Gadgets: Ceramic Pot Minder and Brown Sugar Saver
It's easy to overlook the Brown Sugar Saver and Ceramic Pot Minder, two of the smallest—and cheapest—tools you'll find at Sur La Table ($3 each). With such a small price tag and basically zero storage space, there's practically nothing to stop you from buying them. But are they at all useful? One is.
The Ceramic Pot Minder proposes to watch over the stove and prevent your pots' contents from boiling over, specifying starchy goods like potatoes and pasta as its most useful applications. The little circle is heat treated so that it doesn't affect the taste of your foodstuffs, but how it works is beyond me. The Brown Sugar Saver, on the other hand, makes sense. Soak the terracotta tile for 15 minutes, pat it dry, and the remaining moisture will very, very slowly keep your brown sugar from hardening.
So which of the two works? I'll tell you this much: the Brown Sugar Saver does wonders. The difference between two bags of brown sugar, each filled with half a box's contents and sealed at the exact same time, was already apparent after just one day. After a couple of days, my two bags were as different as a brick and a sack of sand, even if my sand was slightly moist around the tile's perimeter. No matter how much you bake, it's difficult to get through a box of brown sugar before it hardens, and if $3 is all it costs to spare me from any future sugar-softening experiments, I'll consider that $3 well spent.
Less convincing, perhaps, was the Ceramic Pot Minder. It's not that it doesn't work—it's just that I hardly found the need for it. No matter how many potatoes I boiled, or how much pasta I made, my pots weren't going to boil over unless I needlessly added too much liquid. I found it interesting that the Pot Minder proposes to prevent milk spills, but I'd never leave a boiling pot of milk unattended, gadget or not. Add to that the rattling noise the Pot Minder makes inside the pot and the subsequent need to fish it out of your food, and I'm sure you'll find (just as I did) that you'd rather use it as a paperweight.