Akron Beacon Journal Home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge, consumer writer Betty Lin-Fisher and food writer Lisa Abraham tested out some of the newest and most heavily promoted products on the market to save you time, trouble, and, in some cases, money.
I can't recall the last time we had so many requests to test a product as we did with the Eggies.
These gadgets, supposed to solve the age-old problem of shells that stick on hard-cooked eggs, seem to have captured everyone's attention.
The box, which cost $9.99, included enough Eggies to cook six eggs at a time. Each one has three parts: a top, a lid and a ring that secures the other two pieces together. None of us liked that there were a lot of pieces and parts to keep track of.
Basically, you crack an egg into half of the plastic Eggie, put on its top and screw the band around them, then put them in a pot of water to boil the way you would eggs in their shells.
The Eggies have to be greased first before use. The first problem we had with these was cracking eggs into such a small cavity, which resulted in the spilling of more than a little egg white on the countertop. The eggs cooked perfectly when we followed the package directions, but we found on more than one instance that they actually stuck to the inside of the Eggie -- no different than when peeling a shell off an egg.
Betty didn't like that the eggs came out with a flat bottom. Because of their unique shape, making deviled eggs out of one would require a whole egg, unlike traditional deviled eggs for which one hard-cooked egg results in two deviled egg halves.
I felt the Eggies were a lot of rigmarole to go through, just to keep from peeling an egg that may or may not stick.
"Even if you had to peel a fresh egg, it's not ultimately a lot more work than these," Mary Beth observed.
In the end, none of us felt this product was worth the effort.
For the record, for an easier time peeling hard-cooked eggs, start with older eggs that have been in your refrigerator for a while. As eggs age, the membrane between the shell and the white begins to deteriorate, making peeling easier.
Verdicts: We all say skip it.
Babycakes Donut Maker
This small baker, which resembles a waffle iron, claims to "bake donuts instead of frying them."
"The result is a lighter, healthier cake-style donut that is both delicious and satisfying," the product claims.
We prepared a batch of buttermilk miniature doughnuts from a recipe in the included product book. The batter was very similar to that of a pancake.
The machine itself worked well. The doughnuts baked up fine and they were perfectly browned, although we all agreed it could use a timer, light or some other type of device to indicate when the doughnuts were done.
After we ate the finished product, a debate ensued about whether we had actually made doughnuts or doughnut-shaped pancakes.
Mary Beth felt that they didn't taste like doughnuts or even cake doughnuts because they aren't fried the way a doughnut normally would be. She was disappointed with the finished product.
"It looks like doughnuts, but it doesn't taste like doughnuts," Betty noted. She thought the maker was nothing she would buy, but acknowledged that it did work well.
I felt the finished product didn't taste bad, although admittedly it tasted more like a muffin or pancake than a doughnut, and the baker worked really well.
This machine is a novelty item, one that kids will love, but that likely will be on the garage sale table in a year or so after the initial fun of making mini-doughnuts wears off.
With a price tag of $19.99, I can see a lot of folks giving in to children's pleas for the machine, and it does perform. Whether it's worth it is up to the buyer to decide.
Verdicts: Betty and Lisa say it depends, while Mary Beth suggests skipping it.
I have lost track of how many box slicer/choppers we have tested in this series.
In the end, I always come back to the same verdict: Why spend $20 to buy something that the knife you probably own already will do for free?
The Slice-O-Matic claims to "slice entire fruits and vegetables effortlessly, in seconds!"
And sometimes it did, until we tried to fit in a large potato that had to be trimmed to fit into the Slice-O-Matic's chute. Anytime I have to get a knife out to use a product that is supposed to replace a knife, I lose interest pretty quickly.
This slicer cost $19.99, and Mary Beth observed that it did seem sturdier than others we have tried, and noted it probably would appeal to folks out there who love their gadgets.
Betty was impressed with the julienne blade, which cut uniform matchstick vegetables.
However, changing its blades and switching the thickness settings required a good bit of figuring out. It performed best when cutting thicker slices than thinner ones. It's also not dishwasher safe.
I was dismayed with the box, which showed beautiful uniform slices of bell pepper, yet even the smallest bell pepper we had would not fit into the feeder tube. It seemed like false advertising to me.
Verdicts: Betty and Mary Beth say it depends, while Lisa says skip it.
This machine promises to turn frozen, over-ripe bananas into a soft-serve treat, and it does just that.
"Dessert anytime, that's just Yonanas," is its slogan.
We expected that every dish would taste like bananas, but it had only a faint banana flavor and tasted more like vanilla. We tested it with both strawberries and bananas, and as the box explains, bananas do make for a creamier consistency.
Using both together does require a good bit of stirring to combine the flavors. The strawberries on their own were more icy, more like a sorbet than soft-serve. As we debated the product, we managed to eat all of the Yonanas we had made. It is cool and creamy and enjoyable to eat.Mary Beth didn't like that the Yonanas did not "look and taste" exactly like soft serve as the box claims.
I felt that while it did not have the exact creamy consistency of soft serve, it was soft and creamy and a good fat-free substitute, especially for those watching their weight.
My concern was with the price. Even for a soft-serve lover like me, $49.99 seemed like a lot to spend on something I don't think I would use that often. Plus, I'm not sure I would always remember to have over-ripe bananas on hand to use it.
The machine also is very loud when it operates.
Betty felt that the machine did make good use of bananas that might otherwise get thrown out, and using frozen fruit was a healthy option, particularly for children.
Verdicts: We all say it depends.
This product, which claims it "automatically stirs as you cook!," has been around for several years, and yet we continue to get requests from readers to test it.
We paid $9.99 for it at a major retailer. The product is small, battery-operated, and easy to use.
Our concerns came with how it performed. The product package states that it was "designed to stir every inch!" and "the silicone feet and orbital turning action ensures no spot is unstirred."
But this is where it fell short.
The RoboStir seemed to only orbit around part of the pot, when we tested it out with tomato sauce. We thought perhaps that our burner wasn't level, causing the problem. However, when Mary Beth took it home to try it on her smooth cooktop (which she checked with a level before starting to be sure) the results were the same.
It also splashes a good bit when turned on its higher speeds.
Betty didn't like the way the handle got pretty messy with sauce splashes, and I was troubled by the warning to not leave it unattended. To me, the whole point of this product would be to not have to stand there constantly and stir a pot on the stove. If I can't leave it unattended, I might as well save my money and stand there and stir the pot myself.
In the end, none of us were impressed.
Verdicts: We all say skip it.