There's “Easy-To-Use” And Then There's Easy To Use
Cooking sprays have become all the rage in the last few years, proliferating and populating supermarket shelves under names like Pam, Crisco, Baker's Joy, and numerous store brands. They come in a variety of flavors, including olive oil, butter, and “original” vegetable oil. Some, like Baker's Joy, add a flour component especially useful for baking.
The main purpose of the product is its application to frying pans and other cookware and bakeware as a means of preventing food from sticking. Most cooking sprays are aerosols that operate on the same principal, employing oil as a lubricant, lecithin as an emulsifier, and a propellant such as food-grade alcohol, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide or propane. Concerns over the environmental and health effects of these propellants have prompted some manufacturers to develop and market “propellant-free” lines.
All well and good, and like most home and professional kitchens, I have a few of these products in mine. My pastry cook wife uses the flour sprays like Baker's Joy, although a product made by Wilton called “Bake Easy” is her actual preference. Commercial sprays made by Wesson used to live in my restaurant kitchen. There's just one drawback for me: environmental and health considerations aside, these things are expensive. That's why I started looking for alternatives and I found them in the form of reusable, refillable oil misters and sprayers.
First out of the gate was a highly recommended gadget called “MISTO.” Advertising copy calls it “ the #1 Selling Oil Mister Brand in the U.S.” And who am I to question The NPD Group, Inc./Retail Tracking Service? The copy goes on to tout “the convenience and health benefits of an aerosol sprayer in a more economical and environmental form.” That's because the non-aerosol sprayer doesn't use chemical propellants, and it's refillable, so no more throwing away expensive cans that end up clogging our landfills. And MISTO is BPA-free. So far, so good.
It's a cool-looking device, all brushed aluminum on the outside. I got a two-pack; one was stainless steel silver and the other an olive-oil green color. Obviously, I filled the silver one with canola oil and put olive oil in the other one.
Following the manufacturer's instructions for the “2 step operation,” I filled the container to the recommended level with oil. The manufacturer repeatedly advises you not to fill the reservoir more than halfway. Then I screwed on the “easy-to-use pump style cap” and proceeded to pump. I pumped it up the recommended number of times and depressed the pressurized sprayer, expecting the promised “even mist” of oil. Not so much. What I got was a sputtering stream. Okay. I must have done something wrong. I was cautioned that threading the cap on incorrectly allows air to escape and in turn does not allow the bottle to build up pressure to spray. Must have been the problem. So I tried again. This time I got the desired spray – for about five seconds. Then the sputtering began again and it was back to pumping.
Eventually, I got the things to work on a fairly regular basis, although for some odd reason the silver one always sprayed better than the green one. Olive oil is thicker, maybe? I don't know. In any case, “#1 selling” and “easy-to-use” aside, the things were a constant pain in the ass in a busy kitchen. Who has time for all that pumping and primping? You've got to make sure it's threaded properly and that you've filled it to the proper level and that you've pumped it the correct number of times and that you haven't tightened the cap down too tightly and compressed the seal. And if it clogs – which it will – there's a “simple” process to unclog it that involves removing the spray part with uptake tube and submerging it in hot soapy water and soaking it for 20 or 30 minutes. Then you've got to pump the soapy water out through the tube and hope like hell it worked. There's another method that involves using vinegar before the hot soapy water. Either way, better make sure you get all the soap out before you refill that sucker. Nothing like spraying your salad with olive oil and Dawn. Speaking of refilling, I mentioned the injunction to only fill it halfway, right? Otherwise there's not enough air space inside to facilitate proper pressure buildup. Okay, that means you're limited to about 1/3 cup capacity, a measly 2.5 to 3 ounces of oil. Which means you're going to do a lot of refilling. And then to top it off, after several months of fairly regular use, both units crapped out and quit working entirely within a few weeks of one another. I did a little research and found this to be a pretty common issue. Seems if you don't release the pressure after every use, irreparable clogging can result. Bottom line: If you can get them to work, MISTOs are great while they work, but they are temperamental and often don't work for very long.
Enter the EVO. I found this sprayer on Amazon while I was looking for replacements for the dead MISTOs. And it was love at first spray.
Talk about simplicity and ease of use, it's a frickin' trigger-pump spray bottle, fer cryin' out loud! No “2 step operations,” no pumping your arm off, no worries about cross-threading, no optimum fill points, no pressure to release. You just fill it up, point and shoot.
Now there's a little proprietary engineering involved here, lest you think you can just grab a dollar spray bottle in the beauty aisle at Walmart and do the same thing. EVO is designed with the viscosity of oil in mind. Made from BPA-, Latex-, and DEHP-free plastic, EVO dispenses oil in a unique fan pattern at a consistent rate of 1.35-milliliters per trigger pull. This fan pattern covers more cooking surface using less oil than a conical pattern, making for perfect portion control. The plastic bottles are see-through, so you know how much oil you have left without having to unscrew the top and peer down inside. Again, I got a two-pack and the plastic is tinted in two colors so you can identify the contents of the bottles at a glance. (There's also an available accessory pack that includes a twist-on funnel and three pre-printed identification bands.) The ergonomic grip is very comfortable to use and is ideal for kids or adults with smaller hands. It's shatterproof and clog resistant. The bottle is top-rack dishwasher safe, although you do have to hand wash the sprayer in the aforementioned hot soapy water. BUT.....you don't have to reassemble the thing and pump it up to pressurize it and try to expel the soapy residue. Just immerse the bottom of the tube in clear water and squeeze the trigger until the spray runs clear.
Where both the MISTO and the EVO have it over aerosol cooking sprays is that you can use them for more than just spraying your pans. Because you're using nothing but pure oil, you can use the non-aeresol sprayers to dispense oil directly onto your food. I know the commercial cooking sprays all contain food safe ingredients and that you could spray Pam on your salad, but would you? I prefer my food to be served without all the emulsifiers and propellants that come along with the oil.
I brought my EVOs into my restaurant kitchen for a tryout. My cooks loved them and wanted to know where I got them. The 8-ounce bottles are compact and have a wide base that makes them just about impossible to knock over unless you're really trying. Grab the bottle, spray the desired amount, set the bottle back down and repeat as necessary until the bottle runs dry. No pumping and priming and all that other rigamarole. And a consistent, even spray each and every time you pull the trigger. If EVO can pass muster in a busy restaurant kitchen, I think you'll be satisfied with its performance in your home kitchen. I know I certainly am.
MISTO is available online or at retail outlets like Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target. EVO is available through the same sources. Check them both out for yourself at Amazon, where you can get a single MISTO for about $10 or an 8-ounce EVO 2-pack for about $23. Just remember, EVO is about three times bigger in capacity and far more reliable in use. For the money, my money is on EVO.