ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 09:32 PM:


Once I shared a flat w/ a microbiologist and we were planning to make jam. I would have been satified to merely boil the jam jars, but he insisted on taking them to his lab to put them in the autoclave.

Later in the process he also made disparaging remarks on my "sterile technique".

#23 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 09:55 PM:

The arrangement of an overhead shaft, with multiple belt-driven devices powered from it, was very common in the days before electricity -- it wasn't a question of expense, it was size and torque; a big stationary steam engine is far more powerful and efficient than a bunch of little ones. The system itself antedates steam power, having been used with watermills; a few of these still exist. There was generally a main clutch for the primary shaft, used to shut down the whole shop at the end of the day, with each tool having its own belt-tension system.

As for the vacuum chamber, you're probably looking at a tabletop dessicator and a hand-squeezed pump. Time to take down the Lab Safety catalog again.

#24 ::: Saddam Hussein ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:17 PM:

I think we have some of this stuff in a trailer, someplace around here. You want I should look into it?

It'll be a drab khaki paintjob, so it might not fit into your kitchen decor very well. There may be some bullet damage and DU dust, so it'd be an as-is sale. You might also want to give it all a good scrubbing with some bleach.

I'd trade for a signed 2004 Rowena calendar and a deck of those most-wanted Iraqi cards, so keep your eyes open.



#25 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:24 PM:

"A mixer stronger than I am"

Sounds like the mixer they had at the Dunkin' Donuts I worked at as a teen. About as tall as I was, looked like a cross between a mixer and a drill press. The mixer paddle thingies were about the size of a tennis racket, IIRC.

Chad Orzel mentions Peltier coolers. Recently saw a website describing a project to build a portable, Peltier-based beer glass cooler. It worked, and it was able to get the temp down to 7 degrees (probably C).

#26 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 11:24 PM:

Sometimes it helps to have (had) the right job. A friend into serious and wide-ranging cooking (buys flour in 50# (100#?) bags, IIRC first recipient of a Laurel (SCA ]cultural knighthood[) for cooking) was asked what she wanted on retiring from an administrative job at an animal lab; she got "Hobart", a mixer suitable for tens of pounds of animal chow. For healthy adult males it might not make much difference; for someone weakened by belatedly-supervised diabetes it's been a huge success. It's a bit big for most people but fits well in her post-Victorian "foursquare"'s kitchen (which is almost the size of the dining room, not counting walk-through buttery and walk-in pantry).

#27 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 01:31 AM:

Every now and again I think wistfully of the blender they had in the church hall kitchen at the large Anglican church I went to as a kid.

It was mostly cast iron, had a DC motor (and associated transformer; that was the newest part. from somewhere around 1930) and took 1, 2, and 5 gallon jars. You put the jar on, swung a large steel bail-thingy around to hold the jar, swung the whole thing round to the other, jar-down vertical, and hit on.

I continue to cherish a doubtless deluded childhood belief that, if you packed a five gallon jar with running shoes and turned the thing on, you'd get at least three gallons of liquid running shoe back.

#28 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 02:52 AM:

For separating solutions: From my Berkeley organic chemistry class I vaguely remember "separatory funnels"... Long funnels that can be stoppered at the top, and which have twist-knob closures at the bottom. You pour something in, stopper the top, shake it up to fully separate the organic and... um... polar? layers, and then you can easily bleed the bottom polar layer off through the funnel spout into a different receptacle from the top organic layer. I remember these things seemed, to a clumsy college student, exceedingly expensive.

I guess a sep funnel would only be useful for stocks and such; not with all the fun uses of a centrifuge. But then again, they take up much less space, and they're far more beautiful.

[BTW, vfc, many thanks for the autoclave roommate story... :) ]

#29 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 07:54 AM:

As you may know, I worked for a bit at a fish-packing plant. There they routinely froze stuff at -40 degrees. If you can't get your own freezer, maybe there's a cold storage facility that would rent you some space?
Meanwhile, it sounds like you need to make a trip to the used-restaurant-equipment stores on Bowery south of Houston. God knows what they've got at any given time...

#30 ::: simbelmyne ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 09:18 AM:

Speaking of lab equipment in the kitchen, this is kitchen equipment in the lab. I got this from an O-Chem professor that I had one year. He made some of it in a lecture one day it may have been the best ice cream I ever had.

liquid nitrogen ice cream

1 carton of egg substitute (1/2 pint or 1 cup) or (3-4 eggs)
1 qt. heavy whipping cream
1 qt. half and half
1 c granulated sugar
several tablespoons of vanilla extract (or other flavoring as desired) (If you want to color the ice cream, add food coloring as desired)

additional items can be added to obtain "flavored" ice creams:
crushed Oreo cookies (1/2 pound or your own desired amount) or strawberry preserves or real strawberries (1 lb) or peach preserves or real peaches (1 lb) or instant coffee (to taste) or
crushed Heath bar, or most other candies (as desired) or use your imagination !!!!

