Microwaveable Bowls With Handles

I habitually ate while seated on a sofa or at a desk. I had difficulty with plates and ordinary bowls. They could be too hot to carry; they were liable to spill their contents; and they were tricky to set down safely on my lap or to find free space for on a desk. So I was happy when I picked up a large (20 oz.) stoneware bowl with a handle. (Two cups =16 ounces.) It could hold a large-size can of soup. It was comparatively compact—and its handle was cool after microwaving. To accommodate it, I avoided food that required a knife and fork.

Recently I acquired four brands of containers that have snap-on lids, which:

  • Protect my microwave from getting splattered. (The lids need only be laid atop the containers, not snapped tight.)
  • Keep the heat in, speeding up the heating process and reducing the power consumed.
  • Keep the food warm for longer after it’s been heated.
  • Allow me to store leftover portions—or portions yet to be eaten—in the fridge in an airtight container.
  • Prevent food from spilling while being carried. (Provided the lids are snapped tight.)
  • Permit me (in two of the brands) to steam-cook certain vegetables.

Other advantages are that the containers:

  • Don’t need potholders.
  • Are safe to use in microwaves and dishwashers.
  • Are less tiring to hold (three brands).
  • Weigh less (two brands).
  • Look better (one brand).
  • Are insulated (one brand).

Three of these bowls have 4.5 or better ratings on Amazon, based on at least 150 reviews—the other is 4-rated. Here’s a quick run-down, from the least to the most expensive. Each one has attributes that would make it the first choice for some potential buyer.

1. Microwave Bowl with Lid; Set of 4: $15 for four, or $3.75 each, including shipping. (above photo)

It’s plastic—and there’s no claim that it’s BPA-free. It is about half the cost of the next-cheapest alternative. What you get is basic: the mugs are very lightweight and the lids lack a vent-hole. Amazon reviewers have noted that over time the flimsy lids distort enough in the microwave that they no longer provide a watertight seal—so they can’t be used to transport soup from a home to the office.

The upside is that the extra three mugs can be used as airtight containers in the fridge to store portions from a previously prepared large batch of stew or homemade soup—which eliminates having to ladel each portion out subsequently, and enables one to warm up the container on a countertop for a few hours before heating, reducing the oven’s energy consumption. (In effect, you can use these mugs as Tupperware substitutes. If you like this feature, and you like to make a really large initial batch of stew, you should buy a second set.)

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2. Sistema 656 ml (20 oz.) Soup Mug: $7. All plastic—BPA-free.

Lightweight but not flimsy. Its three clamps are meant to ensure a watertight seal, presumably primarily to allow soup to be carried to the office for heating there. Unfortunately, a trickle of water escaped when I upended it and shook it vigorously. A thick soup or stew would not leak—or not much—even if sharply tilted and shaken during transport. A plastic bag would prevent any slight leak from spreading. It could be safely carried in a car inside a small cardboard box with a raspy-side Velcro patch on its bottom, keeping it anchored to the carpet. (And so could the other containers.)
A tight toggle switch in the lid opens the vent to allow steam release during heating. If left closed—or even if open—certain vegetables like carrots & brussel sprouts can be steam-cooked; you can turn down the power after the initial heat-up phase to save power.

bowl-3

3. CorningWare French White 20-Ounce Mug; bowl is stoneware, lid is plastic & BPA-free: $13

It’s heavy—so it’s best used at a table or desk. It’s good-looking—it has a nice color, fluted sides, and flared top. It’s similar to #2 in terms of its mild leakiness when shaken and its ability to steam veggies.
Lid removal is easier if the lid’s top is pushed down at the same time its tab is lifted up. (The instruction sheet is devoid of such tips—e.g., that the vent hole is opened by pulling up on the blue tab—it provides only warnings.)

bowl-4

4. Cool Touch Microwave Bowl With Unique Handle; plastic outer bowl, thin ceramic inner bowl, plastic lid: $13

This is a bowl, not a mug, so it has a slightly larger capacity—24 oz.—than the others. I steam-cooked a half-pound of brussel sprouts in six minutes. You can, unlike the others, set it on your lap (or on a heat-sensitive surface) right out of the oven—the outer shell insulates the heat inside; and it keeps the food warmer for longer.

