Friday, May 12, 2017

Product Review: Hot Logic Mini

We've been spending a lot of time in cars between road trips, vacations and paddle trips here and there.  When we get to where we're going, particularly if we have a hotel room, we're always stuck having to go to a restaurant and eat what they consider healthy and what I consider a sodium bomb.  I wanted an option to be able to eat a hot, healthy meal if we wanted to go on a paddle or were in a hotel and wanted to stick to our plan.  A quick Amazon search showed me the Hot Logic Mini.



It's a personal lunch size kind of design but I figured if we could get the entree portion hot then we could add it to something else.  (ie- Taco meat then bring tortillas or chicken wraps and pair it with raw veggies, fruit, etc.)  Here's an idea of the size:


They do sell a version with a Pyrex 6 cup container but I bought mine separately and it was actually a few bucks cheaper so I'd advise doing the same because hey, better in our pockets, right?  Here's a peek at the heating element.


Then it has a plug that slips out the back and can be easily coiled back up and tucked in.


I recommend getting the Pyrex container but you certainly don't need it.  Because the temperature goes to 165-170, it doesn't boil and you can cook in a variety of containers like glass, plastic, foil and even a full on frozen meal.  Yeah.  You know those Lean Cuisine's you're heating up while you're hoping not to run into your boss or the chatty employee that gabs while your stuff gets cold?  You put the WHOLE BOX straight from your freezer (no poking the film or any of that jazz) and plug it in at your desk and by lunchtime, it's ready to eat!  You don't have to wait your turn at the microwave and can stay socially introverted at your desk.  ;-)

I knew my purpose would likely be for reheating things I'd already made like chili, burgers, lasagna or whatever I wanted to bring on a road trip.  Oh wait, I didn't tell you.  You can totally use this in your car!  If you commute a long way or are going on a business trip, pick up a power inverter and your lunch can be cooking while you drive!  So any of you Whole30 people, you've got your way to stay on track at the hotel without having to go off plan and start all over again!

I wanted to put it to what I considered the "real" test though and see how well it did with foods that were raw or frozen.  My first test was going to be what I call my "big ass turkey burgers."  We were going to do a pretty intense strength workout so I made two 8 ounce ground turkey breast burgers with a strip of bacon cut up inside to add a little more protein and some moisture.  I put them in at 2pm.


You can see that after 90 minutes they were almost completely cooked and obviously they were done when we ate dinner 4 hours later.  Here's a finished shot:


The verdict?  It was good but not quite as good as when I can sear the meat first.  Obviously ground turkey, especially breast, can be dry anyway but when I cook these burgers on a skillet then finish them in the oven, they're always quite juicy.  Because this never gets hot enough to sear, that won't be an option.

Then I thought I'd have some salmon for lunch one day.  I never have that because I don't want to take the time to thaw it, bake it, etc.  So I literally pulled one of the packets out of the freezer and put it in the Hot Logic Mini while I was making breakfast and kept it in there until I was ready for it about 3-4 hours later.





The verdict?  Same deal, a little less juicy than when I bake it but not bad.  As you can see from the 90 minute pic, you know how fish gets that weird hard foamy stuff when it's been overcooked?   It was pretty abundant here so I scraped it off before topping it with salsa.  It was no biggie but just be aware of that.  I would say for perfect fish without the sludgy after effects, put it on 60 minutes prior if you have the means.  Like put a frozen filet in the work freezer because ain't nobody gonna steal that...unless they have a Hot Logic too.  Then 60 minutes before you're ready to eat, put it in and just check on it so you can catch it at it's optimum doneness.

I also thought I'd give frozen chicken tenderloins a whirl.


About the same result as far as the sludge stuff is concerned.  If your plan is a pulled chicken sandwich where you're adding BBQ sauce or something, this would be perfect.  But if your plan is to put frozen or raw meat with veggies together, that's gonna be an unappetizing way to go.  So I would suggest putting your veggies on the bottom maybe with a tablespoon of water or broth and then top it with your already cooked chicken/meat and you won't have that sludge to contend with.  It says in the booklet that you can cook from scratch and while that's technically true, it's not gonna be pretty or super juicy.  To further prove the point, I did some purple potatoes.


It took 7 hours and a few of them had a little more bite than I prefer my potatoes to have but the ones that were okay would've been mush waiting for the others to catch up.  I had to end up tossing those into the skillet to crisp them up a bit.  Plus look at the finished product, they looked kinda sad compared to their bright purple start.

I made the mistake of trying to do a pasta recipe from memory from their little recipe book.  I thought it was basically like crock pot spaghetti where you dump some sauce in the bottom...


Then you add your pasta and cover with pasta sauce and cover and heat.  (I added a wee bit of water to add some steam to it)

After 2 hours I checked it...



Whoops!  LOL  When I checked the recipe book it was frozen ravioli with pasta sauce.  Duly noted.

My final "from scratch" test would be oatmeal.  We knew that the hotel we were staying in was going to have a mini fridge but no microwave.  So we brought a soft side cooler with things like raw veggies, fruit, condiments and my own pre-made meals.  No free breakfast with this place (actually it was $21 for oatmeal and fruit!)  I pre-bagged some oatmeal, raisins and walnuts and was going to make my own heated "overnight oats."  I assembled everything the night before and added more milk than normal to account for potential evaporation (though that shouldn't have been an issue with a tight fitting lid but still.)



