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Thread: Cooking ...

  1. #1
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    Default Cooking ...

    discussion over on UK_Selfbuild got me wondering about how HA could improve the cooking experience ... oven & fridge temperature controls, it must be possible to do better ... oven timers, too ... microwave controls ... hobs ... kettle ... even dishwashers ... none of them are very precise or very smart !

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    Automated Home Legend Paul_B's Avatar
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    Put lids on your saucepans saves a lot of energy!

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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    Hmm. Thought provoking as usual.

    Cooking itself is subject to a huge number of variables far beyond time and temperature and it's not clear that in many cases better precision or repeatability of temperature would make much difference, especially with very large disturbances possible (for example by opening the oven - perhaps they should have automatic locks). And there's also larger range of output criteria to attempt to control for than it might seem at first thought: appearance, taste, texture, time of delivery, nutrient content...

    One exception to temperature control I do know about is espresso machines, where fine and repeatable control of temperature significantly improves the end result. But even with a cooking process as stripped out and simplified as espresso coffee there are many other factors not easily controlled, that can only be determined by experimentation - the best grind varied continuously with time, for example.

    I'm not clear on how "HA" relates to this, rather than requesting manufacturers do a better job with their individual devices.

    There is room for improvement on devices, my gas hob has significant backlash on the controls and I struggle to avoid boiling things over all the time (should have bought pots with glass lids). I am told that induction heating is twice as efficient (although I doubt this includes production and transmission losses in the electricity used). You'd think that gas hobs could be improved, but there's a lot of inertia and kitchen pans to overcome. And yes, I'd like my hob to detect the pan is about to boil over and turn the heat down exactly the right amount.

    One assumes the dishwasher is doing a reasonable job, although it is not perfect. I think there should be standardised testing available for these things to allow them to be compared - like EuroNCAP crash ratings. The problem with current energy ratings testing is that they are limited to energy, so it can get a gold star on energy for doing a rubbish job at dishwashing - that would be a complete waste of energy in my rating scheme.

    I suppose one could imagine an integrated kitchen in which the fridge and store cupboards detect the ingredients used, the hob and cooker report the time and temperature used and the SmartPlates(tm) can report how long the washing up was left lying around so that the dishwasher could optimise it's cleaning program.

    But I can also imagine a kitchen that helps you select a recipe based on time criteria and available ingredients, automatically works out prep and cooking timings and hence plans the timings for you, and could perhaps know how to alter the cooking if subsequent activities are going awry. Can you tell my culinary weakness?

    And with growing concern on energy usage, a menu planner that minimises energy usage (grouping use of the oven for example, and suggesting home cook/freeze combinations) might make sense.
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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    And then, of course, I thought about "cooking experience" rather than cooking in terms of end result.

    My HA does already improve the experience, the kitchen and surfaces are lit automatically, the heating is controlled, so the radiator doesn't run when the hobs and oven are heating the kitchen.

    It could go further, the extractor and hob lighting ought to be automatic (old tech). My espresso machine really ought to be preheated appropriately (it's on the todo list). Perhaps if a weekly menu was planned then the oven could also be preheated on the right occasions.
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    Automated Home Jr Member jcmiguel's Avatar
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    Default Cooking experience

    IMHO we should leave cooking as a primitive act. It is an experience and an exercise of imaginative creation of new and different results each time. Whoever had the experience of eating day after day food prepared in a canteen knows that the "home made" experience is all about having something different even when the recipe is prepared over and over. And about planning, it is a joy to try figuring out what to do with a bunch of ingredients left in the fridge. Food automation is a recipe for obesity and poor diet in my opinion

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    Interesting ... provokes a few thoughts, too ... have now added quite a few to our list ...

    buttons to push to time set-things, that are done many times a day, and to start machines after set-delays - eg: might have just loaded the dishwasher, say, and don't want to forget it start it, but not just now - maybe in ten minutes, or when E7 night-tariff comes on-line, whatever ...

    but also to stop things - eg: 'phone or intercom rings, and want the dishwasher or even the kettle to be quiet, perhaps more than one thing, for a short spell, or only while we're talking ...

    also, as you say, pre-heat buttons, for the coffee-machine, even the oven, might be good ... and a pre-freeze button to set the freezer into continuous mode for a while, but not forever, as when we're going shopping & want it ready for loading when we get-back ...

    and things that are simple & not so simple, that it would be nice to have Cortex take care-of so we can focus on more complicated & more interesting things ... there must be lots of those !

    many would be quite simple to arrange, by running a couple of wires to things that it would be easy to tap into / onto - eg: push-button switches, both toggle & retractive ...

    always smart buttons, though, functionally-speaking, not dumb ones - being smart (contextually relevant, looking after multiple things, doing the maths) is something that Cortex can do, and would often be helpful ... and maybe buttons wouldn't always be needed, since Cortex can work from other cues - sensors, date, time, presence, etc ...
    and things like timers would be easy for it to improve just by being a bit smart - eg: tell Cortex when we want whatever it is to be ready, rather than having to work-out all the details overselves, about when to start & stop, how high, what needs to be linked-in, etc ...

    plus maybe we could have buttons we push not so much to start something as to have Cortex tell us when it is ready - oven up to temperature, say, kettle boiled, whatever ... hmm, maybe that's another use for those power-meters - Cortex might be able to work-out when the kettle or tumble-dryer turns itself off, or when the washing-machine's reached a certain stage ... wonder how many devices one meter could be used to cover ... sounds like we should increase our order by 50%, too - yep, do that !

    and how about some wall-buttons for timing and/or cutting the food-mixer (like the red button in machine-shops, getting a fast response from something that has controls that don't quite allow it) ...

    and some sort of arrangement for intelligently cutting things we've clearly gone away from & fogotten all about - something on the hob, say, or ...

    and maybe some buttons, too, we press to say we've done something we do everyday - eg: bring breakfast out the freezer before we go to bed - Cortex could then remind us if we haven't done it when we put the light-out ...