Add the eggs to a large metal bowl (beat the eggs if not using an eggs substitute). add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is uniform. Add liquid nitrogen in approximately 1/2 liter quantities, stirring with a WOODEN spoon during and after each addition. When the stirred mixture looks like ice cream - EAT IT !!!!

Adding the cookies or fruit near the end of the mixing will yield flavored ice cream without having frozen cookies or fruit in the ice cream.

A metal bowl is used - most other materials will crack at liquid nitrogen temperatures. A wooden spoon is used to prevent personal damage from holding a very cold metal or brittle plastic spoon.

#31 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 10:00 AM:

Madeline mentioned sep funnels above - we still use those in the lab. They've been just the thing for a hundred years, and (despite some attempts) show no sign of being superseded.

I thought about mentioning them in my first comment, but there are a couple of problems with kitchen use. For one thing, they don't work well with anything heterogeneous - everything has to be able to flow out the stopcock at the bottom. This would especially be true for the kitchen, when you'd be mostly taking out a smaller volume of grease, which would of course be the top layer. Stocks would work, but stews would be disastrous.

They also work best when the layers are reasonably clear. We sometimes have to get out flashlights to figure out where our dividing lines are in the lab, when we're extracting especially ugly reaction mixtures. Among those are the ones that form saucy emulsions, which in our case is the last thing we want.

Actually, the kitchen equivalent to the sep funnel is one of those gravy boat or measuring-cup devices that drain from the bottom layer. That probably is as close as you can get, and as much as you need. In chemistry, though, we sometimes need one layer, sometimes the other, and they're often of roughly equal volume.

#32 ::: Holly M. ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 10:10 AM:

I think I'm just going to copy off this entire discussion for use in a future short story of some kind.

Saddam, my father-in-law makes those Hussein-portrait playing cards you mentioned. I think we've got a couple decks around.

Graydon, what does one DO with liquified running shoes?

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 10:58 AM:

"Graydon, what does one DO with liquified running shoes?"

Why, you run downhill.

#34 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 11:13 AM:

Patrick: Boo, hiss . . .

Symbelmine: If you think you could bring some LN2 to a picnic, then one could have the ultimate in cryogenic liquid Fourth of July parties, starting off with barbecue cookeed over a charcoal file lit using LOX (a la George Gobel at Purdue) finished off with liquid nitrogen ice cream. I wonder what you could use liquid helium for?

#35 ::: Jean ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 11:14 AM:

I couldn't read this discussion without thinking of Heath-Robinson. Google won't give me a picture of his pancake machine, but there might be one coming to this website: - and in the meanwhile, it offers some other essential devices.

#36 ::: lightnng ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 12:22 PM:

"Graydon, what does one DO with liquified running shoes?"

Look in old cookbooks under "sneaker juice".

#37 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 12:31 PM:

Holly --
Patrick's answer is much better than what I would have come up with, which is along the lines of 'gaze at in admiration'; I considered running shoes harder to liquify than gumboots, and rocks unfortunately unfair, at least a test of kitchen equipment.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 01:52 PM:

So many things here I'll have to come back to; but Lightning, I can tell you what I've used as my pantry through many years and moves. It's tall thin Ikea storage unit with both fixed and movable shelves. I think they envisioned it as bathroom storage.

It sits on a swivelling base like a lazy susan. There are no cabinet doors on it, but the back side has a full-length mirror mounted on it. With the shelves turned to the front, it's capacious; with the mirror turned to the front, it's presentable. The exact model we have isn't around, but this is its nearest equivalent: voila, instant pantry closet.

Sorry I can't help with the counter space.

#39 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 02:36 PM:

Re: autoclaves, just use a pressure cooker. It's the same thing (superheated steam), and in fact plenty of labs just use pressure cookers over bunsen burners if they don't have the money (or steam plant) for full size autoclaves.

I am so making that liquid nitrogen icecream sometime soon. Thanks, simbelmyne.

Patrick: *applause*

#40 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 10:45 PM:

What I want for my kitchen is simple square feet -- at least 100 more -- added on.

Michael Bernstien mentions the Foredom machines -- agree totally. I've got a 20 year old Foredom motor that just wore out its third flexible shaft. With Dremel, you never have to replace the shaft, because the motor dies first. Still have the same handpiece, though it sounds like a bearing is wearing out -- at 15,000 rpm, I don't know how many million times that bearing has spun, but I can't argue with it's lifespan.

