Inspector of Gadgets is a new series that will investigate, critique, and experiment with some of the most idiosyncratic single-use kitchen utensils on the market (or found on eBay). The goal is to figure out why on earth these items are, or were ever, “a thing.” Which ones will genuinely surprise us, and which ones will leave us wishing we hadn’t blown $9.99?
In the kickoff entry of this monthly column, I examined a device called The Eggstractor, a contraption invented to peel hardboiled eggs quickly. It was mostly a disaster. I didn’t know it was physically possible to launch a cooked egg yolk out of an egg without the rest of the egg attached to it.
This month, I’m tackling a product called the Fat Magnet, a doohickey that’s supposed to skim fat off soups, gravies, and sauces for you. According to The Daily Meal, it was released in 2013, a year in which I imagined we’d have known better than to trust “As Seen on TV” shit.
Skimming accumulated fat off the top of soup isn’t really tedious work. I usually skim roughly one cup of liquid from the top of the simmering pot using a large spoon, put it in a bowl, then put the bowl in the freezer. Later, when the fat solidifies, I scoop it into the trash and pour the fat-free remainder (usually about two-thirds of a cup) back into the stock pot. There’s not a lot of demand for a Fat Magnet in my life, and that is okay. But if you’re a hearty soup person who likes to cook in bulk, the Fat Magnet could come in handy. I’m trying this out for you, soup person, because I get it and respect you.
I received my Fat Magnet used. It arrived more or less okay. The cardboard was a little scrunched up, but I attribute that to it being old, and I am more thankful for the fact that the shipping packaging did not come covered in hair, like the Eggstractor did. I took a close look at the box, which is really important when it comes to “As Seen on TV” type products, because there’s almost always bold statements involved.
The box sports some bold claims and a few grammatical issues. “Simply FREEZE...Than [sic] Skim the Surface & Fat is GONE!” And, “Ergonomically Design [also sic].”
If you want to know where food writers go to die, we sometimes get scooped up by corporations that make devices like this. What happens is, we write concise, useful information for the packaging, and then our bosses toss all of it out and replace it with a bunch of misspellings and grammatical errors. But hey, the pay is better than journalism, and I’m not bitter at all!
This is one of the other sides of the box. At first glance, it’s pretty straightforward. What I would like to note, however, is that there’s a “before” photo, which is crossed out, and no “after” photo specified. (It can’t be the large photo to the left of the “before” image, because the Fat Magnet looks like it’s just about to start doing its thing in that photo... right?) Apparently what happens after you use the Fat Magnet is a complete mystery to the world and to the people charged with marketing this device.
The Fat Magnet came in two pieces: the Fat Magnet itself, and a stand for it, since it’s shaped like a spinning top and can’t stand upright by itself. It did not come with instructions, but, like I said, it came used, so I am guessing if there was a sheet of paper with it, it has been lost to the sands of time. Or a landfill.
Though it looks like it may have some heft to it, the Fat Magnet is actually a very light device. The white handle is hollow and the metal is very lightweight. It feels cheap. It cannot double as a bludgeon against intruders.
For the purpose of the test, I decided to make a standard beef and potato stew using boneless chuck roast. Chuck is a great meat for stew as it’s full of connective tissue that breaks down into gelatin after slow cooking, leaving you with a rich silky sauce. Also, it’s got a decent amount of fat in it, which I didn’t trim off. I wanted to see if this Fat Magnet really worked.
After searing off cubes of chuck, cooking down the mirepoix, and deglazing the bottom of the pot with red wine and beef stock, I let the meat simmer in the liquid for an hour and a half, enough time for a healthy dose of fat and scummy stuff like congealed proteins to start floating at the top. Mmm. Scummy stuff. Congealed proteins. In the meantime, I let the Fat Magnet get nice and cold in the freezer.
My fiancée wandered into the kitchen and asked what I was making. At this point, she’s used to seeing me tool around the kitchen while cackling to myself over some concoction I’m probably screwing up. I told her I was making stew. She said, “Ahh, stew, perfect for a hot summer evening.”
I just stared at her. It’s not summer. It’s also kind of cold out.
I dipped the ice-cold Fat Magnet in the stewy broth, sans vegetables (I didn’t want any potential starch to get in the way) and lifted it up. This... did not look promising. There were blotches of oil on the Fat Magnet, but it looked like a lot less than I could have spooned out in one or two scoops. It did get a little scum out, but a negligible amount.
There were no instructions on how to dispose of the fat, either. I know better than to just rinse fat off in the sink, so I used a paper towel to wipe the metal off and put it back in the freezer to try again. Maybe there was something I was missing.
The second attempt went pretty much the same way. I know, this is kind of a gross photo. Sometimes science is gross.
Each try yielded a similar result. I now dispute two of the claims on the box. One, the Fat Magnet doesn’t soak grease up like a magnet, and two, it doesn’t remove jack shit. Lies! The Fat Magnet is all lies!
Finally, I manually scooped out a bunch of fat and let it separate in a little bowl, and froze the Fat Magnet one last time. I wanted to see if dipping the Fat Magnet directly into a bowl of fat would get it to work even a tiny bit better.
I know this is hardly a win, but it did work marginally better when dipped into straight fat.
My final verdict? The Fat Magnet sucks ass. On a letter grade scale, it gets an F. F for failure. And an S, which stands for sadness. Or, S for “Sorry, soup person, just use a spoon.”