Problem solvers of the world filled the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place in Chicago the first weekend in March with solutions to quite a few culinary conundrums.
Spread across 13 miles of aisles, the industry-only show featured 21,000 exhibitors showcasing their juicers and food choppers, cooking tools, goofy gadgets and apps -- including one that sets a coffee maker's brewing temp, volume, etc., and another that coaches home bartenders -- to the 60,000 attendees. Some of the items may be in stores or online now; others will show up later this year.
Some were impressive, of course: A see-through toaster from iTouchless and a countertop unit by Olive X-Press that lets consumers press their own olive oil.
And some were simply solutions to annoying culinary problems, including these that got our attention:
Tame the tears: If you weep while chopping onions, Mastrad's Onion Mask features foam padding on the frame to seal out irritants that prompt the waterworks.
Clean-cut apple cutter: Bothered by the last bit of apple core hanging onto your current apple slicer? OXO's Pop-Out Apple Divider solves the problem with a flexible cover that lets you push the last bit of fruit through the slicer without your fingers touching the blade.
Soft-cooked eggs perfected: Engineer Rupprecht Gabriel was frustrated with his inability to make a perfect soft-cooked egg, telling his son Markus: "I have the brains to figure this out." So he invented the BeepEgg, a floating, musical egg that boils along with regular eggs, playing a tune when the eggs reach the desired doneness. There are different tunes for different regions, explained Markus, who was at the show. One version plays "Give My Regards to Broadway" for soft, "Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway" for medium and "Sidewalks of New York" for hard. Already in Europe, the German family's Brainstream business is scheduled to bring BeepEgg to the U.S. later this year.
One cool rolling pin: Keith Neilson's an engineer too. He's from Traverse City, Mich., and "wanted to redesign a kitchen staple." He and the team at KMN Home tackled the rolling pin, creating an aluminum tube marked with inches. Its matte finish (available in a variety of colors) allows flour to lightly adhere during rolling. Plus, the pin can be chilled in the refrigerator -- helpful when rolling out pastry dough.
Dual-fuel grilling: Tailgaters and RV folks wanted a grill that would cook with charcoal or electricity, so the Meco folks in Greeneville, Tenn., created the Wherever Grill, a 12-pound Portable Dual-Fuel Charcoal and Electric Grill that has a removable inner pan for each heat source.
Great grindin': For those who want to grind their own flour at home, Mockmill offers a KitchenAid attachment that holds two grinding stones, which can make a fine flour or coarser grinds from nonoily grains, legumes and spices.
See the light: LED lights are showing up on more kitchen tools. Grillight Spatula from Holton Products, introduced last year, is joined this year by a fish turner, tongs, brush and fork, all sporting a light in the handle, said Holton's Colton Knittig. At OXO, LED lights have been added to its illuminating digital hand-held mixer and illuminating digital immersion blender.