Mike Ford notes the old "Master Power Shaft" system of yore, built when motors were very large and very unmoveable. You can add to that this: They had very different power profiles. Modern electic motors will spin at anywhere from 60 rpm (and much slower, with gearheads) to 15,000 rpm, with some torque. The old factory engines would spin around 30 rpm -- but with a 2 ton, 18' diameter flywheel, they had incredible amounts of torque -- stopping them with load was almost unheard of -- they'd shred belts before you stopped the main wheel. You can build electric motors with that kind of pull, but they're hard to keep cool, and expensive as hell, and are typically 440V three phase motors you can't use at home easily. Well, the 18' steam engine isn't really useful either.

Stick with the Foredom, though. They're great.

#41 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 01:34 AM:

There are some Master Power Shaft systems still extant in Lowell, some of them on display and working in the museums up there.... there's the National Historic Park, there's a state historic park, there's the American Museum of Textile History (which has an actual water wheel running, gazillions of spinning wheels, a spinning Jenny or two, and some very -large- old fabric making machines... went there last summer with someone who audibly gasped at one of the displays, which was of the something over two century old dress of a woman with about a 16" waist on a mannequin).

I don't remember which of the places up there have master power shafts, but I'm pretty sure there are some to be seen.


I've wanted a vacuum chamber for a long time, but never have done anything about getting one. I worked with one when I was a high school student, working summers in the lab at then-Solar Chemical Corporation doing lab technician quality control checks on styrene monomer and polystrene. I got to use magnetic stirrers (fun with samples being dissolved in hot chloroform....), work with fun stuff like toluene (ugh) and menthanol, fill up bags with dry ice for cooling stuff down, and I've forgotten what else.

I -avoided- chemisty in college.

#42 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 03:30 PM:

On the sauce stirrer -- my mother used to have one, designed for domestic use, bought in Belgium. It came in three parts. The bottom part was a small stand-alone hot-plate that had a hole in the middle; coming up though that hole was a drive shaft that stood about 10 cm proud. The next part was a rather unusual saucepan easily visualised by Ringworld readers. Imagine a cross section of the ringworld going from rim wall to rim wall straight through Fist-of-God. Exaggerate the vertical so that the rim walls/fist of god are about half as high as the whole thing is wide. That's the cross section of the saucepan. When you put it on the hotplate, the drive shaft comes up through fist of god. Then you attach the third part, a double paddle that clicks onto the top of the drive shaft and has arms that come down to scrape the saucepan bottom at a nicely considered angle. The drive speed was variable. It was a lovely thing -- you could start a sauce off in the ringworld pan on the stove proper, and then when it got to the boring bit put it on its own little hotplate and have it stir away merrily while you got on with something else.
No idea who made it -- I'll see if one of my sibs inherited it and can tell me.

#43 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 05:20 PM:

I understand the need for the ultra-cold freezer compartment: back nearly fifteen years ago, "Scientific American" ran a very informative and funny article on "Kitchen Science", which included the recipe for making eggs mayonnaise for one and the joys of using liquid nitrogen for making ice cream for 200 in five minutes or less. One of the recipes is for Frozen Florida, the exact opposite of a Baked Alaska: the dessert is composed of a frozen meringue that contains a pocket of hot liqueor. To make it, you need that sub-zero freezer to freeze the meringue, and then you put the liqueor in the center. When you're ready to serve, run it in the microwave for about two minutes, and the liqueor will be heated while the meringue stays frozen. Cut and serve. Ain't science fun?

#44 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 07:29 PM:

Paul Riddell writes:
"I understand the need for the ultra-cold freezer compartment: back nearly fifteen years ago, "Scientific American" ran a very informative and funny article on "Kitchen Science", which included the recipe for making eggs mayonnaise for one and the joys of using liquid nitrogen for making ice cream for 200 in five minutes or less."

That recipe got me started making LN2 ice cream at cons and other fannish gatherings.

Simbelmyne gave a nice recipe above, but didn't mention the showmanship of it. It really takes two people, wearing safety goggles and insulating gloves, to prepare a large batch. One pours the nitrogen, one stirs like a madman. Both disappear in a fog just as the demonstration is getting interesting. The audience is rapt.

When the mist clears-- ice cream for everyone! It has proved a popular amusement. I know one guy who has acquired his own dewar, just for making ice cream. Maybe I should get one myself.

Oh,speaking of cryogenics, if you need dry ice and there's no biomedical researcher handy, many (but by no means all) outposts of Baskin-Robbins will sell you a few pounds for a few bucks. Handy when you want to make "raisins carbonique" for a party.

#45 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 07:36 PM:

On the subject of line shafts, there's a wonderful (and possibly true) anecdote in the biography "John M. Browning, American Gunmaker". It's a bit long to include inline, but I've put it up here.


#46 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2003, 07:24 AM:

Hearing of the frozen florida reminds me of another useful kitchen implement -- the hypodermic syringe. I haven't experimented much, but after hearing some of the tricks they are used for at El Bulli I did try injecting small amounts of Campari into strawberries, and can recommend the effect wholeheartedly.

