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  • Writer's pictureCeriello Electric

An Engineer’s Checklist for Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner

Engineers can catch a lot of grief for paying attention to the finer details. But this year, show your friends and family that engineering and highly-advanced technology has a very important place in their lives as you engineer your way to the world's nerdiest Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are some ideas of where to sneak in some casual technology into your dinner planning.

For a Coordinated Cooking Schedule

First things first. It's crucial to plan your cooking schedule in advance to optimize not only how long to cook each dish but also how to get maximum freshness, given your kitchen's limited stovetop and oven space.

For Perfectly Cooked Turkey

A basic bit of tech that many homes have on-hand is a probe thermometer, but did you know there are IoT versions available? These are usually Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-based, allowing you to monitor your turkey's cooking progress from afar.

Of course, a far more sophisticated methodology is to use a thermal camera to ensure that the center of the bird is cooked through to perfection. At only a few hundred or thousand dollars apiece, it's a worthy investment.

Additionally, having an IoT-enabled air quality sensor monitor the kitchen will alert you to any smoke should your plan go awry.

For Moist Stuffing

Nothing's worse than dry stuffing. A clever chef will use a moisture sensor to ensure that the stuffing is moist without being soggy. There are some capacitive moisture sensors out there that use probes that you could consider.

But, if you're really into Thanksgiving, you could always go for the professional-grade equipment.

For Not-Too-Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many ways, but a common preparation is boiled and mashed with butter and brown sugar. But how much sugar to add can be a point of debate as too much will turn this dinner dish into a dessert.

Sure, you could measure with a tablespoon, but a finer level of detail is to note how the color changes with the addition of the molasses in the brown sugar. We humbly recommend an RGB sensor, calibrated according to cultivar, for that perfect balance of sweet and savory.

For Low Maintenance Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce can come from a can, but those who make it from scratch have to contend with constant stirring to ensure the bottom doesn't burn. Thermostatically-controlled simmering is a high-tech option that can help ensure consistent heat.

A little mechatronics can also yield you a dedicated cranberry-stirring robotic arm using servo motors (and bonus points if you design some simple motion planning). May we suggest a flexible gripper attachment to make sure the bot can scrape the sides of the pot?

For Tender Green Beans and Corn

Perfection in vegetables is hard to attain when you're boiling the traditional beans and corn. If you'd prefer to avoid the sogginess associated with boiling veggies, an alternative methodology is sous vide. Sous vide involves wrapping food in a plastic bag and submerging it into boiling water, achieving evenly-cooked and tender results without losing flavor to the water.

For Well-Cooked (and Well-Guarded) Pumpkin Pie

There are only so many ways to tell when your pumpkin pie should be pulled from the oven. A knife coming out of the middle of the pie clean is a reliable indicator, but it mars the surface of the pie. There's also the trusty "jiggle test" which relies on your imperfect ability to gauge how wibbly-wobbly the mix is.

For those looking to level up, why not give a viscosity sensor a go? Sure, they're a little spendy and unwieldy, but, if you're looking for excellence, it might be worth programming the necessary custom HMI.

Perhaps more importantly, protecting the pie from overeager diners can be a real problem (as I've seen more than one piecrust pillaged in my day). A remote-monitoring surveillance system to guard the pie is an obvious, perfectly reasonable answer. Video cameras equipped with sensitive electret microphones should give you eyes and ears on the pie, while readings remotely reported from PIR motion sensors can tell you if someone's getting too close.

For Enjoying Your Meal

All that's left is to employ a pH meter to select the perfect wine to pair with the meal, utilize wearables for biometric monitoring to optimize everyone's caloric intake, and use facial-recognition cameras paired with sentiment analysis software to make sure no fights occur at the dinner table.

Easy peasy.

Originally published on All About Circuits, on November 26, 2020 by Kate Smith

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