Gadgets: Omega VRT330 Juicer
It's easy enough to get juice out of an orange, but when faced with a pineapple or a carrot, the job gets a bit more difficult. That's why electric juicers were created. That, and wheat grass, I guess.
The Omega VRT330 ($297) is a low-speed juicer—something I knew nothing about until I used this one. Prior to its arrival, the only electric juicer I ever used was a centrifugal model that basically shredded the fruit or vegetables at high speed, then separated the juice from the pulp by spinning it like a super-fast salad spinner. This juicer has an auger that looks sort of like an old-style orange juice reamer and it spins at a much slower speed than the centrifugal juicers. But the juice extraction isn't slow; it chews through fruits and vegetables a lot faster than I expected. It's not terribly noisy, either; it sometimes makes a squeaking sound as the vegetables give up their juice, but it's not as loud as a blender. That's a good thing if you're making fresh juice before everyone is awake.
A slow-speed juicer is supposed to be better for the juice because it doesn't produce as much heat. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea.
I can tell you, though, that this juicer is efficient. The pulp that comes out is pretty darned dry. And if you think there's more juice to be squeezed out, you can toss the pulp back into the juicer to get the last few teaspoons out.
The first vegetable to go into the juicer was a carrot. Squeak, squeak, squeak, and there was juice. Celery and some bell pepper quickly met the same fate.
Next came pineapple. I didn't juice the edible parts, though; I juiced the core and some leftover bits from when I trimmed out the eyes. I ended up with a bit more than a cup of juice—not bad for something I would normally have thrown away.
I know that juicers are usually about making something that you'll drink as-is, but I found another great use: removing seeds and skin from tomatoes so I could make tomato sauce. Throwing tomatoes into a juicer is a heck of a lot easier than peeling blanched tomatoes, or running the cooked tomatoes through a food mill. I tested the idea with just a few tomatoes, and it worked quite well. This is going to make my fall tomato sauce project a lot easier.
I haven't been converted to a juice fanatic yet, but I've used this juicer a lot more than I expected I would. If you think of it as a device to separate fiber-y stuff from juice and pulp, you might come up with more uses for it. For example, when asparagus season is in full swing, I save the trimmings for soup. Cooked down and run through a food mill or strainer to remove all the fibers, those asparagus stems can yield enough soft pulp and juice to make soup. But those stem fibers are tough, and mashing the asparagus ends through a food mill isn't a lot of fun. I used the juicer, and it made the job a lot easier.
For storage, the containers for catching the juice and pulp nest inside each other, which is smart design. It would be ideal if all the parts fit together for storage in less space, but I'll take what I can get. This was better than some devices I have where nothing nests for storage. (Manufacturers, pay attention! Give us a way to nest all the parts together so we can store them together.)
Like any gadgety thing, the big question is whether the cleanup time is worth it, and whether there's some other device that can do the same job. When it comes to juicing things like carrots, I can't think of another kitchen tool that could do the job. If you want fresh juice without going to a juice bar or buying bottled product, some sort of electric juicer makes sense.
So that leaves the question of cleanup. The big difference between this juicer and the centrifugal juicer I've used is that this one doesn't have any sharp parts to worry about, so getting the small bits out of the strainer is much less hazardous.
The "attachment parts" are not dishwasher safe, but hand-washing isn't a big deal. The strainer basket needs a good scrub (a giant toothbrush-like brush is included for this purpose), but the rest of the parts pretty much rinse clean. Speaking of strainers, there are two included so you can have more or less pulp in your juice.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.