From Season 12: Time to Grill
Update: April 2012
The iSi Twist and Sparkle has been recalled by the manufacturer. There were eight reported instances of the bottles cracking under heavy use. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled products and either contact iSi or the place of purchase for instructions on returning the product for a refund or store credit. For additional information, contact iSi at (800) 645-3595 anytime or visit the firm's website at twistnsparkle.com
Home seltzer makers that transform still water into sparkling not only are fun but also promise clear advantages: no more heavy bottles to lug home from the store or clutter up the landfill. The iSi Twist ’n Sparkle seltzer maker, with its contained carbonation system, is a compact, less counter-hogging version of popular carbonators and was named a Best Buy in our recent testing of seltzer makers. It uses a twist-top design to release CO2 bubbles into a carafe holding 4 cups of water, juice, or any other nondairy beverage. It runs on single-use chargers costing $24 for twenty 4-cup units, or 30 cents per cup, but cheaper and equally effective generic chargers produce seltzer costing only 13 cents per cup. As for the drinking, the Twist ’n Sparkle churned out small bubbles that dispersed evenly in plain tap water and held their carbonation overnight. Costing just under $50, the Twist ’n Sparkle is a fun way to put some CO2 in your H2O.
Is it worth nearly $50 to have faster homemade ice pops? We think so! When we poured a homemade fruit blend into the Zoku Quick Pop Maker’s three 2-ounce slots, in just seven minutes the mixture was rock solid—our cue to insert the special key in each pop handle to release the treats. We could repeat the process for two more rounds of pops (nine pops in total) before the unit needed to be refrozen; pops took six to 10 extra minutes to freeze after the first round. While we love the quick gratification this nifty gadget provides, it doesn't entirely eliminate the need for planning ahead: The console, which contains a proprietary liquid that gets colder than ice, must be placed in the freezer 24 hours before use.
The Prepara Pop Savor ($19.99) takes the design of a traditional “salt pig”—a small, hooded ceramic vessel that cooks use to grab salt for seasoning—and fashions the cover from soft silicone to make a closeable lid that keeps out dirt and moisture. To test its usefulness, we filled the cavity with salt, sugar, and ice cream sprinkles and left the container next to the stove while frying a pound of bacon. As promised, the durable “pop” top easily flipped open and kept its contents shielded from splattered grease. The attached ½-teaspoon measuring spoon was accurate, though superfluous for those of us who prefer to grab a pinch with our fingers. Our only gripe? The 3½-inch opening was a little cramped for a few testers with large hands.
Finally, the Japanese-made Piggy Steamer, a 7-inch circle of thin silicone with a thicker, raised center shaped like the face of a pig, turns out to be not only whimsical but also functional. The word “pig” is pronounced almost the same as “lid” in Japanese, and this floppy tool makes the perfect cover for a bowl or plate in the microwave. It’s unbreakable and stays cool, with protruding ears that function as convenient handles. (The nostrils also vent steam—and are used in Japan for lifting the lid with chopsticks.) In Japan, the lid is typically placed directly on food. For microwave reheating, we rested it directly on rice on a plate and on the edge of bowls containing soup and tomato sauce. The rice became steamy without drying out; the soup and tomato sauce emerged piping hot, but the lid kept the microwave splatter-free. We love this funny, floppy lid, which easily washes clean and is also effective for twisting open jar lids.
This roundup features our favorite summertime gadgets that we like having in the kitchen.Watch the Video
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.