Hackaday Links: December 3, 2011

Honey, would you like some cheese? WHIRRRRRRRRR

[The Timmy] broke his manual cheese grater. It would be a waste to throw away a perfectly functional tool that’s only missing a handle, so he kicked it up a notch with a cordless drill. Now [Tim], “can grate with incredible speed and power for even the toughest of cheeses.” Anyone have a broken pepper mill?

The most adorable oscilloscope

We’re not much for plugging products, but this scope is really cool. It’s designed to fit on a breadboard and is smaller than some ICs we’ve seen (68000, so yes, it is). We’re wondering why there hasn’t been a homebrew version of this yet.

Now do an R/C castle

Here’s a minifig-sized R/C LEGO car made by [brickmodder]. It has a custom drive train and steering mechanism that uses the smallest servos [brickmodder] could find. How about an R/C pirate ship next?

It’s probably an ad for something

Here’s some sort of code thing that asks the question, “Can you crack it?” Apparently, it’s for UK cryptanalyst recruiting. You won’t get a 00-designation, but woo Bletchley Park.

Inverting an inverter

[Manfred] is putting an alternative energy setup on his land. Of course he needed an inverter to charge his batteries, so he went with a highly regarded (high price) box. What he got was anything but. You’re going to need at least ten minutes to go through this hilariously sad teardown of a high quality Taiwanese inverter. Oh, [Manfred] is awesome. Just look at his microhydro plant.

Kitchen Hacks: Improving an espresso machine

The heat sensor in [Cameron]‘s espresso machine doesn’t work very well. He sees some pretty crazy variations in temperature when pulling an espresso shot, and when the boiler is just sitting there the heater element will heat the water full-bore then shut off for a while. Since this is a pretty low bar from a control theory standpoint, [Cameron] decided on a PID makeover on his espresso machine.

Instead of going with a commercial PID controller like we’ve seen on a few kitchen hacks, [Cameron] decided to roll his own Arduino derivative based on an ATMega328 microcontroller. The newly designed board reads the state of the ‘Steam’ button, a few relays for controlling the heater and the pump, and of course an LCD display.

[Cameron] still has to do a little tweaking to get his PID algorithm down, but already the new control board keeps a much more stable temperature than the old thermostat. The fancy new bezel and LCD display adds a lot of techy class to his espresso machine, to boot.

Kitchen Hacks: Home made meat smoker

[Matt] noticed an overabundance of sous vide builds in the past week, so he decided to throw his Home made meat smoker into the ring. There’s not many things more delicious than a nice cut of smoked meat, and the fact that it’s very similar to the sous vide hacks we’ve seen is an added bonus.

[Matt] decided to build a ceramic smoker like a Big Green Egg. He took a cue from [Alton Brown] and used two terracotta planters and a hot plate for the smoker. For controlling the hot plate, the cheap $35 PID controller we’ve seen in a few sous vide builds was used. The PID can’t control the 7 amps of AC that the hot plate needs, so [Matt] used a solid-state relay he had lying around.

A stainless steel mixing bowl was placed on the hot plate for wood chips. So far, [Matt] has run his smoker for more than 12 consecutive hours, and the results are really promising – there wasn’t much change in temperature between the chill of the morning and the heat of afternoon. [Matt]‘s build is great and perfect for venison jerky now that deer season is coming up.

Ice on your turkey makes it tender, apparently

Turkey day is fast approaching and for those of us not cool enough to be rocking the deep-fried turkey this year we’ll have to suffer though a potentially dry oven-roasted bird. Chef [Justin] came up with a great way to prevent dried out white meat on a turkey using ice of all things.

The enemy of moist and tender breast meat is heat. Cooking meat for too long will dry it out. There’s a problem, though: the breast is the thickest part of the bird which means it will take longer than the legs or thighs to reach the necessary 160 degrees. [Justin] figured that if he could cool down the breast with ice, it will take longer to cook and both the white and dark meat will come out perfectly.

[Justin] set up a test with two 15-pound birds. Both turkeys were allowed to come up to room temperature, then ice packs were put on the breast of one bird for 15 minutes. This lowered the temperature of the experimental breast by a few degrees. Both birds were then thrown into the oven.

After coming out of the oven, both birds looked great. The bird treated with ice packs appeared to be more tender and moist. Sounds like the perfect thing to pull out of our bag of tricks next week.

Kitchen Hacks: [Dino's] egg tricks

[Dino's] latest weekly hack plays right into our Kitchen Hacks theme. He’s sharing some obscure tips and tricks involving eggs.

It should come as no surprise that he knows a thing or two about using eggs. After all, he keeps chickens and you’ve can’t just let good eggs go to waste. Which is where his first tip comes in. Eggs will keep for weeks, but if you don’t know if they’re still good you can put them in a bowl of water before cracking them. Eggs that float are on the way out!

Need some scrambled eggs but don’t have a pan to cook them in? His next feat is to cook up a breakfast of steamed eggs using the steamer nozzle on his espresso machine. It’s messy (egg seems to be flying everywhere) but the final product does look appetizing.

The rest of the video (embedded after the break) shows his methods of making Hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict, and how to blow the innards out of an egg-shell.

Now we have a picture in our minds that [Dino's] daily routine is surrounded by eggs… like the egg farmers in Napoleon Dynamite.

[Read more...]

Hacking a VS200 Food Sealer

This food sealer just wasn’t cutting it for [Tinkering Engineer], so he decided to do something about it. The issue with this sealer was that it didn’t have a mode where it could simply seal bags without pulling a vacuum on it. Going through the whole process takes a reported 40 seconds in order to evacuate the air and then seal the bag. Without pulling a vacuum, the sealing process took only 9.

After taking everything apart and looking around, a PIC microcontroller, and vacuum switch were found as well as other assorted electronics. Although the first thought was to replace the onboard PIC with an Arduino, a much simpler solution was arrived at. Two switches were added, one to disable the vacuum pump and the other to manually turn on the heater. This would allow the machine to function as originally intended or simply let bags be sealed without the vacuum function.

This hack may not be the most advanced one that we’ve ever seen, but it’s a good reminder that some projects can be done very simply if you’re willing to look around!

Kitchen hacks: What would you cook if you had a Sous-Vide this large?

We’ve seen no shortage of temperature controlled immersion cooking devices, called Sous-Vide, around here. But this one probably has the capacity of all of them combined! Flickr user [RogueGormet] isn’t writing about the build, but his Large Form Water Oven build photo set speaks for itself.

We’d wager that the donor vessel is a 16-gallon chest cooler. He cut the lid into two sections, sealing off the insulated cavity with High Density Polyethylene (the stuff those white cutting boards are made out of). This gives him a place to mount the heating element, with a box for the PID controller riding on top. A submersible pump keeps the liquid moving to help regulate the cooking temperature throughout.

What do you put in one of these? Right off the top of our heads we’d think he had something like a pig roast planned. But it could just as easily be a Turkey, or other large hunk of meat. What would you use it for?

If you don’t need quite as much capacity you might make some alterations to your slow cooker for your own immersion cooking.

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