My first experience with an "As Seen on TV" products was the mid-'90s Miracle Thaw Defrosting Tray. The infomercial claimed you could defrost completely frozen steak and chicken in minutes. When we finally received our Miracle Thaw, we discovered that it was in fact, miraculous — when we were melting ice cubes. Defrosting meat, not so much.
Even today, it can be difficult to separate the works-in-real-life wheat from the infomercial chaff. Here are four "As Seen on TV" products that actually work — and that you can feel comfortable purchasing:
1. The Forearm Forklift
No less an authority than Consumer Reports touts the utility of the Forearm Forklift — a product consisting of two adjustable straps that you place underneath heavy furniture and appliances, and then hook over your forearms in order to more easily move heavy objects of up to 700 pounds, according to the claims.
The biggest benefit of this "As Seen on TV" wonder is that it allows you to lift and carry large and bulky items without having to hunch over, stretch, or hurt your hands on rough edges. Anyone who has ever had a tough time moving a couch up a flight of stairs can appreciate how much easier it could be to have a product that more evenly distributes the weight of what you are carrying.
But while the Forearm Forklift's infomercial claims that the product "employs leverage to make the pieces you carry feel lighter," the fact of the matter is that it's just a set of straps, and not a superhero cape. If the furniture you are trying to move is too heavy for you, then the Forearm Forklift will not fix that problem.
However, for any individual who will be handling his or her own move, owning a Forearm Forklift can potentially make your moving day both less painful — and less damaging to your stuff. At a cost of only about $20 (or the amount U-Haul charges for the rental of a furniture dolly), the Forearm Forklift is a good buy. (Just stick to purchasing it from a traditional retailer. Infomercial websites are notoriously difficult to navigate without buying extra stuff you don't want.)
2. The Pasta Boat
Oh, Pasta Boat, where were you when I was in college? This product was made for the dorm-dweller, whose only cooking option is the microwave. The Pasta Boat is a microwaveable plastic bowl that measures, cooks, strains, serves, and stores pasta all in one place.
The Pasta Boat chef merely throws her Italian carbohydrate of choice into the boat, fills it with water, and microwaves the whole shebang for approximately 18 minutes. When the timer dings, simply strain the water out using the strainer built right into the lid.
But wait! There's more! You can also steam vegetables and potatoes in the Pasta Boat, using the included steamer tray. Also, the handles do double-duty as measuring tools for spaghetti.
All that said, this is not a perfect product. Though My Daily Finance reviewer Lisa Kaplan Gordon gives the Pasta Boat high marks, she does note that it can be easy to scald yourself while removing the cooked pasta from the microwave.
Sadly, the Pasta Boat is a little difficult to hunt down these days (its heyday was 2011), but it can be found through third-party sellers on Amazon for about $13.
3. The Ped Egg
At first glance, the Ped Egg seems like nothing more than a cheese grater for the scaly parts of your feet. It claims to gently remove dead skin and callouses from your feet without pain or mess, since the "egg" part of the product is designed to catch the flaky skin detritus you are removing.
By all accounts, the pain-free claim is totally borne out. According to the website Does It Really Work?, "...if you try to use [the Ped Egg] on areas that aren't dry, flaky, and callousy, it doesn't do anything."
However, the product is not as good at containing the mess as it claims to be. Not only does it not catch all of your powdery skin flakes, but it's possible for the Egg to split apart mid-callous removal and rain dead skin all over your floor. So it's a good idea to use your Ped Egg over a towel.
Like the Pasta Boat, the Ped Egg is not as widely available as it once was, but you can find it on drugstore.com for $6.99.
4. The Ninja Master Prep Professional
Late-night infomercials have been promising easier slicing and dicing in the kitchen since almost before the invention of television. The Ninja Master Prep Professional is only the latest in the long line of blender/processor/chopper technology, and you can be forgiven for assuming it's just as much a waste of money as the Veg-o-Matic once was.
However, Consumer Reports finds that the Ninja Master Prep Professional lives up to its claims (although not the ridiculously vague one about ancient Japanese blade-making). It placed second in the Consumer Reports blender test, and first among food choppers.
Brian Krepshaw of CNET notes that it also works well with small ingredients like garlic cloves, as they don't get "lost" under the blade. (As a dedicated home cook, I have to say that I have torn my hair out about that flaw of my food processor on numerous occasions.)
In addition, everything but the motor is dishwasher safe.
While purchasing a Ninja Master Prep Professional would probably be superfluous for any cook who already owns a decent blender and food processor (lost garlic notwithstanding), it's a great buy for someone just starting out with no kitchen appliances, particularly considering the fact that it can be found for about $50.
Solving Real Problems
The cliché about infomercials is that they manufacture the problems that their products solve. (For example, we all know that milk is not as hard to open as this product claims.)
The "As Seen on TV" products that actually stand the test of time really do offer an efficient and elegant solution to a real problem. These four, unlike the Miracle Thaw Defrosting Tray, the Snuggie, or the Milkmaster 2000, actually deliver.