It's Like a Flight Simulator, Only for Making Bacon and Eggs

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Kitchen tech that helps your food tell you when it's ready

Cooking can often be a guessing game. Scrambling eggs? You develop a sense for that moment between "runny" and "perfect." Pan-roasting steak, or chicken, or fish? You won't know you've done it right until you cut into it and it's too late.

That could change, thanks to an experimental training device out of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. A research group realized that, until intuition kicks in, sight is what guides most cooks in the cooking process. We know what colors to expect our foods to transition to as they heat up; when those colors are achieved, we remove them from the flame. Bam, as some might say

So the Tokyo team developed what they're calling a "cooking simulator" based on that insight -- a gadget that allows users to mimic the process of pan-cooking, guided mostly by visual input. It offers feedback about the food itself: color change, the weight of the food, the heat of the food, and the air flows as moisture evaporates. It takes the guessing, basically, out of cooking. 

"When you move the frying pan," a researcher explains in the video above, "the actual movement is input, and you can feel the ingredients through the pan. Also, the upper part of the system is a screen. When you look into the pan, you can see what's in it through a half-mirror. So this simulator lets you experience looking into the frying pan while you hold it."

The simulator is still in the experimental stages, as evidenced by the pulleys and levers in the video above. But it's easy to imagine its data-driven logic integrated into everything from pans to stovetops, offering a new kind of dialogue between food and the people cooking it.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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