Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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(Rolling in flour, halfbaking my ass off)

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Microwave Dinner Bar Codes

Microwave Dinner Bar Codes and Programmable Ovens
  (+13, -2)(+13, -2)
(+13, -2)
  [vote for,

Simplify microwave food preparation by encoding the cooking instructions into a bar code on the package. Put a bar code scanner on the front of the oven (or perhaps as a pen-like device attached via a short cable,) and have the oven convert the bar code into appropriate cooking times and power(s).

The ideal version of this would:

1) Convert cooking times and power specifications from some sort of "global" standard into the values appropriate for the particular microwave oven.

2) Include information in the bar code explaining how to scale or adjust the cooking times and powers based on portion(s).

3) Convert the information in the bar code into a single, hands-free program which would include cooking periods, defrost periods, "rest" periods (i.e., times in the middle and end of the cooking cycle during which the product sits in the oven but the oven applies no power to it.)

This way, I could pop an organic black bean burrito into my microwave, scan the bar code found on the box or wrapper, hit "Start," and come back to a perfectly prepared dinner!


crayfish, Dec 20 2000

Rutgers prototype http://www.reviewsonline.com/ihs00.htm
Baked by several vendors, scroll to bottom of this page for one prototype [krelnik, Oct 21 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

(?) Beyond Scan and Learn Microwave http://www.beyondco...ucts/microwave.html
Aug 19 2004: Now baked (or nuked, rather). It has a database of 4000 UPC codes, can learn up to 1800 more. [krelnik, Oct 04 2004]


       Your perfectly prepared burrito is not my perfectly prepared burrito.
centauri, Dec 20 2000

       True. Maybe the microwaves of the future will have larger displays and the ability to show complete cooking programs -- then a scanned item will create a default cooking plan which you would be able to alter as you chose before firing it up. This might be an improvement on things as they now stand. Or packages could encode several choices of cooking programs, and you could pick "well-done", "cold in the middle", "molten goo", or whatever you felt like.
Monkfish, Dec 20 2000

       Perhaps we could extend this idea by including few simple buttons on the front of the oven -- after you scan the bar code and before hitting "Start", you have the option to hit the "more cooked" or the "less cooked" button a few times. Each press could add 1% or so to each cooking phase.
crayfish, Dec 20 2000

       hmm... no thanks. I must just be a CLIzer, because I prefer to manually calculate what power level and how long for myself, and then type the numbers in. It irritates me to no end to have those stupid buttons for "popcorn" and "frozen boar" on the front of the nuke, and IMHO this would just be a step in the wrong direction.
absterge, Dec 20 2000

       Your perfectly prepared boar is not my perfectly prepared boar.
centauri, Dec 20 2000

       I'm for any idea that improves bars of the future.,
reensure, Dec 20 2000

       If the meal had the cook-time barcode on the side of the plastic tray then the microwave could have one of those laser barcode readers inside it; rather than having to hold the meal in front of the oven before you put it inside, you would just place the meal in the oven and the microwave would read the instructions as it started to cook. Mmm, simplicity.

PS, Doesn't "perfectly prepared" have nothing to do with this idea? We are talking about cooking microwave meals - nothing to do with preparation, and there is only one way to microwave them. I'm probably just being thick today.
Jim, Dec 20 2000

       To those naysayers of this idea: go buy a Mrs. Callenders microwave dinner and then come back and tell us that it was easy. It's more of a pain to microwave something 60 seconds on high, then two minutes on 75%, then let cool two minutes, then microwave with the gravy two more minutes, then let cool than to wave the barcode on a box in front of your microwave. What I'd like to see is a robotic arm on the microwave to open the cardboard box, take out my ice cream desert and set it aside, nuke the food as directed, and present it on some acceptable dinnerware. Put the microwave on wheels and have it bring my food to me when it's done, or maybe the arm could just toss the food over if the wheels make the oven too expensive.
sh4linux, Dec 21 2000

       I had the idea a few weeks ago and was looking to apply a patent on it, until I searched and realised a Mr. W Bowers-Ford already had last year. It's not a matter of just cooking times that would be the problem: different power microwaves would require different cooking times: you would have to include in the barcode total energy to be delivered to the food (in Joules) and the microwave would calculate each period of cooking time based on it's own Wattage output. It could also have a 'soak' facility where it kept the food just at the right eating temperature for a reasonable time, so when you removed the food anytime after cooking it would still be nice and hot.   

       Another potential problem is if you buy a microwave meal and then freeze it... how would the microwave know this? It would still use the cooking instructions on the barcode assuming the meal to be fresh not frozen.   

       My idea to get around this is a temperature sensitive ink bar (just one) in the barcode that's black when frozen and white when thawed. And that's not patented yet, but I can't be bothered with it...   

       As for a microwave barcode system not being suitable for 'gourmet' microwave foods (Mrs. Callenders) - who wants to cook that in a microwave. Save it for the oven - microwaves are mainly used when busy people come back after a long day at work and want something quick and simple, or return from the bar after 20 beers and are incapable of using a conventional oven...
Dave W, Apr 08 2002

       I saw a mug on the internet in which a part of it would be black when cold and white when warm. Same idea. Would just have to change the sensitivity of the black dye.
andrewm, Oct 21 2002

       You've never seen those mugs? They've been around for a long time...
BinaryCookies, Oct 21 2002

       My parents had a microwave from the early 80's that had a magnetic card reader. Recipes were available printed on easy-to-clean plastic cards with magnetic strips. After following the recipe, you would swipe the card. A complex program of microwave power settings and timers would be triggered, including the monitoring of a temperature sensor inserted into the food. Barcoding would be easier to implement for food manufacturers, but the idea is sound.
Ccapeland, Jun 13 2003

       [Ccapeland] Are you kidding? That's pretty cool.
thecat, Jun 16 2003

       Wow, a hidden HB gem. Brilliant.
doctorremulac3, Jun 03 2014


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