The Does It Work? testers are in the kitchen today.
The two of us — consumer reporter Betty Lin-Fisher and home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge — tried out a few kitchen gadgets, along with some cleaning towels and a fairly expensive beer-dispensing system that might be on some beer lovers’ Christmas lists.
Here’s what we thought.
This battery-operated can opener works a little differently than conventional openers, which is probably why it took us a couple of tries to get it right.
The opener cuts around the outside of a can, just below the top, instead of cutting into the top of the can. It penetrates the can’s seal rather than cutting the metal, so no sharp edges are left.
You just set the TouCan on top of a can, press the button and let it rotate around the top. Seating the TouCan on a can was easy, but we discovered it sometimes needed a couple of rotations to do its job.
It’s a little slower than other electric can openers. But since it’s doing the work for you, it’s hard to complain about that.
The opener is small enough to fit in a drawer, and unlike most electric can openers, it doesn’t have to sit on a countertop or be attached to anything.
The TouCan has a built-in bottle opener that can also be used to loosen jar lids. It worked fine for both those purposes, but no better than a regular bottle opener.
“I would not take this out of the drawer to open a bottle,” Mary Beth said.
We both like the TouCan and thought it would be particularly helpful for someone with arthritis. Betty, however, thought it was a bit pricey at $19.99.
Betty: It Depends
Mary Beth: Snap It Up
The Fizzics is a battery-operated beer tap that’s supposed to produce the kind of creamy head you’d get on a draft beer at a high-end craft beer bar.
Since neither of us is a beer connoisseur, we pressed the Beacon Journal’s beer writer, Rick Armon, into service as a guest tester. He agreed, probably because the assignment involved drinking beer on company time.
(Just a few sips. Honest.)
The Fizzics has the size and shape of a coffee maker. It has an insulated chamber to hold a can, bottle or growler of beer, and a tube to take the beer from the container to the tap.
Pouring a beer is a two-step process. You fill the beer glass two-thirds full, and then you push the handle in the opposite direction to produce the head. Sound waves are used in this second phase of the pouring process to create the smaller bubbles that produce thick foam.
Rick thought the head was mainly aesthetic and just wanted to get through it so he could taste the beer, while Mary Beth liked the creaminess of the foam on the stout she tried. But even she questioned whether that was worth the $169.99 we paid for the Fizzics.
We had some other concerns. For one thing, you’re supposed to clean the tubing just by running warm water through it, and we weren’t convinced that was adequate.
For another, you have to clean the tube each time you want to switch to another type of beer. That would be tedious if you wanted to taste more than one kind in a sitting. And as Betty pointed out, the Fizzics wouldn’t work well at a party or even a small gathering, unless you’re serving just one type of beer.
A beer devotee who loves gadgets might take to the Fizzics, but beer aficionado Rick pronounced it “really silly.”
Betty: It Depends.
Mary Beth: It Depends.
Rick Armon: Skip It.
Micro Magic towels are microfiber cleaning towels that can be used for cleaning, absorbing liquid or polishing.
The 15-by-12-inch cloths are thicker than the microfiber dusting cloths you might be familiar with. In fact, they’re a little stiff.
If you’ve used microfiber cloths, you know they’re lint-free. You also know you have to be careful about how you wash them — no bleach, fabric softener or dryer sheets.
Mary Beth thought the towels did a better job of absorbing liquid than regular towels and a good job at polishing surfaces, but she didn’t think they were any more effective at cleaning than other cloths. She wasn’t convinced they were far enough superior to regular rags to justify the $9.99 cost for a package of three.
Betty was even less enamored of them. She thought their thickness made them hard to use and slow to dry, and she worried they’d smell if she didn’t lay the wet towels flat so they’d dry faster.
Betty: Skip It.
Mary Beth: It Depends.
Rapid Ramen Cooker
When we chose this for testing, we expected it to be a waste of $9.99.
Why would you need a special container for cooking ramen when any old microwave-safe dish will do?
As it turned out, it was better designed than we anticipated.
The Rapid Ramen Cooker is just a plastic dish that’s slightly larger than a block of ramen noodles. Its size and shape maximize the exposure of noodles to water, so you can microwave the ramen with less liquid and use only half the salty seasoning packet to flavor it.
Of course, that also means there’s less broth. Betty likes her ramen soupy, so that was a drawback for her.
Following the directions, we microwaved a package of ramen noodles in the cooker for three minutes, using the cup or so of water it took to fill the container to the line. The ramen came out fairly well, if a little firm.
For comparison’s sake, we cooked a second package of ramen in a regular bowl with 2 cups of water, the amount called for on the ramen package. After three minutes, half the noodles were hard because they hadn’t been submerged in the water. We pushed them into the liquid and microwaved for three more minutes. The resulting noodle dish was more like soup, but the broth wasn’t as flavorful with a half-package of seasoning because it was more diluted.
Betty liked the environmental benefit of the reusable cooker, as opposed to using the kind of ramen that comes with a disposable bowl. For regular ramen eaters and those concerned about sodium intake, this might be worth buying.
Betty: It Depends.
Mary Beth: Snap It Up.
Talk about overstatement.
The Miracle Peeler isn’t a bad peeler, but it’s hardly miraculous. Not even close.
The $6.99 peeler looks a little like an oversized razor, or as Mary Beth put it, “an emergency room visit in the making.” It was fine for peeling small vegetables like potatoes and carrots, and we even liked that it peeled in both directions.
But it failed miserably at peeling a pineapple, something the promotional video on its website claims it can do. When we tried, we just ended up with pineapple shrapnel all over the countertop, a fruit that was barely skinned and two testers who were grateful to have their fingers intact.
The peeler has a julienne blade, but it doesn’t produce the matchstick-like pieces that are true julienned vegetables. It just makes skinny peels.
The peeler is also supposed to lock into a mandoline, a process that had us so befuddled that Betty broke the peeler in the process. Even though we couldn’t use it to make coleslaw, as we’d planned, we could see that the small slicing area would be difficult to use with big vegetables like cabbage.
We decided the Miracle Peeler should have stopped at being just a peeler. Adding so many functions only made it gimmicky and hard to use.
Betty: Skip It.
Mary Beth: Skip It.
Have you seen an advertised product and wondered if it really lives up to its claims? You can suggest items to be reviewed by Mary Beth Breckenridge and Betty Lin-Fisher by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or calling 330-996-3756 or 330-996-3724.