Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Feedback burners

Stove that knows when to quit
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Y'know those burner knobs that are calibrated in units natural to food preparation, like "simmer," "boil," etc.? What if they really worked? A little feedback could vary the heat to maintain a proper temperature for the cooking task at hand. For example, there's no point keeping the heat at maximum once the water's actually boiling, but every reason to give it maximum heat until then. The sensors here are the tricky part: might have to embed in the actual cookware to get a good reading of food temperature (as opposed to pot temperature). On the other hand, a downward-looking infrared camera could monitor the temperature of the entire rangetop down to chilibean resolution. (A variation on the "thermochromic ovenware" (q.v.) might be to project the temperature image back onto the range using an LCD projector, such that hot areas or pots are illuminated red, while cooler areas get shades down to blue.) A little more smarts may make an automatic cooker, for example, "pork chops need to be at this temperature for this cumulative time; don't exceed a maximum of XXX degrees and turn off the heat when done."
rmutt, Jul 24 2000

Predictive Temperature Probe http://www.halfbake...Temperature_20Probe
[Steve DeGroof]'s idea compliments this one. [phoenix, Jul 24 2000, last modified Oct 05 2004]

[link]






       I wonder whether you'd be able to build a temperature sensor into the heating elements themselves - this would have the advantage of being compact and not needing special cookware or a downward-pointing camera above the range. What the sensor would have to do would be to measure the temperature of the radiation from the bottom of the saucepan. If a saucepan is filled with cold water, despite lots of heat energy going into the bottom of it, it may not get very hot and thus may not reradiate much heat energy donwards, but as the water is heated and thus cools the saucepan less it will radiate more heat energy. Then the sesor would be hooked up to a negative feedback circuit designed to keep the heat radiation from the bottom of the saucepan constant.
hippo, Aug 18 2000
  

       Try a timer/Voltage regulator inline with the heating element. Have to find one that can take 220V, and you have to remember how long it takes water to boil at your altitude, but you could probobly find the parts at Radio Shack. I use Propane, which might be a little more complicated.
Scott_D, Aug 20 2000
  

       A timer is a lame, open-circuit solution. The "time it takes water to boil" depends not only on your altitude, but on how much water you put on to boil! The whole point of this idea is to use *feedback* to automatically set the burner temperature to suit the food being cooked.
egnor, Aug 20 2000
  

       I was thinking in terms of controlling the element: once that is acomplished, you can rig it to a meat thermometer or something - knock yourself out.
Scott_D, Aug 20 2000
  

       My parent's old gas stove had a burner with a thermostat in it. You'd simply dial the temperature you wanted and the burner would switch between high-flame and low-flame to maintain it. The stove used a gas pilot light, so if the burner went out accidentally it would relight rather than blowing up the house. Unfortunately, since my parents got rid of that stove I've never seen a burner like that again.
supercat, Aug 22 2000
  

       An IR device mounted on the exhaust hood that looks down at the pans and "sees" their temp.
bristolz, Nov 19 2001
  
      
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