You know how you get those adverts on Instagram for various gadgets that seem too good to be true? Well, I get them all the time. A little while before Christmas I started seeing adverts from Wowzone for something called the Itaki Pro, which is an electric lunch box. You might ask what an electric lunch box is. How is it electric? Why does it need to be electric? Well, read on to find out.
Disclaimer: I have NOT been paid or given any incentives to write this review. I’m writing it because there was a real lack of reviews online about this product, but I noticed on social media that there was a lot of interest in it. This is the review I wish someone had written.
I find lunchtime is difficult. I used to sit at my desk with flat sandwiches that had been squashed in my bag during the morning or, if I was feeling brave, I’d risk using the office microwave to heat a can of soup. That was risky business because I doubt that thing ever got cleaned unless I did it. There was one other option; the McDonalds across the street from where I worked. I’ve just never really been into that kind of junk food though. I never eat burgers or fizzy drinks and their salads are extortionately priced. Now that I’m a home worker, I just grab whatever is in the fridge – usually leftovers or some kind of weird concoction of what’s lying around or in the freezer. Lunch is NOT that exciting, so I needed to find some new ideas for the new year.
There’s also the fact that I’m going on my travels this year. I have some trips planned and as someone who suffers from food allergies, I am going to struggle with hotel visits. Not everywhere understands the need for total avoidance of one specific food, where even traces can cause a serious problem. The easiest solution for me in the past has been to visit a resort with self-catering accommodation and a good supermarket nearby. If I had an electric lunchbox and a few staple ingredients, could short breaks become easier? Only if it works, is the answer.
Step forward the Itaki Lunch Box. It’s what they call a bento box and if you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone because I didn’t know before a few weeks ago. It’s adequate for cooking a single portion of food. How it works is that it steams the food, so you only need to add a small amount of water. This is good for several reasons:
- It’s one of the healthiest ways to cook your food as it holds in the nutrients
- You’re not adding fat so again, that’s good for your health
- You can add the food to the box, switch it on and leave it to cook while you work
- It’s easy to clean as there isn’t greasy fats to wash off
I ordered the pink one but it comes in a range of colours, namely orange, blue, black and lilac. There are also two types of Itaki lunch box. There’s the Itaki Pro and the Itaki Classic. The difference isn’t obvious but the Pro has an updated design with graphics on the front (cute, but really not necessary), larger capacity and upgraded features. That’s all the information I can find on the differences. They do seem to be a slightly different shape but without seeing both, I can’t give you any more specific details.
One of the first things I liked was that when ordering I got to choose the voltage and plug pin type. I chose UK, although really I should have picked EU because that’s where I’ll be travelling most. However, I can use it at home and on my road trips for now and worry about the EU plugs later. Despite choosing UK, it doesn’t arrive with a UK 3-pin plug. It arrives with the Asian style of plug and a travel adaptor. Not a huge issue and not really a problem, but it’s worth noting that they don’t supply you with a different plug, just an adaptor.
So, I ordered this on Boxing Day (26th December) and chose the cheapest shipping option. It arrived on 4th January. That was much quicker than I had expected. It arrives with a navy blue/white bag for easy transportation. The bag is only big enough for the lunch box and not the cable and adaptor though, so clearly that hasn’t been thought through. I’d like to see that updated. Inside the plastic lunch box there’s a large metal bowl, a smaller metal bowl and an egg tray that holds four eggs. Since I’m not going to be cooking eggs in it, I haven’t tested this part but I’m sure there are reviews out there that review egg cooking. I can’t find them but they probably exist on YouTube or somewhere. There’s also a little plastic measuring cup. Do NOT lose this cup. It’s going to be vitally important to using this device.
How it works is that you put two cups of water in the bottom of the Itaki lunch box. The large bowl sits on top of that water, but not in it. It’s slightly raised from the bottom. Then the small bowl sits on top of the larger bowl. You close it all up, switch it on and leave it for half an hour or an hour – depending on how much you’re cooking and what you’re cooking. It switches itself off if the water boils dry, which I really like. It’s quite a handy safety feature and I have tested this out to make sure it works. It does.
On opening, I got really excited to see how the Itaki Pro worked and wanted to try it right away. So, I got cooking! The first thing I tried was some plain basmati rice and some broccoli. I made the rookie mistake of putting the rice in the top bowl. You’re going to want to put the rice or whatever grain you’re using in the bottom bowl with a cup of water to soak up. This is because the water from the steaming (remember that cup or two that you’ve put in the bottom?) will drop into the top bowl naturally when it condenses. You don’t need to put any water in that bowl. The food in the larger bottom bowl doesn’t get that water. It gets heat. The best way to cook is to have the rice down there and the meat and vegetables in the smaller top bowl.
On my first attempt, I left it cooking for half an hour. I found that it cooked everything well and it was all moist. That wasn’t a meal I was planning to eat though. One isolated try is different from using it in the real world. I decided to cook some lunches in it. It had to be food that I would really eat and most importantly, it had to be food that I wouldn’t have otherwise cooked because of the inconvenience of using multiple pots and ovens. That’s the true test of whether it’s worth buying, right?
On Monday I made myself some rice, chicken breast and carrots. It was switched on for around an hour and then it went dry. The chicken wasn’t 100% cooked. I don’t know if I had cut it into chunks that were too big or if I had piled it high and it needed to be separated. Not a problem though. I just put in another cup of water and left it for another 20 minutes. I’m really pleased with how the meal turned out. I enjoyed it and steaming is so much better than boiling. There’s a different flavour when you steam.
On Tuesday, I made myself some salmon, broccoli and more rice. This cooked quicker this time. Forty minutes was sufficient. That includes the time it takes for the water to heat up and start steaming, because obviously the water is cold when you pour it in. The salmon was perfect. The rice was a little sticky both days. I’ve been using a cup of rice and two cups of water, but I might try three tomorrow.
So, after using it for two days, I can say that I really like this steamer. Here are the pros and cons:
- It cooks the food really well
- It’s easy to clean
- It looks cute
- It’s lightweight and will be easy to transport
- I think it’s reasonably priced at $49.95
- It’s difficult to know, without opening it up, whether the food is cooked
- There’s no insulation so it’s hot to touch
- The portion sizes might be a little small for some (they’re fine for me though, I’m a light eater)
- The recipe book that comes with the lunch box has very few recipes in it
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this electric lunch box. I give it a solid 9/10. This could be improved by the addition of a clear top so you can see if the food is cooked and some kind of insulation to ensure that if you touch it from the outside when it’s in use, it won’t burn. I’d also like a car adaptor so I can use it on the move.
There’s also the fact that I might get a little sick of eating rice. I’m planning to try some soft straight-to-wok noodles or potatoes in it, as well as couscous. I don’t think pasta would work though. That might require a little more power. Time will tell and a lot of the cooking I do in it will be trial and error.
If you’re interested in trying the Itaki Pro, you can head to Wowzone to check it out. There are also lots of other brands available on Amazon if you search for electric lunch box.