I know what you’re thinking – a popsicle maker? Here on MakeUseOf? Since when have we become a food website? Don’t worry, we’re still a technology website, this is still Gaming Month, and the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker is not your ordinary pop maker. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s really a gadget – one that doesn’t require batteries, maybe – but a gadget nonetheless. And if you think about it for a minute, isn’t an awesome, custom-made popsicle the perfect treat for a day of gaming?
No matter which console you like or what your favorite accessories are, you’re bound to like popsicles, especially on a hot summer day. The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker makes it possible to create and prepare any kind of popsicle you can dream of, and have it ready to eat in just several minutes. Or so the company claims. But how many times have you seen awesome food gadgets on TV, only to be disappointed after getting tempted to buy them? Is there any small print they don’t want you to see?
I took the Zoku Duo for a thorough test drive to see if there’s any truth to the promises. Can this gadget be beautiful, innovative, and actually work? Read on to find out! And as usual, there’s a sweet surprise at the end of this article — 5 Zoku Duo Quick Pop Makers which we’re giving away to 5 lucky readers!
What Is The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker?
Don’t believe first impressions. The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker is not some fancy toy that lets you make popsicles the boring old way. Instead of pouring your juice and then freezing it, the Zoku does it the other way around – freeze first, then pour. This way, you get to enjoy a popsicle in minutes instead of having to wait a few hours.
So how does it work? The Zoku Duo is filled with what they call a “refrigerant liquid”, which can also be found in ice-cream makers. After placing the unit in your freezer for 24 hours (or less, depending on your freezer), the liquid inside the Zoku Duo freezes. You can now place it on your countertop, and pour almost anything that comes to mind into the molds. The metal surface transfers the “coldness” into your liquid, and freezes it in a matter of minutes.
The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker comes in three different sizes: the single ($25), the double ($37), and the triple ($50); the official online store ships within the US only. Since the Zoku doesn’t thaw very quickly, you can usually make two, or even three batches of popsicles in one run, so if you own the double unit, like I do, you can theoretically make up to six popsicles in one run, before they stop freezing.
While there are many ice-cream makers and popsicle molds out there, the is nothing similar to the Zoku Duo that I could find. It’s time to see if there’s any truth to Zoku’s promise — can you really make popsicles that easily?
What’s In The Box?
When you buy a Zoku Quick Pop maker, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting. This is basically it:
The Zoku’s box includes the Duo Quick Pop Maker itself, four Zoku sticks, and four drip guards for the sticks. The number of sticks and drip guards depends on the type of Zoku you have. If you go for the triple, for example, you get six sticks and drip guards. These items are made of plastic, but feel sturdy enough to withstand a fair amount of pressure without breaking. They don’t feel flimsy.
The box also includes the Zoku Super Tool. This item is used to release the popsicles from the molds easily. You’ll see exactly how it works in the next section of this review.
Zoku offers many different accessories, none of which are bundled with the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker kit. The Zoku Tools kit ($20), for example, includes three pouring cups with liquid indicators for one, two, and three pops; an angle tray to make zigzag pops; a siphon for making filled pops; a fruit wand for easily inserting fruit slices into the molds; and shaped stencils for making little stars and hearts out of fruit slices.
You can also get things like the Zoku Storage Case ($20), to store prepared popsicles in the freezer, the Zoku Chocolate Station ($20), to add chocolate shells and decorations to your pops, and even a Zoku Character Kit ($15), to make cute shapes on your popsicles.
All these extra tools could be fun, but they’re not necessary to the process of making popsicles. I managed to make filled pops and insert fruit slices without the specialized tools, as you will soon see.
In order to make popsicles, the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker needs to be completely frozen. Depending on your freezer, this can take up to 24 hours, but can also happen overnight. I found that if I store it in the freezer all the time, it’s always ready when I want to use it. Make sure you store it upright, though. If you don’t, the liquid inside won’t freeze in the right position around the molds.
It’s important to realize the the Zoku Duo is not a toy. It could be a great activity for kids, but the metal surface of the unit is very cold, and anything that touches it sticks to it immediately, This very much includes fingers, so be careful not to touch the metal part of the surface or let children touch it when it’s frozen. The plastic-covered parts are completely safe, so handling the unit and moving it around while frozen is not a problem.
Your popsicles can be made of pretty much anything, as long as it contains a sugar of some kind. It doesn’t have to be added sugar — the natural sugar in fruit is enough — but don’t try to make pops out of diet drinks or with artificial sweeteners. These are very hard to release from the molds. You might also want to avoid pops with very high fat content, as these tend to be too soft and might get stuck too. You can find lots of recipes online, but after playing around with it for a while, you can easily come up with your own ideas.