The innovative thumb-hook handle encourages the fingers to curl under the bowl and support it, providing the comfiest and most secure grip of the bunch, so it’s good for eating in an easy chair or sofa. Its wider base and lower height make it safer in bed. And this is the best brand for someone who is infirm or has arthritis because its handle is the easiest to grasp and release, and because it has a secondary handle on the opposite side.

Envoi: If you are considering buying one of these, you should read the reviews on Amazon to learn its full range of quirks and pluses. (One quirk shared by the three brands containing plastic is that there will be small burrs on their edges that should be sanded off. The plastic is also liable to stain to some degree—although this affects only the underside of the lids in the two brands whose bowls are ceramic.)

-- Roger Knights  



Hausgrind Hand Powered Coffee Grinder

Let’s cut right to the chase: You cannot find a better hand powered coffee grinder than the Made by Knock Hausgrind. Oh, we know the names of all the competitors – Porlex, Hario, Comandante, and even the Grindripper – but none of them are built like this.

Grinders come in two flavors: blade and burr. Blade grinders are fast, but they burn the coffee beans, and the uneven particle sizes they produce mean a poor cup of coffee. If you care what your coffee tastes like, burr grinders are really your only choice.

Among burr grinders, the camps are pretty evenly divided. Proponents of ceramic burrs will tell you they’re harder and last longer. Advocates of steel burrs will tell you they can be ground sharper and finer than ceramic burr casting technology allows. The Hausgrind uses 38 mm conical tool steel burrs that are conservatively rated to grind 650 kg (= 1433 pounds = ~3/4 of a ton) of coffee beans before needing replacement. I grind 15 grams of coffee beans every day, which is enough for a double shot of espresso from my ROK. That means I could go 43,333 days (= 118.72 years) before the burrs needed replacement. Even if you ground 3 times that much, you could go more than 39 years before you started to think about replacing your burr set.

Many people like to change up the coffee they drink, shifting from espresso to drip to French press at a whim. This means adjusting the setting on your grinder to change the fineness. On every other hand grinder out there, this involves twisting a knob on the bottom of the male burr to tighten or loosen it against the female burr. Often, this adjustment knob is stepped to prevent the loss of the setting as you grind. That means the settings are finite, and if you want something in between, you’re out of luck. With the Hausgrind, adjustment is performed with a graduated, knurled knob on the top of the grinder. The settings are smooth and infinite, held in position with a rubber grommet, and if you want to twist it to 9.6 (or 9.7 or 9.9) for your espresso and 13.2 for drip brewing, you can easily do so. Returning to a previous setting is also just as easy.

Some hand grinders have a problem with their handles coming off while grinding, and this is endemic with the Porlex. This is less of a problem with the Hario, Comandante, and Grindripper, but it is nonexistent with the Hausgrind – the adjustment knob screws on to completely secure the handle.

A lot of people complain that hand grinders are difficult to operate. Although this is largely due to the plastic bearings allowing the burrs to grind against each other, some of the blame can be traced to how the grinder is held. If the grasping hand is not at the very top of the grinder, the top of the grinder will swing back and forth as the handle is turned. The handle design is crucial to this, and some grinders actually come with a handle that forces the grasping hand lower on the grinder body. This is not so with the Hausgrind, whose handle allows the body to be grasped at the very top.

Because even the most freshly roasted coffee begins to stale 15 minutes after grinding, the home brewer gets the best flavor by grinding only what’s needed for the moment’s cup. That means you don’t want any leftover beans remaining in the grinder, so to keep things flowing smoothly, there is a sweep pin to ensure all the beans in the hopper drop into the burrs.

