A Custom Outdoor Cooking Station For City Life

[shoobs] relocated from Australia to Luxembourg, and was really missing the whole outdoor cooking scene that is apparently very common in those parts. Now living in a modest apartment building in the city, he had no easy way to recreate some of his favorite cooking methods — specifically that of Wok Hei (breath of a wok)  — the art of Cantonese stir-frying which uses searing heat and a lot of flinging around of the food to mix it up with the burning oil. This results in a complex set of reactions utilizing smoking, caramelization, and Maillard reactions to produce the classic Cantonese smoky flavor. Not wanting an off-the-shelf solution [shoobs] took it on himself to build a balcony cooking station capable of the temperatures needed for Wok Hei, and documented it for our viewing pleasure.

Nice custom laser cut details on the regulator mounting

The build started with sourcing a free-standing burner unit from Alibaba, which proved to be a little less powerful (at 30 kW) than ideal, but still sufficient. After locating a matching regulator and pressure gauge capable of the needed flow rate to feed the hungry burner, the next task was to construct a sturdy enough bench to mount it all. This was constructed from Douglas fir slabs, butt-jointed using a 3D printed drilling jig for ease of construction.

Using a flatbed scanner, the existing burner base was digitized in order to make a model suitable for laser-cutting a new mounting plate from steel. [Shoobs] isn’t lucky enough to have access to a metal-capable laser cutter — he sent his cad files off to a cutting service.

A second plate was mounted below with a sufficient gap above the bench to act as a heat shield. This keeps the wooden worktop safe from the heat. Whilst he was laser cutting steel, [shoobs] took the opportunity to design a few other custom parts to mount the regulator and other bits, because, why wouldn’t you? We reckon the end result is pretty nice, in a minimalist and understated way.

We’re no strangers to neat cooking hacks ’round these parts, here’s a nice double-sausage burner for those emergency situations and if you need a custom BBQ burner, then look no further.

Ceramic stove (credit: Felix Reimann)

Same Taste With Less Energy: Optimizing The Way We Cook Food

Preparing food is the fourth most energy-intensive activity in a household. While there has been a lot of effort on the first three — space heating, water heating, and electrical appliances — most houses still use stoves and ovens that are not too dissimilar to those from half a century ago.

More recent technologies that make cooking more efficient and pleasant have been developed, such as induction heating. Other well-known and common appliances are secretly power savers: microwaves and electric kettles. In addition, pressure cookers enable the shortening of cooking times, and for those who like dishes that take hours to simmer, vacuum-insulated pans can be a real energy-saver.

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Induction Heater Uses New Coil

Induction cook tops are among the most efficient ways of cooking in the home that are commercially available to the average person. Since the cook surface uses magnetic fields to generate heat in the cookware itself, there is essentially no heat wasted. There are some other perks too, such as faster cooking times and more fine control, not to mention that it’s possible to build your own induction stove. All you need is some iron, wire, and a power source, and you can have something like this homemade induction cooker.

This induction heater has a trick up its sleeve, too. Instead of using an air coil to generate heat in the cookware, this one uses an iron core instead. The project’s creator [mircemk] built an air core induction stove in the past, and this new one is nearly identical with the exception of the addition of the iron core. This allows for the use of less wire, and uses a driver circuit called a Mazzilli ZVS driver running through some power MOSFETs to power the device. A couple inductors limit the current to 20A, but it appears to work just as well as the previous stove.

This build puts a homemade induction stove well within reach of anyone with an appropriate power supply and enough wire and inductors to build the coils. [mircemk] has made somewhat of a name for himself involving project that use various coils of wire, too, like this project we featured recently which uses two overlapping air-core coils to build an effective metal detector.

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Hack Your Recipes

If there is one thing Hackaday readers have in common, they like to make things. Of course, we don’t all make the same things and that’s great. But, unsurprisingly, a lot of people who like to create things include the kitchen as their workspaces. Why not? We all have to eat and there’s something very nice about cooking a meal for your loved ones or even just yourself. Cooklang is a markdown-style language from [Brian Sunte] specifically for capturing recipes. It not only formats the recipe, but it provides an easy way for software to parse the key elements while still being human-readable. This allows you to manipulate recipes just like software, including using Git for version control, for example.

There was a time that cooking meant having big cookbooks, but now you are more likely to search the Internet. There’s only one problem. For some reason, nearly every recipe site follows the same format. Thousands of words about how much the cook’s family loves the dish, how they pick out only the most succulent tomatoes to ensure the dish will have a vibrant scarlet hue, and how much their poor granny would have loved the dish, if only she had survived the 1928 flood which is described in great detail. After 20 minutes you find out that you put the tomatoes in the blender, add a cup of water, and that’s it. Cooklang is a sort of antidote for that. You can easily write something that parses the recipe and generates, say, a shopping list or compares it to your household inventory and places an order for the remaining things from the local grocery delivery.

