When other cooking appliances fail, can you turn to your hair dryer?

Blowdrying a duck

What to do if your stove doesn't work? The grill is out of gas or you've run out of charcoal?  Well, it turns out that many of us have been overlooking an important cooking appliance - the hairdryer. According to NPR's recent article, Hair Dryer Cooking: From S'mores To Crispy Duck Marcella Hazan pioneered hair dryer cooking back in the 1970's. Rather than air dry a duck overnight - which ensures crispy skin - she blasted it with a hair dryer. (For those of you who are curious about the science, moist skin can't get above 212 degrees F - the boiling temperature of water - and skin doesn't crisp until it's 300 degree F.)

And it isn't just Marcella who champions hair dryers. The cooks at America's Test Kitchen like it for relighting charcoals on the grill,  putting a glossy sheen on cake frosting, and/or  softening up a bar of chocolate to make it easier to shave off slivers.

However, we really like NPR's use of their hair dryer - to make S'mores. Here's how they describe the process: 

"So we tried making hair dryer s'mores here at NPR headquarters with some dark, 70 percent chocolate. And, well, we were blown away.

Seconds after the hot air hits the candy's surface, the dark chocolate starts to get glossy. Then it quickly turns into a chocolate fountain flowing across the graham cracker. (Note: You do have to hold the chocolate down with a fork or chopstick to keep it from blowing off the plate).

The dryer will also melt the marshmallow. But the air from the appliance is too cool to toast the marshmallow and give it a brown color. Caramelization of sugar and other browning reactions occur only at temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit." They have some fun videos showing the process.

Actually, it doesn't look as if a hair dryer can really replace a cooking appliance, but what's not to love the idea of cooking S'mores on a  cold, wet day?

Photo courtesy of Michaeleen Doucleff/NPR

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