But none of these are the most important factor that set this grinder apart from the others. Whether you like the ceramic burrs of the Hario, Porlex, or Grindripper or you prefer the steel burrs of the Comandante, they all have one thing in common: plastic bearings. With all other hand grinders, the male burr depends from a central shaft that rotates within a plastic tube. Although the female burr is firmly held by the casing, the male burr can easily shift from center as the beans are ground. This doesn’t just cause wear; it creates an uneven grind.

In contrast, the Hausgrind has raced bearing sets top and bottom, and these bearings are held in place by 316 marine grade stainless steel frames. Together, they stabilize the burr sets to effortlessly produce a frighteningly even particle size.

Finally, we’re not talking about some visual monstrosity you wouldn’t show your dog. The Hausgrind currently comes in hand-tooled beech or walnut, and future versions are planned with aluminum and steel casings.

I was lucky to get in on the ground floor for Batch 1. Batch 2 sold out within 35 hours of announcement, and Batch 3 ordering is now closed. You can read more and register for yours here.

At £130 for aluminum and £140 for walnut (they’ll ship anywher), these grinders are not cheap. But they are simply the best, and they’ll likely last your lifetime or longer!

-- Conan Cocallas  

Hausgrind Hand Powered Coffee Grinder
£130 – £140

Manufactured by Made by Knock



KoMo FlicFloc Flaker

I feel like I’ve discovered a sort of breakfast unified field theory. And it’s all thanks to an impulse purchase at an awesome new homesteading supply shop in our Los Angeles neighborhood, The King’s Roost. My credit card discharged from my pocket like ectoplasm at a 19th century seance when I spotted the KoMo FlicFloc.

The FlicFloc manually flakes oats, wheat, rye, barley, millet, spelt, rice, sesame, flax seed, poppy and spices. The breakfast possibility it opened to me? Fresh muesli is thy name. Finally a filling and healthy alternative to my Grape Nuts addiction.

The FlicFloc is elegant and simple. There’s not much to say about it. You put grain in the top, turn the handle and deliciousness discharges into a glass, thoughtfully provided. I’ve owned a KoMo grain mill for a year now and it’s been a life changer in the kitchen. I really like having access to freshly milled whole grains when I need them. It eliminates waste as ground grains spoil. And whole grain, including oats, get bitter if they sit around too long.

And cancel the Neflix – Below is KoMo’s Austrian/German design team demonstrating their products. All this video needs is Werner Herzog to narrate the English language version. Note the solar powered manufacturing facility and German breakfast porn. Also note the mouthwatering array of whole grain baked goods.

UPDATE: On his blog, Root Simple, Erik compared the results of oats processed by a FlicFloc to oats processed by a cheap grain cracker:

flicflocflack

“On the left are some oats run through the cracker versus oats, on the right, run through the FlicFloc.”

He also says, “I’ve never regretted paying more for a tool that will last a lifetime. I have regretted, many times, buying cheap tools. The FlicFloc broke my Grape Nuts addiction. It will pay for itself.”

-- Erik Knuzten  

KoMo FlicFloc Flaker
$179

Available from Amazon



Plastic Storage Caps for Wide Mouth Canning Jars

White plastic one-piece screw-top lids sized to fit either regular or wide-mouth canning jars. Mine came from Lehman’s but they are often available at hardware or kitchen-ware departments, where they sell the jars. These are not for canning, but simplify storage in pantry or fridge. They are easier to handle than two-piece metal lids, don’t rust or dent, and clean easily. I’ve used them daily for years.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps, 8-Count
$7

Available from Amazon



Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

After a month of researching sous vide appliances I purchased the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. I have been cooking with the Anova for three months now and have been very pleased. I have used the Anova to cook everything from poached eggs, steaks, and for Christmas, 25lbs of tri-tip. Each time the food came out perfectly as is the nature with sous vide.

