In my tenure as the resident Inspector of Gadgets, I’ve noticed a very interesting pattern in “As Seen On TV” kitchen devices. And it’s one that’s very specific, dealing with one particular food. So I’ve got a question: Why are there so many devices dedicated to dealing with eggs?
It’s not just the cooking of eggs, either. There are doohickeys made to peel them, slice them, make sandwiches out of them, turn them into logs, even scramble them inside the shell. I mean, eggs are wonderful, but I don’t find them exactly troublesome to make. Are eggs really that tricky, and are any miracle egg-cooking devices worth the money?
I spoke with Tony Dezutter, managing partner at Paulie Gee’s Wicker Park (where we used to work together) and former Executive Chef of Blissful Banana Cafe (where he specialized in brunch), to see if, in his seasoned professional opinion, eggs really are as challenging to cook as these many gadgets imply.
“To make eggs properly is difficult,” Dezutter says. “Most people can scramble and cook an egg, but to have the correct technique and cooking time is difficult. I see so many people cook eggs to death, and it’s a habit that a lot of cooks have formed and leaned into.”
I’ll admit that at home, I’m not too fussy. Even if I screw up my eggs (usually skewed on the side of overcooking—guilty as charged), I still happily eat them, because an egg is an egg. I do get annoyed at myself if a yolk pops prematurely, but c’est la vie. I didn’t realize the pros made regular egg mistakes in the kitchen too. Maybe some people really could use a highly specific egg timer, or a color-changing egg timer, to take some of the guesswork out. (But isn’t that what timers on our phones are for? Plus, those are free.)
According to Dezutter, poached eggs are the most difficult of all.
“During a busy service, poached is what everyone struggles with more due to the fact that if the egg is fucked, you won’t know until after the couple-minute cook time,” says Dezutter. “Without practicing a million times at home, cooks probably have the hardest time with this and are just watching the egg completely fall apart in the water.”
Okay, so for those million times that must be practiced at home, maybe someone really would be willing to shell out $27 on a perfect egg poacher pan. That is, if they’re the type of person who really, really doesn’t get sick of eating the same breakfast every day. Otherwise, they might turn to an EGG-TASTIC microwave poacher. Or any other number of products invented for this exact purpose.
Think of it this way: the devices might not exist to cook eggs for someone who doesn’t know how to cook eggs. Instead, it aims to do it more consistently than the average cook.
“To make any type of egg the same way every time is damn near impossible,” Dezutter told me. “It takes a seasoned vet to get a consistent cooking time and seasoning.” Coming from a professional chef, that’s a weirdly comforting thing to hear, isn’t it? Still, the consistency that As Seen On TV products promise might not be worth the cost and the counter space.
“Most of [these gadgets] are driven toward a one-purpose goal that’s way too much clutter for me,” he says. “Whereas more general equipment like pots and pans with a little practice can get the job done the same if not better.”
Pots and pans are more likely to be sitting in your kitchen already, too. It’s reasonable to assume that many As Seen On TV egg cookery solutions are purchased as gifts for the egg lover in your life, rather than something people purchase for themselves.
That said, I myself have three miracle egg devices: one I bought years ago out of morbid curiosity, one that was gifted to me, and one I tested for The Takeout’s Inspector of Gadgets column. I have firm opinions on each of them.
Okay. The Rollie Eggmaster is easily the funniest kitchen device I own. I got it on my own, years ago, far before my Takeout days, and paid about $30 for it. I have to say, it’s been an endless source of entertainment to me, but the thing is absolutely useless. If you’re not familiar with it, the Eggmaster is mainly designed to cook eggs, but it does so in an extremely bizarre way. Take a gander at the commercial above, and let its majesty sink in for a minute.
Basically, this thing makes egg cylinders. It’s shaped a bit like a large travel mug with an empty tube down the center. There are no switches; all you have to do is plug it in until a green light turns on, which is how you know it’s ready to start cooking. Simply spray the chamber with nonstick cooking spray, plop two eggs in (which makes a very distinct farting noise), and let the thing work its magic.
You’ll know when it’s finished because the tubular egg will literally crap itself out of the Eggmaster in a downright vulgar display. There’s no mechanism you have to manipulate to make this happen; the egg just extrudes itself with the power of its own steam propelling it upwards. It’s hilarious. I laughed until I cried the first time I tried it.
