Almost everyone loves to eat, and lots of people—including kids—love to cook, though many children are still in the early stages of learning kitchen skills. According to one recent survey, US parents rate cooking and eating together as the number one activity that families like to do together.
As the weather cools and the holiday season approaches, now might be the perfect time to start practicing for family feasts. We've rounded up some cool kitchen toys to make cooking more interesting and enjoyable for the whole family.
Kids' Kitchen Skills Vary
Your kids' ability to help out in the kitchen depends on a number of factors, including age, maturity level, and training. From the time they're very little, kids need to be drilled in the importance of staying away from hot stoves and sharp kitchen knives until they're old enough to deal with them safely.
If they have the necessary practice and supervision, even preschool kids can contribute to family meal preparation in ways such as mixing ingredients in bowls, decorating cookies, fetching ingredients from the pantry, or just watching and learning.
By the time they're in the middle grades of elementary school, your kids may be able to make soup, a cake, or a pudding from prepared ingredients, although a grownup (probably you!) will need to make sure that they don't let anything boil over on the stove, that they grease the cake pans, and that they keep stirring.
Many public school systems offer cooking classes beginning in middle school. So a young teen can learn to cook an entire meal—including a cake or pie for dessert—from scratch at school.
Still, you should keep an eye on what kids of any age are doing in the kitchen. Even an older teen might need help with an unfamiliar dish or cooking technique.
Under the right conditions, cooking as a family can be lots of fun, particularly because your kids can be so enthusiastic and creative. Here's the lowdown on three new kid-friendly cooking gadgets.
As its name suggests, Pantelligent is an "intelligent" cooking pan. When you place it on a gas or electric stove burner (just as you would any other stovetop pan), this gadget measures food temperature and relays cooking directions to you and your family aloud via Apple's Siri.
The product includes a pan with embedded electronic circuitry; an app for Apple iOS devices, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches; and wireless technology for data transfer between the pan and the app. The electronic circuitry contains a sensor that detects food temperature.
The app provides recipes for everything from grilled steak or salmon to mushroom risotto and pasta carbonara.
If you want to cook a steak, or instance, you first use the app to select the thickness of the steak and the doneness level you (such as "medium rare"). Then Siri may say, "Heat the pan to 380 degrees Fahrenheit, and add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan."
You'll get spoken alerts to turn the temperature up or down if needed, and Siri will tell you when to flip the steak. Young kids will be thrilled by the coolness of this interaction.
The gadget can also be very useful for teens who are just starting to cook on their own. For a young chef (or anyone else), nothing ruins a special dinner like scorching the entree or bringing it to the table when it's still half-raw.
The Pantelligent app can also keep track of who in the family used the pan, and when. It's like a journal of daily life as experienced by a skillet: Mom fried bacon at 7 am; Bobby made grilled cheese sandwiches at noon; Dad grilled steaks at 6 pm.
For some time now, chefs at some high-end restaurants have been using a process called "spherification" to produce beautiful, tasty "pearls," similar in texture to caviar, from liquefied food substances.
The Imperial Spherificator is a handheld device designed to reduce the time needed for spherification from several hours to a matter of seconds. Among the manufacturer-suggested recipes are pearls made from saffron and water as a garnish for smoked salmon, and pearls made from black currant extract to go with cheesecake.
The manufacturer (also named Spherificator) supplies the potassium chloride powder you'll need for spherification. You can buy other ingredients, such as saffron or mint leaves, at the store. If you wish, you can prepare mixtures in advance and then entertain your kids with the spherification process later.
Spherification is now a speedy process that you can perform at home, and no actual cooking is involved. But even so, it's still complicated enough that young kids will need adult assistance to work through it. Family chefs must choose one of three different nozzles to produce pearls of the desired size, and they must select the appropriate speed setting to suit the thickness of the liquid mixture.
But your kids can surely make recipe suggestions, and they may be able to help with prepping the liquid mixtures. They might want to make saffron balls to jazz up the (grilled not smoked) salmon you'll be cooking with Pantelligent—or they might want to replace the black currant extract with blueberry or cherry extract for pearls that will create a different cheesecake taste sensation.
As Sphericator tells you in its ads, "The only limit is your imagination and creativity." I'll bet your kids have plenty of both. Cranberry pearls to go with Thanksgiving turkey? Green mint balls for a roast leg of lamb? Red tomato pearls for the salad? Give 'em a try!
Kids' Ramen Maker
Although this ramen maker is marketed in the US as a gadget for kids, it can be a fun cooking toy for grownups, too. As the video below suggests, if your young children want to create an entire ramen meal using this device, they'll need some help from you in figuring out what to do with the gadget—and later in completing the dish on the stove.
Ramen Maker for Kids, also known as Restaurant Ramen Maker in the Home (a direct translation of its Japanese name) comes to you from Japan-based Megahouse. After learning how to use it, many kids will be able to produce and shape their ramen noodles with it. The noodle ingredients are quite simple: flour, salt, eggs, and water.
If you're interested in (non-tech) products that will let your kids prepare entire meals or other elaborate goodies, you might want to check out the lineup of 32 Kracie Popin Cookin cooking kits from White Rabbit Japan.
Some kits, such as veggie "cheeeburgers" and french fries, require microwaving at the end. But other kits—including mock ice cream with waffle cones, and a treat dubbed "Cookin Candy Ramen Noodle"—need no cooking.
Crucially, directions for the Popin kits are available in English, and your kids will have a total blast with the prep work. Nevertheless, youngsters up to early elementary school age will need help from mom or dad with steps such as cutting the molds and deciding how many sprinkles to place on dumplings.
Although the Popin products don't contain meat, they're not necessarily vegan. Kits are likely to contain animal substances like gelatin, squid, and milk.
Happy cooking and eating, to you and your family!