For a brief background, sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) cooking is essentially cooking in a warm water bath for an extended period of time. Much like smoking or traditional barbecue the lower temperatures and longer cook times can produce delicious tender food. Foods do not need to be under vacuum; a re-sealable freezer bag with the air removed (air is a poor heat conductor) works quite well. Since the foods are contained inside the bag, no moisture is lost and all flavors remain in contact with the food. Additionally, some chefs will directly poach in fat, oil, or butter with their immersion circulator. When cooking sous vide the chef will set the final desired temperature while the device will hold the water at that point indefinitely. Over time the food will be cooked to that exact temperature throughout without ever going over. Unlike traditional methods where high heat is used for faster cooking times, the temperature is low and the foods can never over-cook. For more detailed information about sous vide I would recommend visiting this site or anything written by Dave Arnold.

The Anova is a circulating heating element combined with a PID (proportional-integral-derivative) controller. The PID constantly compares the set desired temperature compared to actual measured temperature and adjusts the heating element to account for any discrepancies. This allows the Anova to accurately hold a desired temperature to within ± 0.01°C in a range of 25°C to 99°C. The 1KW heating element is powered through 115-120 & 220-240 VAC. The impeller pump is capable of moving 12L per minute. The device measures 2.5″ wide by 15.5″ tall. It attaches to any vessel using a study rubber-tipped screw.

The device is controlled through a color touch-screen liquid crystal display, LCD. The user interface is simple and intuitive. The user need only set the desired temperature, set an optional timer for shutdown, and select “Start.” The screen will show the current temp, set temp, and run time. Like a crockpot or slow cooker the device is “set and forget.” The Anova has a low water sensor and will shut off automatically. Occasionally on longer and hotter cooks water may need to be added to the vessel to maintain adequate levels.

What separates the Anova from other similar devices is 1) its price, at $200 it is less expensive for the same specifications of its rivals. 2) the heating element guard is stainless steel and easily removable for very easy cleaning. 3) it features a directional nozzle for the impeller. 4) it is made by a medial laboratory device manufacturer with experience in the field.

Unlike the previously reviewed Sous Vide Supreme, an immersion circulator can be used an a variety of vessel sizes. For larger cooks I use a Cambro full-size gastronorm food pan which holds 27 qt. For smaller cooks I use my stock pot. It is also half the price and a fraction of the size. Similar devices are available, most notably from a rival medical equipment company PolyScience. The PolySci circulators are $300 more expensive than the Anova and have plastic heating element guards which must be removed using a screwdriver.

In summary, the Anova is a professional grade device which is simple to use, easy to clean, easy to store, powerful enough for even your largest cooks and reasonable priced (in the world of sous vide).

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-- Reid Bradshaw  

Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
$200

Available from Amazon



Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle

I have been using the Bonavita electric water kettle for over a year. It serves that same purpose as essentially all other water kettles, but the primary advantage over other water kettles is its gooseneck water spout, which allows for slowing pouring. Slow pour is nice when making pour over coffee. Other advantages: it allows the user to choose any preset temperature (rather than just a few as I’ve seen in other model), allows the user to choose to have the kettle hold the desired temperature for an hour, and also allows the user to set a timer when the kettle is removed from its base.

-- Mitchell Olson  

Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle
$95

Available from Amazon



Jura-Capresso ENA 9 Automatic Coffee Center

Let me start by saying I like coffee; strong, black coffee. Some years ago I treated myself to a proper home espresso machine. I also bought a burr grinder. I didn’t go as far as buying green beans and roasting them myself (I did consider it), but I did by small batches of freshly roasted quality beans.

Unfortunately what I soon realized is that I like coffee, not making coffee. Yes it’s therapeutic on a Sunday morning in the dressing gown to go through the process, but usually when I want coffee I just want coffee.

Anyway, I looked into coffee making further and realized that a good bean-to-cup machine is really what I should have bought. I went to several cafés that used such machines and tried their coffee and it tasted just as good a places that used traditional espresso machines, often better as there was no operator error involved in the tamping, etc. Most places used Jura machines, so looking on line I found they did a home range. So I purchased a Jura Ena 3 nearly two years ago and haven’t looked back since. There is plenty of adjustment that can be done to get the coffee exactly how you like it then it is just a matter if pressing the button and a perfect cup of coffee comes out every time.

