3D Printering: The Quest For Printable Food

A video has been making the rounds on social media recently that shows a 3D printed “steak” developed by a company called NovaMeat. In the short clip, a machine can be seen extruding a paste made of ingredients such as peas and seaweed into a shape not entirely unlike that of a boot sole, which gets briefly fried in a pan. Slices of this futuristic foodstuff are then fed to passerby in an effort to prove it’s actually edible. Nobody spits it out while the cameras are rolling, but the look on their faces could perhaps best be interpreted as resigned politeness. Yes, you can eat it. But you could eat a real boot sole too if you cooked it long enough.

To be fair, the goals of NovaMeat are certainly noble. Founder and CEO Giuseppe Scionti says that we need to develop new sustainable food sources to combat the environmental cost of our current livestock system, and he believes meat alternatives like his 3D printed steak could be the answer. Indeed, finding ways to reduce the consumption of meat would be a net positive for the environment, but it seems his team has a long way to go before the average meat-eater would be tempted by the objects extruded from his machine.

But the NovaMeat team aren’t the first to attempt coaxing food out of a modified 3D printer, not by a long shot. They’re simply the most recent addition to a surprisingly long list of individuals and entities, not least of which the United States military, that have looked into the concept. Ultimately, they’ve been after the same thing that convinced many hackers and makers to buy their own desktop 3D printer: the ability to produce something to the maker’s exacting specifications. A machine that could produce food with the precise flavors and textures specified would in essence be the ultimate chef, but of course, it’s far easier said than done.

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Digital Dining With Charged Chopsticks

You step out of the audience onto a stage, and a hypnotist hands you a potato chip. The chip is salty and crunchy and you are convinced the chip is genuine. Now, replace the ordinary potato chip with a low-sodium version and replace the hypnotist with an Arduino. [Nimesha Ranasinghe] at the University of Maine’s Multisensory Interactive Media Lab wants to trick people into eating food with less salt by telling our tongues that we taste more salt than the recipe calls for with the help of electrical pulses controlled by everyone’s (least) favorite microcontroller.

Eating Cheetos with chopsticks is a famous lifehack but eating unsalted popcorn could join the list if these chopsticks take hold and people want to reduce their blood pressure. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so in a way, this approach can supplement any savory dish.

Smelling is another popular machine hack in the kitchen, and naturally, touch is popular beyond phone screens. You have probably heard some good audio hacks here, and we are always seeing fascination stuff with video.

Breadboarding: Git For A/B Testing Actual Bread

We will be the first to admit, we like to use Git for a lot of things that are probably off the beaten path. But now thanks to [hendricius] you can find out how to make your own bread on GitHub. Let’s get one thing straight. This isn’t the breadmaker fad from a while back, although we are surprised we don’t see more hacked together breadmakers with Internet connectivity. This is old-fashioned bread baking with a bowl, some ingredients, and an oven or another heat source.

You might think this is just using Git as a repository for recipes, but it is more than that. According to [hendricius]:

Learn how to master the art of baking the programmer way. If you love programming, you will also enjoy breaking some bread. A/B test, iterate and ultimately become a self-taught baker. This repository is dedicated to becoming your bread manifesto with useful tricks and hacks. Furthermore, the goal is to illustrate how easy making bread is and that you can get started today without expensive tools.

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PID Controlled Charcoal BBQ – Put An Arduino On It!

At Maker Faire Milwaukee this past weekend, [basement tech]  was showing off his latest build, a PID controlled charcoal grill. While it hasn’t QUITE been tested yet with real food, it does work in theory.

PID (a feedback loop with some fancy math used to adjust the input to get a consistent output) controlled cooking is commonly used for sous vide, where one heats up a water bath to a controlled temperature to cook food in plastic bags. Maintaining water temperature is fairly easy. Controlling a charcoal barbecue is much more difficult. [basement tech] accomplishes this with controlled venting and fans. With the charcoal hot and the lid on, there are two ways to control temperature; venting to let hot air out, and blowing air on the coals to make them hotter. A thermocouple sensor stuck through the grill gives the reading of the air inside, and an Arduino nearby reads that and adjusts the vents and fans accordingly.

The video goes into extensive detail on the project, and describes some of the challenges he had along the way, such as preventing the electronics and servos from melting.

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Cooking With The Awesome Power Of Plasma!

There is something special about food that has been cooked in a grill, barbecue, or broiler. The charred surface brings both flavour and texture to the food, that other cooking methods fail to emulate. Of course, should you come from a part of the world in which the locals steam their hamburgers those are fighting words, but for [Robots Everywhere] the prospect of a flaccid patty cooked in a microwave oven was too much.

His solution? Broil the microwaved meat in double-quick time, using a plasma arc generated with a high voltage supply. The patty is placed in a grounded metal frying pan, and the high voltage probe is run over each side with accompanying plasma and sparks to lend that essential grilled exterior.

The power supply is a fairly simple affair, if a little hair-raising. A simple push-pull MOSFET oscillator drives a pair of flyback transformers whose secondaries are connected in series. It’s not the most efficient way to generate high voltages with a flyback transformer – the key is in the word “flyback” – but it generates enough juice for the job in hand.

It’s hardly the safest cooking method, and we’d be worried about contamination from whatever metal the electrode is made from. But it’s entertaining to watch, as you’ll be able to see from the video below the break.

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Sous Vide Arduino Isn’t Lost In Translation

If your idea of a six-course meal is a small order of chicken nuggets, you might have missed the rise of sous vide among cooks. The idea is you seal food in a plastic pouch and then cook it in a water bath that is held at a precise temperature. That temperature is much lower than you usually use, so the cook times are long, but the result is food that is evenly cooked and does not lose much moisture during the cooking process. Of course, controlling a temperature is a perfect job for a microcontroller and [Kasperkors] has made his own setup using an Arduino for control. The post is in Danish, but Google translate is frighteningly good.

The attractive setup uses an Arduino Mega, a display, a waterproof temperature probe, and some odds and ends. The translation does fall down a little on the parts list, but if you substitute “ground” for “earth” and “soil” you should be safe. For the true epicurean, form is as important as function, and [Kasperkors’] acrylic box with LEDs within is certainly eye-catching. You can see a video of the device, below.

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Improving Rice Cooker Efficiency

Looking at the plate on the bottom of his electric rice cooker, [AC_Hacker] was surprised to find that it was rated to consume 400 watts. Furthermore when he measured its consumption he found that it consumed 385 watts without even having a cooking cycle initiated. The circuit to keep cooked rice warm was always on – even when the cooking circuit wasn’t engaged.

Something clearly had to be done, so he set about modifying the cooker for better economy. Removing the base revealed that disabling the warming circuit was as simple as disconnecting it. [AC_Hacker] also noticed that the device had no thermal insulation. There was plenty of space between the inner and outer walls, so he packed it with glass wool. The final modification was to reduce the power taken by the heater by installing a half-wave rectifier diode. The cooker still reached the desired temperature, it just used half the power.

You might think that would be the end of it, given that the modifications significantly reduced the cooker’s power consumption without detriment to its rice cooking ability. Rice now took a little longer to cook, so there was still room for improvement. The moment of inspiration came when [AC_Hacker] realized that the cooking time was proportional to the amount of water used in a cooking cycle. He could safely reduce the water without affecting the cooked rice. A 30% water reduction led to a proportional cooking time reduction, and rice cooked using a lot less power.

Surprisingly this seems to have been Hackaday’s first rice cooker hack. Perhaps that’s because you’ve been so busy supplying us with sous vide hacks to write about.