Imperial Spherificator gizmo turns virtually any food into caviar-size pearls

Cheesecake with blackcurrant pearls? Rum with coke pearls? Chicken with Tabasco pearls? This super-fun kitchen device will make your modernist cuisine dreams possible.

Michael Franco
Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
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Your friends will think you've gotten true pearls of cooking wisdom when you impress them with what the Spherificator can do. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

You might have a really well-stocked kitchen, but I'm willing to wager that it doesn't have a Spherificator. I'm also willing to bet that you really, really want one.

The Imperial Spherificator is a device now raising funds on Kickstarter that basically takes any food you can liquefy and turns it into tiny pearls that look just like caviar.

As strange as that sounds, as you watch Canada-based inventor Naor Cohen go through a few recipes in his fundraising video, you realize that the gadget could actually bring a huge amount of fun and creativity into cooking -- and cocktail making. Cohen uses the device to make onion and vinegar pearls to go on oysters, tomato pearls to go on mozzarella discs, mint pearls to go in a mojito, and coffee liqueur pearls to go atop some kind of creamy delicious-looking dessert. It's the kind of thing that's been around for years in the molecular gastronomy type of cuisine, but this Kickstarter promises to make it simpler to do at home.

The first step in using the Imperial Spherificator (gotta love the name, no?) is to liquefy your chosen food, if it's solid like tomatoes, in a blender. Then you wait for the air bubbles to disappear in the mixture if there are any. Next you pour it in the device, press a button and shoot the pearls into a bowl of water mixed with calcium chloride, a common salt. Rinse the pearls and you're good to go.

Inside the Sphericator, your liquid is mixed with alginate, an edible thickening agent made from seaweed. When the mix of food and alginate meets the calcium in the water, pearls are formed.

Cohen also runs a company called Imperial Caviar and Seafood, which has been making caviar substitute for years, so it seems he's used to the science of spherification. The Imperial Spherificator is basically the home version of the industrial process he uses to make his product -- one which, by the way, impressed at least one investor on the Canadian TV show "Dragon's Den." Spherification was popularized by famed molecular gastronomy chef Ferran Adria of Spain.

Although all of the "very early bird" Spherificators are now gone, you can still get a regular early-bird order for $125 (about £80, AU$170). That comes with 100 grams (about a quarter pound) each of alginate and calcium chloride, which are both commercially available once you go through your initial supplies. Each device comes with recipes and a tip booklet to up your odds of fake-caviar-making success.

So far more than $46,000 of the goal of $61,573 has been raised with 22 days left in the campaign. If you decide to pledge and the campaign funds, you can expect your Imperial Spherificator to arrive in November -- maybe just in time to serve some turkey with cranberry pearls.

See, I'm starting to get the hang of this!