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Product: Cookware
Meatball Cooker   (+10, -2)  [vote for, against]
Even cooking through technology.

This device is based on frankfurter cookers, often seen in hot dog shops. They have a series of rotating heated rods, spaced close enough that the frankfurters sit in the gap and cook evenly as they are turned on the rods.

Adapt these to cook meatballs by creating a mechanism that moves the rods from left to right, out of sync with each other. Set meatballs in the gap, and this unsynchronized left-right movement combined with the normal rod rotation will cause the meatballs to rotate laterally in a random pattern, ensuring all of the meatball's surface area comes in contact with the rods frequently. Grease will drip out into a collection pan.

The meatball material would need to be made fairly solid, to maintain its shape. Any moderate variation from spherical would create recesses and plateaus on the surface which could interfere with the multi-directional rotation, and thus, result in improper cooking.

I'm aware of a potential problem - the lateral movement might work to cause a meatball to fall off the side of the device. I thought placing a barrier on the side would stop that, but I'm not sure if that will compromise the meatball's ideal cooking conditions. A better solution would be to optimize the lateral rod movement in such a matter as to prevent a preferential direction of movement, the objective being to try to maintain each meatball's initial position on the device, as much as possible.
-- waugsqueke, Jan 09 2002

(?) Model 30SBB with Sneeze Guard http://www.selectap...s/st_otherunits.jpg
Hot dog roller grill. [waugsqueke, Jan 09 2002]

(?) mmm-mmmmmm IKEA Meatballs http://www.ikea-usa...ence/restaurant.asp
We recommend our famous Swedish meatballs, and other Swedish specialties like lingonberries, salmon and pastries. But the less adventurous can get local fare as well. [thumbwax, Jan 11 2002]

USPTO Patent #5685217 http://patft.uspto....217&RS=PN/5,685,217
Method of cooking meatballs that keeps them from bathing in their own grease. [cswiii, Sep 17 2002]

I feel like Hamlet stalking the ramparts ooo er. nice one waugs
-- po, Jan 09 2002

Well, you could be starting a new trend. Streetside Meatball Stands (maybe you could license Ikea's astonishingly good meatball recipe).

I guess I've never studied one of these hotdog cooker thingies enough to be able to visualize this idea. Sounds good, though.
-- bristolz, Jan 09 2002

not the response he expected from you, Peter
-- po, Jan 09 2002

Peter: it would probably have more success in commercial applications. Italian restaurants, etc.

bris, see link, the device on the right (with Sneeze Guard - yes, the meatball cooker has got to have that!). The frankfurters are sitting in between heated rods, which each rotate, alternating directions from one to the other, so that the frank 'spins' in the gap, allowing all surface area (except the tips) to touch the rods and cook up. My alteration on this is to have the rods move laterally as well. A sphere set into the gap between rotating and laterally moving rods would roll unpredictably, eventually touching all surface area to the rods.

Ikea makes meatballs? :)

The mechanism that provides the left-right rod movement could be based on a cam shaft... similar to the manner in which the horses are raised and lowered on carousels.
-- waugsqueke, Jan 09 2002

Ah! Now I see. The side guards could just be a wire set out from the sides and up from the rollers at about half the height of the Waug's Standard Meatball (WSM).

Forgive me for this alternative suggestion: Another maybe way to randomize the cooking could be to have each end of the rollers move back and forth a little, causing each roller to move in and out of parallel with each other, like those toys with two rods where you try to "pinch" the marble uphill. Or, maybe, the rollers could chatter, vibrating the meatballs about as they cooked, yes? (But not so much as to make it look like a popcorn popper).

Also, are the rods actually heated or is there just a heat source in the area below heating rods, dogs and, in this case, balls?

Oh, Waugs, you have not lived . . . . (ok, that's overstating it, but the cafeterias in Ikea serve Swedish meatballs engineered for addictiveness.)
-- bristolz, Jan 09 2002

How about some form of flexible wire mesh with integral heating elements that you can bend round any food to ensure it gets cooked evenly? Or exothermic play-do/plasticine?
-- pottedstu, Jan 10 2002

To evenly cook the near-spherical shape of the ideal meatball, wouldn't you need to cook them on heated ballbearings? I envisage a heated metal surface covered with meatball-sized balbearings (which conduct heat of course). The meatballs sit on top of the ballbearing layer. The ballbearings are made to rotate by making each ballbearing hollow and contain a small motor which can move a weight around inside the ballbearing to affect its weight distribution and thus make it roll.
-- hippo, Jan 10 2002

Of course, if you just made meat logs instead of meat balls, then you could use the hotdog cooker without any modifications.
-- quarterbaker, Jan 10 2002

Rods... I find they have a tendency to be overdone on the re-entry side.
-- waugsqueke, Jan 10 2002

<Homer Simpson voice> Uhhh... meatballs... uhhhh... </Homer Simpson voice>

Use my croissant for a meatball sandwich when you get the thing built!
-- snarfyguy, Jan 11 2002

Why - Baked Meatballs - of course.
-- thumbwax, Jan 11 2002

So that was you looking through my replay window, huh?

Peter, I had no expectations of you, and never do. I prefer to innocently enjoy the wisdom that issues forth from your font of knowledge unobstructed by presupposition.
-- waugsqueke, Jan 11 2002

Its twenty hundred and two, don't they make microwave meatballs yet?
-- The_Claw, Jan 12 2002

I think waugs is right to be concerned about lateral movement -- unless the meatballs are *perfectly* spherical, won't their imperfections cause them to migrate to one side or other of the device?

It also strikes me that a spherical meatball contacting two cylindrical heated rollers doesn't provide much contact area to cook the meat -- unlike frankfurters, which contact along the length of the sausage. Meatballs probably need more cooking anyway (aren't frankfurters pre-cooked and essentially just reheated and browned slightly?) and they're broader than frankfurters so may not cook fully at the core.

Finally, aren't meatballs more fragile than frankfurters, which are protected by their skins? I worry about the heated rollers adhering to them and ripping chunks out of them, leading to meatball disintegration and a nasty cleanup job.

The mental image of a gross of meatballs gently rolling and sizzling is a lovely one, though...
-- JKew, Jan 13 2002

don't know about where you all are......but where i live, in the convenience stores they have a hamburger/meatball cylindrical thing that is done on the hotdog rollers and it is called "the big ugly" not too bad if it is well done and brown not grey.
-- grnidlady, Jan 13 2002

How long before someone suggests deep-frying?
-- angel, Jan 14 2002

I think it's been about 15 years since I've set foot in an Ikea. I'm so deprived.
-- waugsqueke, Jan 15 2002

In Japan (and in New York's East Village, which is where I saw it), they make these little fried balls of batter-and-squid (or something). To cook them, they use these things that are kind of like waffle-irons, only they have these semi-spherical holes dug into them, and they're mounted on this device that makes them shake a bit, like a paint agitator.

First they pour the batter into the holes, and they wait a few seconds for the bottom to get cooked. Then, using a chopstick, they unstick the bottoms from the iron. And then comes the best part: the balls gently roll around in their holes because of the agitation, cooking all the way around.

I have no idea what these taste like. I have, however, spent hours staring at them being made.
-- sera, Jan 21 2002

random, halfbakery