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Portable Pizza Oven Has Temperature Level Over 900

While it’s possible to make pizza from scratch at home right down to the dough itself, it’ll be a struggle to replicate the taste and exquisite mouthfeel without a pizza oven. Pizzas cook best at temperatures well over the 260°C/500°F limit on most household ovens while pizza ovens can typically get much hotter than that. Most of us won’t have the resources to put a commercial grade wood-fired brick oven in our homes, but the next best thing is this portable pizza oven from [Andrew W].

The build starts with some sheet metal to form the outer and inner covers for the oven. [Andrew] has found with some testing that a curved shape seems to produce the best results, so the sheet metal goes through rollers to get its shape before being welded together. With the oven’s rough shape completed, he fabricates two different burners. One sits at the back of the oven with its own diffuser to keep the oven as hot as possible and the other sits underneath a cordierite stone to heat from the bottom. Both are fed gas from custom copper plumbing and when it fires up it reaches temperatures hot enough that it can cook a pizza in just a few minutes. With some foldable legs the oven also ends up being fairly portable, and its small size means that it can heat up faster than a conventional oven too.

This is [Andrew]’s third prototype oven, and it seems like he has the recipe perfected. In fact, we featured one of his previous versions almost two years ago and are excited to see the progress he’s made in this build. The only downside to having something like this would be the potential health implications of always being able to make delicious pizzas, but that is a risk we’d be willing to take.

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Jet burner and close-up

$7 Tent Heater Provides Comfort On A Budget

At Hackaday’s Minnesota office, we appreciate central heat and hot coffee because the outdoor temperature is sub-zero in Celsius and Fahrenheit. Not everyone here has such amenities, and families living in tents could use heater help. If you live somewhere inhospitably cold and have the resources (time being the most crucial), please consider building and donating alcohol jet burners.

Alcohol burners like these are great for tents because if they tip over, they self-extinguish. You can fill them with 70% rubbing alcohol and they’ll heat a small space, and if running on denatured alcohol, they can be used to cook with. They won’t do you much good outdoors unless you have significant wind protection, as the tiny jet is likely to blow out. The first time you light one, you must heat the coil with a lighter or another heater to vaporize incoming fuel, then it can sustain itself by wicking fluid up from the reservoir jar. Relighting after a tip or accidental gust only takes a spark since the copper is already hot.

If you came for a hack, note how they fill the small tubes with salt funneled through a condiment cap before bending them. Sure, there are springy pipe bending tools, but who doesn’t already have salt and tape? Keeping humans warm is crucial, but heating metal takes a different approach.

Thank you for the tip, [cyberlass]

Microwave Ovens: Need More Power? Use Lasers Instead!

You know how it is, you get in late from work, you’ve been stuck in traffic for what seems like an eternity, and you’re hungry. You reach for the microwave meal, and think, if only I didn’t have to wait that three-and-a-half minutes, 900 watts just isn’t enough power. What you need is a laser microwave, and as luck would have it, [Styropyro] has built one, so you don’t have to. No, really, don’t.

After he observed a microwave only operating on a half-wave basis, and delivering power 50% of the time, he attempted to convert it to full-wave by doubling up the high voltage transformer and rectification diodes. While this worked, the poor suffering magnetron didn’t go the full mile, and died somewhat prematurely.

Not to be disheartened, the obvious thing was to ditch the whole concept of cooking with boring old radio waves, and just use a pile of frickin’ lasers instead. Now we’re not sure how he manages to get hold of some of the parts he uses, and the laser array modules look sketchy to say the least, and to be frank, we don’t think they should be easy to get given the ridiculous beam power they can muster.

With the build completed to the usual [Styropryo] level of excellent build quality, he goes on to produce some mouthwatering delicacies such as laser-charred poptart, incinerated steak with not-really-caramelised onions and our favourite laser-popcorn. OK, he admits the beam has way too much power, really should be infrared, and way more diffuse to be even vaguely practical, but we don’t care about practicality round these parts. Who wouldn’t want the excitement of going instantly blind by merely walking into the kitchen at the wrong time?

We’ve covered a fair few microwave oven related hacks before, including a neat microwave kiln, and hacks using microwave parts, such as a janky Jacob’s ladder, but this is probably the first laser microwave we’ve come across. Hopefully the last :)

And remember kids, as [Styropyro] says in pretty much every video on his channel:

All the crazy stuff I’m about to do was done for educational purposes, in fact if you were to try any of this stuff at home, you’d probably die…

 

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