A local TV station in Dallas (KDFW) started a weekly series a little over two years ago that airs on Wednesday nights as part of their 9:00pm news program - the segment is called, "Deal or Dud?" where viewers write or call in asking them to investigate the claims made about things we see advertised on TV. The "Pasta Express" had more requests than any other product in their history! The following is based on the results posted on the KDFW website, what was aired that didn't get into their writeup, and some personal bloviating.
They tested three things: spaghetti, asparagus, and hot dogs. The first thing they noticed it that you can't go by the commercial as for how long it takes to cook something - the times in the included cookbook are different than what you are lead to believe.
The elapsed time clock in the commercial leads you to believe you get perfect spaghetti in 8 minutes. The cookbook says it takes 7-10 minutes. In testing it actually took 3 minutes longer than that! Oh, and forget reaching in and grabbing a piece to give it the "bite" test to see if it is done - the instructions specifically say no removing the lid until it is done. Apparently sticking was not a problem with the spaghetti - unfortunately that was the only pasta shape they tested.
The asparagus came out nice and green and cooked perfectly (not over cooked as most people do it) in about 7 minutes. Humm ... wasn't it Julia Child who tried to drum the 7-minute for green vegetables rule into our heads for 30 or more years?
But, what about those "quick and easy hot dogs"? What could be easier than dropping some dogs into a pan of boiling water? I really don't see that dropping them into a plastic tube and pouring boiling water over them that much of a labor savor - since you still have to boil water and have a cooking vessel to clean up afterward. But, that leaves "quick", right? Well, that package of hot dogs they show being prepared "quick and easy" takes 15 minutes!!! Humm ... if you follow package directions (from the package they tested) it only takes 4-5 minutes in a pot of boiling/simmering water on the stovetop. Depending on size and water content I can "nuke" a package in the microwave in 2-3 minutes.
On "Deal or Dud" a product is judged by how it performs compared to the claims they make about it (does it really do everything the way the commercials say) and close doesn't count - they branded this one a DUD!
As the owner of the restaurant where they conducted the tests said, 'It doesn't make much sense to spend $20 to buy something that will take longer to cook with than something you already have in your kitchen.'
Now - my thoughts about it, and something the KDFW report didn't even mention (although I saw it being used).
The commercial (which you can view on their PastaExpress
website) states it uses a "Revolutionary Thermal Conductivity Design" and is a "Thermos-Like Design". I'll admit that I had to spend the better part of 10-minutes figuring out the first part of their claim - aided by Chapter 11 "The Pleasures of Merely Measuring" in Harold McGee's The Curious Cook
. They are merely using the convection currents in a hot liquid - not so revolutionary since they have been around since hot water. So, doing a bit more thinking ... spaghetti and other long thin pastas may cook without clumping together because the pasta is standing up straight for long enough for the convection currents to wash off and dilute the surface starch. Okay - I can see how this might work for long thin straight pasta shapes ... by the time the pasta absorbs enough water to become soft and begin to intefer with the convection currents the surface starch has been washed off. But I have questions about the same thing working for other pasta shapes.
This brings up the other claims - that it maintains "the perfect cooking temperature" and that it is "thermos-like". Okay, this is a plastic tube which appears to be of a single wall construction - just a single layer, probably a polycarbonate food grade plastic tube. Nothing "thermos-like" about that! No air spaces or channels between layers to form an air insulation - and no visable insulation material. Do you like those commercials that tell you what you're getting for $19.95 and then say ... "But WAIT!" - and then throw in some more stuff? Well, there is something the PastaExpress throws in without ever mentioning, or showing, it - the "Protective Thermal Wrap"! Humm - one more step ... wrapping the "Protective Thermal Wrap" around the tube to hold in the heat. Just go to their website, click on the "Instructions" tab at the top of the page and then click on the "PDF Instructions" button and scroll down to the second page to see what I'm talking about.
Personally - I see no need to go out and spend $20 +S&H for something that doesn't offer me anything that I don't already have in my kitchen. Even if I was in college and lived in a dorm and only had an electric tea kettle ... I could do everything the PastaExpress does without the additional $20+.
This reminds me of 3 sage idioms:
A fool and his money are soon parted
There is a sucker born every minute