When we got up the next morning and I checked on it.  Just as I suspected, it was more like baked oatmeal than the overnight oats I'm used to.


I used all of my usual add in's including brown sugar and I couldn't taste it in there anywhere.  So I scraped it off the bottom of the dish and added some milk to get it to a normal consistency and it just went totally gummy on me.  While the Mr claimed he'd made worse bowls of oatmeal for himself, I hadn't and I won't likely make this again.  Or if I do, I'll pre-make it and freeze it to be reheated in a Food Saver bag.

Now let's get to the purpose I bought it for...which was reheating.

This particular one I was the most nervous about.  I pre-made homemade English muffin breakfast sandwiches.  I toasted the muffin, did some pesto scrambled eggs, 1 strip of bacon and one slice of cheese split between the top and bottom.  I wrapped them in paper towels as I froze them overnight so the moisture could escape without forming ice crystals then put them through the Food Saver and prayed a bit.

Since they were stored in a mini fridge, they were in a thawed state when we put the Food Saver bag into the HL Mini.  Sixty minutes later...


Now I will say it might not look appetizing because we had breakfast in bed so I didn't set up a shot but you can see the cheese melted, the eggs stayed fluffy and didn't get gross or weird on me which I attribute partly to the pesto.  I haven't tested egg only but am going to.  The muffin didn't taste toasted anymore obviously but I think it helped it not get mushy while it heated up.  So this was a rousing success for us!

I reheated some shredded BBQ chicken for wraps for lunch but we were in a rush for that.  So I didn't get pics but it reheated the chicken in a Gladware container just fine from a thawed state.

One night for dinner, I knew we'd have "walking tacos" so I pre-cooked ground turkey with Mrs Dash Salt Free Taco Seasoning and 1/2 cup TJ's Enchilada Sauce and some green onions.  When it was done, I froze it in a plastic container we had that would fit inside.  I stored it in the mini fridge so it was already thawed by the time we put it in the Hot Logic.  I think it was in there for 2-3 hours while we were out sightseeing so I can't tell you when it was done but I'd say check it at 60 minutes and give a stir if you're going to be close to it.  When we got back it was ready to roll:


I got some collapsible bowls so we could have things like oatmeal or dinners like this and loaded up.


Some organic blue corn chips around the meat with a little spinach, 1 tbsp chipotle hummus in the middle and a light sprinkle of gruyere cheese.  It was delicious!

The morning we left, we wanted a nice little breakfast to hold us for a couple of hours while we drove to our lunch destination.  I pre-made banana walnut pancakes and froze them with a small bit of wax paper in between so they wouldn't stick together and put them in a Food Saver bag.  I also included 6 fully cooked maple chicken breakfast sausages.  We turned the Hot Logic on before we put the bag in so it was already at full heat when they went in from a thawed state.  We put it on for 30 minutes, flipped it and then got down to breakfast 60 minutes later after we grabbed our showers and got ready.


It was delicious!  Heated perfectly (though the side off the heating element obviously is a little less hot) and doing it in the bag was the way to go.  We bought some leak resistant stainless steel containers and brought some reduced calorie syrup with us and a few paper condiment cups for measuring purposes.  It worked out so well and we'll definitely be doing this on future trips.  Heck we could even have breakfast on the water for paddling trips if we wanted to as long as we did it soon after getting out there.

For me, the verdict on cooking from scratch or raw...eh.  For me, only if it's a last resort or something you are able to keep your eye on it.  Now I'm not steering you away from it if that's your intention but just know it may need babysat a bit and this isn't like regular cooking so the results aren't going to be the same.  (Hence meat sludge and less moist meat when from scratch/raw/frozen.)  You may be perfectly fine with that...I'm just not.  So if that was my sole purpose, I would've been disappointed.

Where this product truly shines, in my opinion, is the reheating game.  If you have pre-made, frozen meals, etc and you need to reheat them, I think you'll be really happy with this.  If your goal is to eat healthier on the road, on a trip or for lunch and you're willing to precook your meals on a prep day or do frozen meals to heat, then this is perfect.  When it can go from doing eggs to pancakes to ground meat perfectly then I'm all for it.  You can look up recipes on YouTube where people do some pretty interesting stuff with them.

I'm sorry the review is so long but I felt like if you're going to invest in something like this, you need to know what it truly may and may not be capable of.  I hope I've given enough examples that you can make your own decision but I must say I'd buy it again.  We're contemplating the newer 13x9 edition that came out so we can heat more things at once on the road but haven't bit the bullet yet.

Do you own a Hot Logic Mini?  Does this look like something you'd use to help keep you on track at work or on trips?

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4 comments:

  1. This looks really really cool. There have been times when something like this would have been very useful, but right now I don't have a lot of use for it. I do like the idea of being able to heat up frozen meals when you don't have access to a microwave, but that's not something I often need. I can definitely see where it might be something people would use at work though - and it would keep things hot so if you got pulled away from your lunch at the last minute it would stay edible.

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  2. How does this compare to using/taking a crock pot?

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  3. I am lucky I have a microwave in my office

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  4. I am so glad that this worked out so well for you! It's so nice to see product live up to the marketing of it and you feel like it was money well spent. The 13x9 would be a great size and could totally broaden your recipes for road trips. Love that!

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