The most important thing is still the beans. Either roast your own, if that’s your sort of thing, or buy small quantities of freshly roasted quality beans. Lots of specialist roasters do sample packs so you can easily compare lots of different coffees so you can find the right taste for you.

If you like coffee, but not the hassle of an espresso machine, or going out, queuing and getting coffee how they like it rather than how you like it try one of these. You won’t be disappointed.

-- Graham Simpson  

Jura-Capresso ENA 9 Automatic Coffee Center
$1,399

Available from Amazon



OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set

The sheer number of OXO products available and the variety of price points they are built to makes it inevitable that some of them will be duds. Indeed, over time it has become clear that the presence of the brand on an item does not necessarily guarantee good design or build quality. That said, I have found their Good Grips steel measuring cups to be a great success in both regards. After more than a year of daily use, I still can’t think of anything that would improve them.

Like most sets, a ring is included to keep them together when nested. Traditionally, the ring is troublesome because removing a cup also requires the removal of cups that come before it. This problem has been solved by opening the handles’ holes on one side, allowing you to pull a cup off of the ring via the opening and then simply clip it back in place. Additionally, the rubber on the handle is set back a good bit from the cup, allowing for easy leveling with a knife.

The build quality is excellent. The cup and handle are fashioned from a single piece of surprisingly thick steel, eliminating the weakness of a weld point. Each cup’s measurement value is permanently inlaid into the rubber handle, such that no amount of scrubbing will take it off.

A similar plastic set is also produced under the Good Grips moniker. It features the same open-holed handles and inlaid measurement values and is slightly cheaper than the steel set, but it takes up more room by including unnecessary ⅔ and ¾ cups.

Regardless of whether you opt for steel or plastic, these cups will probably be the last set you ever buy.

-- Cody Raspen  

Oxo Good Grips Measuring Cup Set, Stainless Steel, 4-Pc
$20

Available from Amazon



Areaware Bottle Opener

This bottle opener takes a relatively mundane task and turns it into a pleasurable aesthetic experience. The beauty of this opener is in its design simplicity. It is made of a piece of wood, a bent nail and two magnets. That’s it. The leverage from the nail opens beer bottles easily, one magnet catches the bottle cap and the other magnet makes it easy to mount on a fridge or other metal surface.

I have owned one for over a year and it is always my go-to bottle opener above any of my skeleton key style bottle openers. The handle is comfortable and, while the magnetic cap catching capability might seem superfluous at first, I am always grateful for it once I’m a few bottles into the evening. The mounting magnet keeps the handle open from the perspective of the plane of the surface to which it is mounted making it easy to grab in a time of need.

I was originally gifted this tool and have gifted it myself on several occasions. All recipients have reported back with delight at this opener’s simple beauty and practical usefulness.

Of course, there are much less costly alternatives (including your teeth, the edge of a hard surface or the lighter trick) to opening bottles and the size of the handle does not make this tool something you want to carry around in your pocket all of the time, but that isn’t it’s point. This opener combines a sophisticated design sensibility with functional effectiveness that elevates the status of an every day utility to a cool tool.

-- Eoin Russell  

Areaware Bottle Opener in Walnut
$14

Available from Amazon



Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

It is amazing how different the same tea tastes when you have the ability to consistently experiment with the brewing temperature and steeping time. Different teas require different brewing temps and steeping times to bring out the best flavor. I like green tea. The Breville allows you to set the temperature by degrees and the steeping time. Do you like strong tea? Set it to steep longer. Once you set it, it is all automatic. No more waiting for your tea to cool from boiling to drink it. Would like another cup of tea? The Breville will keep the tea at your set temp for 60 minutes.

Yes, this appliance is expensive. However, after using it nearly each day since November 2010, it is totally worth the money, and remains one of my favorite purchases and is very reliable. I’ve had zero problems with it. Breville makes great appliances, and they are very well made, with excellent customer support.

-- Kevin Lindsay  

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker
$250

Available from Amazon