At first glance, the Anti-Griddle from PolyScience looks more like a science fair project than something that you would use to create culinary masterpieces. It's about the size of a large microwave, and has a 1-square-foot cook top. The Anti-Griddle's cook top isn't your run-of-the-mill cooking surface: instead of heating up for sauteing, grilling, and frying, it cools down to a frigid -30 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in treats with frozen shells and soft, creamy centers.
If you're trying to figure out why an arctic chill "cook" top would come in handy, then you can start by remembering the first time you had Dippin Dots. Using liquid nitrogen, inventor Curt Jones was able to freeze cream so quickly that it ended up forming into beads instead of solid blocks. Using his background in cryogenics, Jones revolutionized the way we thought about the frozen treat, and now molecular gastronomists are using liquid nitrogen to freeze all sorts of confections.
Several months before the release of the Anti-Griddle, restaurant El Bulli (known as the frontier of molecular gastronomy) released a similar invention constructed from a metal plate over a bowl of the same liquid nitrogen used to freeze Dippin Dots. (Chow.com) The problem with this construction is that, although effective as a freezing agent, liquid nitrogen can be unpredictable. The electric Anti-Griddle can be plugged into any outlet and cools to its steady -30 degree F temperature in about 15 minutes, so it achieves the same effect as liquid nitrogen without using wild chemicals.
Some chefs have used the Anti-Griddle to make crème anglaise lollipops, while others, like Chef Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea restaurant, have created more complicated confections like frozen mango puree with sesame oil. The manufacturer recommends that you spray the surface with cooking spray and use nonmetal utensils, and also suggests using thicker liquids with stronger flavors (since the cold temperatures on the Anti-Griddle can dull your tastebuds). The invention has not only won the hearts of high-end chefs; it also impressed the folks at Food Network, who gave it the 2007 Food Network Award for Tasty Technology.