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Battery-operated stirrers: Must-have or flop?

January 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Many infomercial products claim to make our lives easier and maybe even fix a problem you never knew you had. Despite how silly some of them seem, as-seen-on-TV products amount to a $300 billion industry.

"It stirs, so you don't have to. The RoboStir drops into any pot or pan. With the touch of a button, it automatically starts to stir," states the infomercial for RoboStir, a battery-operated stirring machine.

The advertisement goes on to say that the gadget can be used on a variety of foods and it "covers every inch of the bottom of the pan."

To test these claims, Consumer Reports bought 10 RoboStirs for $10.95 each, plus shipping and handling.

Tester Bernie Deitrick used them to prepare various foods, including cheese sauce and tomato sauce as well as sautéed onions and garlic. Testers also evaluated a second battery-operated stirrer called the Stir Crazy, which costs $5.

"The concept is pretty simple, but for foods that really need to be stirred, they're not very effective," said Deitrick.

When the cheese sauce began to thicken, the RoboStir slowed down and then just stopped. The same thing happened with the Stir Crazy.

Both stirrers did keep moving in the tomato sauce, but only in a small area. This resulted in scorched tomato pieces getting stuck to the pot.

Sautéed onions and garlic presented another challenge. The stirrers stayed in the middle of the pan, pushing the onion and garlic to the side.

"Once the onions and garlic were pushed to the side, the oil would be splashed from the pan onto the stove," said Deitrick.

Another problem with the RoboStir is that it claims to have three speeds. There was only one speed on all 10 machines Consumer Reports tested.

Unfortunately, when it comes to these automatic stirrers, you're better off investing in a spoon.