After pouring your mixture into the molds, you will see it start to freeze around the edges right away. Each mold has a clearly marked fill line which you should not go over. Going over it could make the pops hard or even impossible to release from the mold.
You can set a timer for 7-9 minutes, which is the recommended wait time, but my first batch always takes much less than that. You can gently poke the center with a straw to feel if it’s hard enough.
This is where the Super Tool comes into action, and this is the part I was most skeptical about. Pouring liquids into molds is easy enough, but will my popsicles really come out? Will this thing actually freeze them? I swear, you could feel the tension in the air if you were here.
To release your pops, screw the Super Tool onto one of the sticks, and turn it clockwise. You do this until you feel some resistance, and then some. After several turns, you should see the pop starting to rise out from the mold. This is a good sign. When this happens, it’s time to remove the Super Tool from the stick by turning it counter-clockwise.
Now it’s time to pray and pull your popsicle out. You can attach a drip guard to the stick at this point, if you want. Looking pretty good so far!
Lo and behold, a real strawberry yogurt popsicle, completely homemade! The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker actually delivered on its promise, at least in this batch.
No matter which popsicles I made, I always managed to make at least 4 of them. For the quicker kind (i.e., simple pops with only one layer), 6 wasn’t a problem either, but since the double Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker only comes with 4 sticks, we had to eat two before we could make more. As you can probably guess, devouring two of these wasn’t a huge problem. After all, what else are you supposed to do while waiting on the next batch?
How Hard Is It Really?
You may be thinking that I’m making this look easier than it is, or that I was only making very simple pops. You’d be partially right about the first point — there is definitely some mess to clean up which I did not include in my pictures — but it’s a pretty easy process other than that. Here are some more examples of pops I managed to make, without any extra tools.
In this batch, I was going for chocolate-filled strawberry yogurt pops. This was a bit ambitious for a first try, especially since I didn’t have Zoku’s siphon. After pouring in the strawberry base and waiting for a minute, I used a regular drinking straw to drink the middle part out.
I then poured a chocolate mixture into the molds, to make a chocolate-filled strawberry pop.
Those came out okay, but I waited too long before drinking out the middle so too much of the strawberry base was already frozen, and ended up with almost no chocolate filling at all. In the next batch, I made chocolate-filled mango pops, which came out much better, as you can see. The chocolate shell was made with Zoku’s Chocolate Station, which is not part of this giveaway, but you use any tall dish to dip your pops in chocolate.
I also managed to insert fruit slices into the molds without the special fruit wand. This is trickier than advertised, because the fruit slices stick to the mold as soon as they touch it. I used the Zoku sticks to insert the fruit, but a pair of chopsticks would have been a better choice, probably.
I also made two-colored pops by pouring in one mixture, waiting for it to freeze, and then filling the rest of the mold with a different one. This kind is very easy to make, but takes longer, so it may reduce the number of pops you get to make overall.
All in all, I was surprised at how easy it was to make these pops. I’m not artistically inclined, and usually have a hard time creating anything this beautiful. While my results are not anywhere near as nice as the ones on the Zoku website, it’s easy enough to achieve respectable results with the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker.
I only ever managed to get one popsicle stuck in the mold, but it was due to a mistake I made, trying to be just a little too creative. Pops will get stuck every once in a while, and when that happens, there’s nothing much you can do but rinse the whole thing out with warm water and try again tomorrow. If only one of the pops gets stuck, you can continue working with the free mold to make several more before everything thaws.
Living With The Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker
With the risk of sounding like a commercial, I must say that my life is slightly more fun since owning the Zoku. Once every couple of days we take the Pop Maker out of the freezer, where it now lives, and make a batch of 2-4 pops. I won’t go as far as to say they’re good for you, but they must be better than anything you can get in the store, and it’s nice to know exactly what goes into your popsicles.
If you have kids, the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker can provide a somewhat healthier alternative for snacks, but it can also provide an hour of fun activity, and encourage creativity as you think up combinations for your next batch. If you don’t have kids, you’re going to enjoy this even more, because you’ll get to eat them all yourself!
I was skeptic about this gadget working as advertised, but I must say, I was positively surprised. As long as you follow the rules, and there aren’t many, there’s no reason you won’t be able to make awesome popsicles at home.
How do I win the Zoku Duo Quick Pop Maker?
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