The eggs themselves are fine, I guess. They come out hard-cooked, if you’re into that sort of thing, and I suppose you could fit the end product into a hot dog bun if you really wanted. It takes longer than frying two eggs up in a pan, too (about 10 minutes). I realize the appeal is that it’s supposed to be hands off, but the thing is, if you leave the finished product unattended in the tube for too long, the eggs will sink back into the machine. Then you have to use a skewer to get the egg tube out. Neither glamorous nor labor-saving. I give the Rollie Eggmaster an A+ for entertainment, and a D for usefulness.
I received the the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker as a gift from my friend Pete. His heart was in the right place; he knows I love kitchen stuff. Too bad the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich maker isn’t that great at the one thing it’s supposed to do.
If you watch the QVC video above, you’ll see there are two chambers to the device. The bottom chamber is for the bottom bun of your sandwich (ideally an English muffin, since the machine is small and circular), along with some form of flat disc-shaped protein like Canadian bacon or perhaps a sausage puck, plus cheese, if you want it. Disc-shaped proteins are the best kind, right? The upper chamber then cooks both an egg and the top of your sandwich bread of choice (again, making sure you’ve chosen a bread that fits in the tiny circular chamber).
What’s sort of fucked up is that you’re supposed to crack a raw egg into the top chamber and then smush a piece of bread on top of it while the egg is raw. The machine does ultimately cook the egg all the way through, so it’s not a food safety concern or anything. It’s just that the end product is really weird, since the cooked egg fuses with your English muffin, making the eggy side sort of soggy. Then, you slide a hinged middle partition out of the device, which combines both halves of the sandwich together, and... it’s done. Yay?
Here’s the thing: If any of the egg or cheese oozes out the sides of the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, which it probably will, you’re screwed. You’re double hosed if any of this stuff dribbles into the hinges of the machine, because good luck cleaning it out! Let me tell you, it gets nice and nasty after just a few uses. The cooking surfaces are nonstick, but if you get any egg or cheese in a hard-to-reach crevice, you’ll probably want to chuck the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker into outer space. I give the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker a C- for utility (who eats that many egg sandwiches?) and an F for the worst cleaning experience of all time, probably.
Most of what I have to say about the Eggstractor, a hard-boiled-egg-peeling device, can be found here in my inaugural Inspector of Gadgets column from earlier this year. I know some people eat hard boiled eggs on a regular basis, since they make a great snack and they’re a good boost of nutrition in nature’s handy little bite-sized packaging. In conclusion, eggs are great. But how many hard boiled eggs are you eating—and how bad are you at peeling them—that you’d need something like this?
The Eggstractor is supposed to peel hard boiled eggs quickly by way of a strange accordion-shaped pressure chamber and some manual force. With a violent push on the accordion, the egg is supposed to launch itself out of the machine’s ass, perfectly naked. Too bad it doesn’t actually work.
I didn’t have a single success story with the Eggstractor. In fact, the device only ever managed to launch the yolks right out of the eggs, which might be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my kitchen (other than the Rollie Eggmaster vertically pooping egg tubes). The kitchen also ends up smelling like farts, big time, because you’re whooshing sulfuric eggy air all over the place.
This thing had one job, and it couldn’t even do that. Plus, should any respectable kitchen gadget make you feel this tired after using it? This thing is supposed to save you energy, but instead, it exhausts you physically and emotionally. I give this the Eggstractor an A+ for being a piece of crap, and also an F for being a piece of crap.
No. The answer is no. Unless you like being frustrated all the time and giving your money to infomercial producers. I thought that maybe some of these would at least be ideal for people with reduced hand strength or dexterity. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, either.
As Tony Dezutter points out, if you need practice with eggs in any form, just go get a couple dozen from the grocery store and mess around with them in whatever pots and pans you already have. It’s cheaper than buying something you’ll only use twice, and you’re more likely to come away from the experience having learned a new kitchen skill, instead of paying for the privilege not to. Skip the As Seen On TV egg helpers; whatever eggs your own efforts result in will be just as good.
Unless you feel like laughing your ass off, in which case you can get a Rollie Eggmaster. Actually, wait. I’ll just lend you mine. You don’t have to bring it back.