    Idratek's propensity for including zero-volt digitial inputs on a lot of their modules allows a lot of possibilities, even after thoughts ! Adding modules is easy, too ...

    going further, things that use bi-metal strips tend to have lots of hysteresis, and it might be easy to do a simple spot of tapping-in to improve things (temperature sensor on a wire & re-route the wires from the strip to a module with a relay in it) ... oven, fridge, freezer ... getting more tricky, now, of course ... 'though tapping into the one on the oven could be easy if we just wanted to know when it was up to temperature (without having to be watching the oven) ...

    as you say, lighting could be another target - scenes, obviously, but maybe with selector buttons in convenient places which prompt things contextually - eg: part-way through a meal, want to serve the next course, need to see what we're doing without ruining the mood, need the same lights we used when cooking, but not so bright ...

    more generally, too, if Cortex can't work-out what stage we've reached in something, buttons to push to help it know might be good !

    as you say, again, things like linking the extractor to the hob might be handy, again in a smart way - eg: different rates according to how many rings, say, keep going for a while after, maybe, whatever ...

    recipes, & ingredients, what's in the cupboard, etc ... maybe, would be good, but getting tricky again, 'though see Amazon are trying to follow-up on their Kindle success with a device for this, and it'll be interesting to see how far they go with it !

    BTW, people do say induction hobs are now better than gas - faster, more responsive, more controllable ... no experience ourselves, though ... so maybe a panic button by the hob to tell Cortex to cut or simmer or whatever might be an option ...

    in Tesco's the other day, found myself looking at microwave ovens (we don't have one, yet, but the days are numbered) & wondering which ones had control panels that would be easiest to tap into !

    hmmm, I'm tempted to, as a general rule, get Cortex linked into / across start/stop buttons, indicator lights, door-switches, etc - anything (figuratively speaking) a pair of (non-invasive, as it were) crocodile clips might work on ...
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 1st April 2009 at 06:40 PM.

  7. #7
    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcmiguel View Post
    IMHO we should leave cooking as a primitive act. It is an experience and an exercise of imaginative creation of new and different results each time. Whoever had the experience of eating day after day food prepared in a canteen knows that the "home made" experience is all about having something different even when the recipe is prepared over and over. And about planning, it is a joy to try figuring out what to do with a bunch of ingredients left in the fridge. Food automation is a recipe for obesity and poor diet in my opinion
    I largely agree with you, I actually had something along those lines in my original response but must have edited it out to keep the length down.

    Certainly I don't want to see "industrial" food production in the home. The balancing of all the factors I mentioned is what makes a great cook. But on the other hand, assistance in menu planning I think could be a good idea, especially if it can include nutritional criteria. And if home cooking is made easier perhaps people will return to it instead of living off ready meals. Since my wife is a nutritional therapist I do get an ear bashing on this topic
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    Moderator Gumby's Avatar
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    And I see from your other post that your wife is a dietician, so I guess you get an ear bashing as well
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  9. #9
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    funny thing to say, though - quite agree automation has to assist not take-over or get in the way ... maybe people's experience is too often of the latter (eg: TV remotes) ... the automation in our car works quite well, for example, and without doubt enhances rather than detracts from the driving experience !

    certainly, in this case, the thought was to automate to allow better focus on what matters & on the more tricky bits ... ie: have some smart help with the mundane & predictable aspects, so can concentrate on important things - burnt offerings in our place happen when minds are distracted / far-away, ditto things getting overcooked & over brewed, so some help in avoiding that sort of thing would be great ...

    especially since getting a meal together can involve juggling with several things simultaneously & everything can't be within sight all the time !

    industrial can be great, too, when it's well done & not ruined by insensitive handling at the end - all too often the case, of course, so some help with could be good, as well !
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 1st April 2009 at 05:20 PM.

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    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    Having a number of 'remind me in X minutes' buttons has been one of the things that has worked well here in the kitchen for the rest of the family . Putting a pan on for 3 minutes or leaving in the oven for 20 or even a TV reminder.

    I found that the best approach was a number of preset buttons/times even though the more flexible is to have say a 1 minute and 10 minute one that you press to get the exact time you want. In fact the system can do both but nobody uses the configurable times, preferring the ease of the presets - they will actually use the nearest preset or even wait a minute and then press the 10 to get 11 !

    The fact that you can have concurrent one touch independent timers as well is useful.

    K
    Last edited by Kevin; 1st April 2009 at 05:50 PM.

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