Apparently, “stirring” equals “cooking”

We haven’t had a good Electrolux Design Lab competition concept on here in a couple weeks. So here’s a look at one of the top 10 finalists: Easystir.

Designed by Lisa Frodadottir Låstad, this device sits in your pot or pan, and stirs the contents of the pot or pan automatically, so you don’t have to. How does it do that? Using magnets, of course.

It’s clear to me that absolutely none of the designers that has entered the Electrolux Design Lab competition with cooking product concepts has ever cooked in their life. I’m slowly learning to accept that. But that doesn’t make less angry. Angry isn’t really the word…it’s more “WTF?!!!? *slams head on table repeatedly*”. That’s what I feel. An apparatus that stirs your food as it cooks…that’s not such a bad idea. It could be useful in some cases. The bad idea is in the reasoning for this product a.k.a. the problem this product solves.


“Time is money” is our world’s motto. Anything that takes up our time has to be worth it.

I honestly didn’t realize stirring was such a time-waster in cooking. But let’s move on…

Wait, what? Okay, let me rehash what is said in the above graphic:

  • People are assholes who want instant gratification.
  • Making food requires work. People hate work, so they eat fast food.
  • Fast food is not good for you. Food made at home is better for you, but that requires work, like stirring.
  • People are assholes who want instant gratification, without having to do any work.
  • A device that stirs food while it’s cooking means people don’t have to actually waste their precious time doing work.

Jesus-on-a-dolphin, what self-absorbed, lazy person thinks like this?!? Let me emphasize those last thoughts in the graphic:

This introduces us to the possibility of having quality home-made food that practically prepares itself. In the meantime, you can spend your time doing something that is WORTH IT.

First off, I don’t think having a device that stirs a pot means that the food “practically prepares itself.” Did the ingredients get added to the pot magically? I don’t think so. Secondly, the designer is basically saying “Do you know what’s a complete waste of time? Cooking. To hell with cooking. I’d rather do anything else than cooking. It’s all just a waste of time.” Yeah, a total waste of time…well, except for the whole “I get to eat food, which I need for sustenance”-part that results from cooking. Or, you know, the experience and emotions one feels when preparing a meal with friends and loved ones. The whole premise for this device is flawesome. And so are the engineering & mechanics.

Magnets can do anything

Sorry if ICP’s foul-language curiosity has offended anyone, but I felt that video was appropriate. Why? Because it seems this designer also did not want to talk to any “motherfuckin’ scientists.”

The designer says that the stirring mechanism was inspired by this video found on youtube:

That is a laboratory magnetic stirrer. It’s used for constant stirring of low-viscosity liquids in beakers and flasks. How do they work? ICP may not know, but I do. The actual stirrer is a coated bar magnet, and it’s placed in the glass vessel. That vessel is then placed on a platform, which houses either moving permanent magnets or fixed electromagnets underneath, that cause the bar magnet to spin while in the vessel. The platform may also have a heating element, which is used to heat the liquid in the vessel while it is being stirred.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I am going to assume that this designer saw that laboratory stirrer video, read “induction drive” in the video description, then immediately started thinking about induction cooktops. She probably put two and two together, and thought “I bet an induction cooktop can make that magnetic stirrer spin.” Unfortunately, just because you see the word ‘induction’ in regards to a drive AND a cooktop, it doesn’t mean they both work exactly the same way. I explained how induction cooktops work in a previous post. A magnetic field induces a current in the bottom of the pan, which causes it to be heated. This has nothing to do with using an induction drive to spin a magnet. The magnetic stirrer most likely spins because the poles of the magnet are attracted to the poles of an electromagnet underneath the base platform; then electromagnet’s current is reduced/shut off, and the magnet continues to spin. The electromagnet’s current is then turned on again, and attracts the magnet stirrer as it spins around. This happens at a very fast rate, causing the stirrer to spin in one direction. Of course, this operation varies, depending on the kind of mechanism used in the base unit. The point is that this spinning has nothing to do with the ‘induction’ of induction cooktops at all.

If I have to do any work, I’m just going to the place with the terrible 3-D extruded logo

As with most flawesome designs, the product rendering isn’t so bad. And the callouts to the components of the Easystir seem pretty believable. Also, it’s a good thing that figure is in there to show scale. I kinda got scared, thinking that was a giant Easystir.

There are lots of parts to this thing, and I can imagine food getting stuck in little crevices. For something that is supposed to save you time, this Easystir sure is complicated, especially when compared to its main, non-high tech rival: the big spoon.

As you can see below, somehow, the Easystir works with “no need for batteries or an electrical cord!” That reads like a line from an infomercial. Laboratory magnetic spinners allow you to control the speed of the stirring by adjusting the magnets in the base unit. How do you adjust and control the stirring speed with the Easystir?

You do it easily by taking apart the stirrer, and removing bits of a magnet. That is…so not convenient. Imagine you’re cooking some stew, that needs rapid stirring initially while it comes to a boil, but then needs to be stirred intermittently with the heat on low. Do you know what you’re doing before you turn the stove to low? You’re taking out the Easystir, washing it off, dismantling it, removing magnets from the stirring arms, then putting it all back together. Do you know what that sounds like? WORK. And as you know, people hate work, especially anything related to that big waster of time: cooking. Why else do we eat at fast food restaurants…?

But let’s get back to this stew. Mmmmm…stew. I like stew: it’s so hearty, and full of chunks of meat and vegetables…big pieces of meat and vegetables that do not move around easily in a pot. Magnetic stirring bars used in laboratories often stir very low-viscosity, homogeneous fluids, for instance, water [as shown in the video above]. Why? Because magnetic stirring bars do not exert enough force while spinning to mix liquids that are thick…or that have big chunks of beef and potatoes in it. I’m just going to say it: if this thing worked at all, it would only be good at stirring clear broth. I mean, I guess that could make a good meal…? But if you’re one of those people who thinks cooking is dumb and a waste of time, then I suggest you forget about having some broth made by the Easystir, and just go to Arby’s. Or that other place with the terrible, newly-designed logo.

In conclusion…this thing sucks. No, really. It does. Taking it at face value, as a device that automatically stirs your food, it’s not a bad idea. There are products already on the market that do that…and those products could probably be improved greatly. But the fact that this designer’s main motivation for the product is to save people from having to cook, because cooking is a waste of time? That’s just wrong. The designer should be empathetic to the viewpoints of those who cook, or to those who need help with cooking. That is where this product idea should be focused. It should not be focused on people who don’t like cooking, and would rather eat at fast food places. As the designer stated, this is the “answer to the world of fast-food.” No, it is not. An automatic pot stirrer does change a fast-food eater into someone who cooks at home. That doesn’t even make sense.