More on El Bulli,7451,819331,00.html

#47 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2003, 04:08 AM:

Optionally, I’d like an adjustable powered sauce and custard stirring device, with heat-resistant scraper blades, that I could attach to a saucepan for those “stir constantly at low heat for half of forever” recipes.

When I have to make one of those recipes, what I do is stand there with a book, usually: since I moved into my current home, where the kitchen is a kitchenette off the living-room, I also watch TV.

I fantasise about having a really large kitchen, and if I did, the other gadgets sound good... but the food processor my parents gave me for my birthday is still sitting in its box, nearly six months on, because I simply don't have room for it anywhere in my kitchen. I'd love it if I did, because the attachments include a juicer, and I love freshly-squeezed fruit juice, but I really don't.

What I do want is a nice small hand-powered coffee grinder, if I could find one. Am still trying to decide about a slow cooker.

#48 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2003, 11:16 AM:

Well, I'm late, but I've been too busy squiring a 15 year old around NYC to see blogs. I adore my Kitchen Aid mixer with an unseemly passion. They'll get it away when they pry it out of my cold dead hands. I've got a big enough kitchen I just leave it out. (Alan B.: Not everyone is as big and strong as you!) In the Cake Bible Rose Beranbaum has a method of reducing fruit purees which doesn't involve cooking them. I can't remember what it is right now and I'm in Tulsa, but I'll be home where the book is tomorrow.


#49 ::: terry.karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 11:47 AM:

For dry ice most party supply stores carry, or will order it.

As for the power plant, an electric motor is much better than a compressed air motor. They are quieter (both the motor, and the attachments) and need less maintainence. Draining compressors is tedious work.

I am happy with the Kitchen-aid. I wouldn't mind a really cold freezer and have learned to read at the stove when reducing pecks of tomatoes to bottles of sauce.

T Karney

#50 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 01:28 AM:

If you wanted to add a Peltier cooler to your kitchen, you might want to check out this guy in Norway who built one to cool his beer (of course, he hedged his bets by drinking Guiness).

The bigger problem, of course, is that simply by adding the vacuum chamber and centrifuge, your kitchen officially becomes a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the eyes of GWB & Co.

#51 ::: Eloise (Beltz-Decker) Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2003, 02:41 PM:

While I admire Oliver Morton's description of his autostirrer, wouldn't it be simpler to say the saucepan was 'like a bundt pan with a handle'? Of course, his is much prettier and more fun to read. :->

#52 ::: Paul LoRocco ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 11:33 AM:

On June 04, 2003 10:05 Teresa Nielsen Hayden posted: "Optionally, I’d like an adjustable powered sauce and custard stirring device, with heat-resistant scraper blades, that I could attach to a saucepan for those “stir constantly at low heat for half of forever” recipes."

Your wish has been answered... StirChef, The Hands Free Saucepan Stirrer was designed for continuous or occasional stovetop stirring. Visit for more information!

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:37 PM:

Thanks, I'll go have a look ...

By gad! That's exactly what I'd envisioned. No prices given, but I'll find out. Thanks again!

#54 ::: Paul LoRocco ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2003, 11:12 AM:

Teresa, StirChef Retails for $29.95 and includes the batteries, a silicon splashguard (to keep the bottom clean) and has a continuous and intermittent setting (for when a recipe calls for only occasional stirring)

#55 ::: Geetha ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 07:27 AM:

I got a Softel icecream-maker to make icecream at home.Too much trouble and messy and not very efficient.Now it sits in a cupboard.Whatever happened to the old churners they used to sell?Some manufacturer can get into the act and make really good electric and manual models.Please take this one off my hands.I'll be willing to exchange ths one for one that works.I don't even mind churning by hand.

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 08:09 AM:

Oh yeah, those things. Not an improvement on the hand-cranked bucket model, in my opinion.

#57 ::: Nao Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 01:52 PM:

Geetha, you can still get hand-crank machines, from White Mountain.

No affiliation, just a happy customer. (Ginger ice cream! Blueberry peach, sour cream vanilla, lemon sorbet. *happy sigh*)

There may be other brands, too. A search at finds a few others, though White Mountain appears to be predominant.

#58 ::: AFX ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 07:50 PM:

ok im a little late....
get a freeze dryer. preferably broken. then fix it. youll have a vacuum chamber (many cubic feet) a sub zero freezing unit (-80c maybe) it has a condenser to do the reverse distilling. (i was crazy for a distiller but yeah i realized yesterday it is one ;)
centrifuges well i have one and you know what WTF could i ever use it for hehe.
stirring is bad. hehe get a paint can shaker haha

hey whats so hard about mounting a compressor under the sink and using the tools to um imitate whatever, hehe attach a mixer part to a drill and wowwweeee your in for a good well mixed mess hehe

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