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Old 02-09-2006, 01:44 AM   #11
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Location: Fort Worth, TX
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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:

Buyer beware
A fool and his money are soon parted
There is a sucker born every minute

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 02-09-2006, 01:30 PM   #12
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I actually invented this, by accident, in a regular pot on top of my stove, about 10 years ago.

I had just added macaroni to boiling water in a pot on top of my stove when the power went off. This used to happen quite often where I live, especially if we were having a lightning storm. I turned off the stove, put a cover on the pot, and took my kid out for dinner to someplace in an area that still had power.

When I got home, the macaroni was perfectly cooked, so I just drained it, added the sauce, and packed it up in tupperware to use as "leftovers for lunch!" Gee, I guess this means I invented "Quick Fix Meals" before Robin Miller too, huh?

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Old 02-05-2007, 02:21 PM   #13
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: New Zealand
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Okay - I admit to buying one. Generally I am not a fan of those use once and never again gadgets! However this one had some appeal. I work from home and cook pasta regularly for lunch as well as mid morning / afternoon snacks. Okay - not three times in one day! It appealed because I could boil the kettle, pour the water over the pasta and go back to working without needing to stand by the stove while the pot boiled. Yep I have had one or two little accidents by leaving the stove! I also liked the idea of being able to do the same for vegetables when cooking dinner - veges cook while I get on with the rest of dinner. I also liked the idea of a power saving by not having the burner on the stove running for 12 minutes!

I have only owned it for a couple of weeks and am still getting the hang of the pasta cooking time. First time it was over done and a bit gluggy, next time it was fine. However it seems perfect to me for cooking vegetables, everything from frozen peas and corn, to fresh brocolli, beans and asparagus. I have also used it to pre-cook a potato for later putting on the george forman grill with a piece of chicken.

It is not something that would work for everyone but it seems to work for me so far. Time will tell!
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Old 02-07-2007, 03:48 PM   #14
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 496
I got one as a secret santa gift. The lady of the house has found that it is lovely for holding flowers. That's about all it's good for.

You won't burn your hand on it--it comes with a blue wrap to put around the tube that functions as a oven mitt.

Thing is, it doesn't cook pasta all that well, it is another vessel you have to clean, and you still end up having to use the same pot you would cook your spaghetti in to heat the water.

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