The latest and greatest gadgets are being unveiled tomorrow at the International Housewares Show in Chicago. “Today” tech editor Corey Greenberg previews some of the hottest new gadgets for cooking, cleaning, and everything in between.
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Trends in housewares gadgets for 2004
Pro-level food prep gadgets are all the rage at this year's Housewares Show, mainly due to the incredible popularity of the Food Network and its all-star lineup of celebrity chefs whose shows have raised the bar for amateur foodies when it comes to home-cooked meals that look like they came out of a high-end restaurant's kitchen. All the secret tools of the trade that pro chefs have relied upon for years to do things that you and me could never pull off in a million years with a can of Campbell's mushroom soup and a soupcon of Miracle Whip are now hitting the market in consumer-friendly versions that are safe enough to use without spending a year in training at the Culinary Institute.
The biggest hit of the show
Oxo's new $70 Mandoline can do everything that professional grade $300 Mandolines can do, except the Oxo is much safer and easier to use for a novice chef. Its easy to read, calibrated dial settings let you make precision slices and cuts from the get-go, without slashing up a bushel full of produce before you finally get the hang of it as you would with other mandolines. To be honest, mandolines have always scared me, and the reason they look so dangerous and complicated is because they ARE so dangerous and complicated, and I like my fingertips to stay on the ends of my fingers thank you very much. But with the Oxo, I was doing complex and gorgeous slices of potatoes, cukes, carrots, you name it -- the veggies looked perfectly uniform and they could've come out of the kitchen at Jean-Georges, except they came from my own hands less than a minute after I first tried the Oxo. This is the one kitchen gadget that cooks at home have been waiting for, and I predict it will be the next big must-have gadget for foodies everywhere. $70 oxo.com
Add-on gadgets for kitchen appliances you already own
KitchenAid's famous stand mixer has always had an array of add-on fittings you can attach to the "spout" to turn the KitchenAid into a sausage-maker, a can-opener, and other tools. This year, KitchenAid is introducing add-ons for its stand mixer that turn it into an ice cream maker and a ravioli machine (you probably want to use them separately, unless you're into serious "fusion"). You plug these gadgets into the front of the stand mixer, and suddenly you're making professional-grade ravioli and custom ice cream of whatever flavor you desire. Making pasta with one of these mixers is one thing, but when hand-made ravioli becomes just as easy to make, that's when Emeril better start looking over his shoulder. kitchenaid.com
Any news in the world of coffee?
Any news in the world of coffee? A: One of the big stories at this year's Housewares Show is the new trend of single-cup, pod-based coffee makers that aim to deliver much higher quality coffee and espresso, and at a much lower price, than what you've probably got in your kitchen right now. I tested Philips's new Senseo coffee maker and it's shockingly good -- far, far better than any sub-$200 coffee maker I've tested to date in terms of flavor, aroma, and "crema" (the golden foam on top of a well-pulled espresso).
The system uses the same principles as a European style espresso press, so the coffee is much more flavorful and aromatic than from the traditional drip-type coffee maker. The Philips machine is perfect for singles because it's designed to make one cup of coffee at a time, in about a minute. Best news of all -- the price is right at $69 for the Senseo and 22 cents for the high-quality European coffee pods. senseo.com
Space-saving kitchen products
Last year LG put a big smile on my face with the world's first combination microwave oven and 2-slot toaster. No bigger than a regular microwave, it's become a part of the family in my own kitchen. This year LG is coming out with two new space-saving combos -- a full-size refrigerator with built-in LCD flat panel kitchen TV, and a new microwave that has a built-in coffee maker! The fridge makes perfect sense if you want to watch TV in the kitchen without wasting precious counter space, and the microwave seems the perfect solution for everyone living in a NY apartment. The fridge isn't the first to include a built-in TV, but whereas last year's model cost over $8000, this new LG is under $3000. us.lge.com
Products that clean up the mess you made
This year's show marks the first-ever hardware gadget from Tide, the laundry detergent brand. Working with Black&Decker, Tide has developed the Tide Buzz, a $49 ultrasonic stain remover that brings the same high-tech stain removal technique used by dry cleaners to the home user.
With a combination of ultrasonic energy and special Tide cleaning fluid, the Tide Buzz system actually erases tough stains from fabric before you add them to your washing machine. Grease, motor oil, coffee, wine, tea, lipstick, blood -- all the ingredients of a typical Greenberg family barbeque and yet Tide Buzz can remove them all without an expensive trip to the dry cleaner. $49 tide.com
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