"As Seen On TV" stirrers flop

FRESNO, Calif.

The infomercial for the RoboStir says it stirs, so you don't have to. The RoboStir says it drops into any pot or pan, and with the touch of a button, it automatically starts to stir. The RoboStir infomercial goes on to say the gadget can be used on a variety of foods and that it "covers every inch of the bottom of the pan."

To test the RoboStir, Consumer Reports bought 10 for $10.95 each, plus shipping and handling. Testers used them to prepare various foods, including cheese sauce and tomato sauce, as well as sautéed onions and garlic. Testers also evaluated a second battery-operated stirrer called the StirCrazy, which is $5.

The concept is pretty simple. But for foods that really need to be stirred, they're not very effective. When the cheese sauce began to thicken, the RoboStir slowed down and then just stopped. The same thing happened with the StirCrazy.

The stirrers did keep moving in the tomato sauce, but only in a small area, and the result was scorched tomato pieces stuck to the pot. Sautéed onions and garlic was another challenge. Here the stirrers stayed in the middle of the pan, pushing the onions and garlic to the side! Once the onions and garlic were pushed to the side, the oil splashed from the pan onto the stove. And another problem with the RoboStir is that it claims to have three speeds, but there was only one speed on all 10 models that Consumer Reports tested. So, unfortunately, when it comes to those automatic stirrers, you're better off investing in a spoon!

Consumer Reports say one of the warnings with the RoboStir says it "should never be left unattended while in use." But doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?

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