DIY with TI: For game day, cooking up chicken wings like no other

At TI, we celebrate the makers and hobbyists who enjoy creating and innovating on their own time. In our ongoing DIY with TI series, we share their incredible Do It Yourself inventions using TI technology.

TI AvatarFor DIYer Trey German, there's no need to slave over a stove or tend a hot grill outside for the big game on Sunday. He will just let the chicken wings cook themselves slowly in a bath of water, a la sous-vide – using a Wi-Fi contraption he built from TI parts.

Trey has been developing a taste for fine dining and honing his cooking skills over the past couple of years. Recently, he started experimenting with sous-vide cooking – a French method in which the food is sealed in airtight plastic bags and cooked in water.

"I had seen the sous-vide technique, which has become more popular recently, and I wanted to give it a try. But I didn't want to spend $200-plus on a gadget that would just sit in my kitchen cabinet," he said.

So Trey combined his passion for food with his proven DIY skills and built his own Wi-Fi-controlled sous-vide system using a common crockpot and several TI devices, including a LaunchPad evaluation kit. Trey is TI's LaunchPad applications manager in the microcontrollers (MCU) organization.

"All sous-vide cooking requires is a temperature-controlled water bath, so many common kitchen appliances can be used for this by adding some smart electronics to them," Trey said.

In order to transform the crockpot, he added an MSP430F5529 USB LaunchPad, SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3100 BoosterPack, ADS1118 Thermocouple BoosterPack and a custom TRIAC board.

"Many other DIYers have built homemade sous-vide cookers using more expensive solid-state relays," Trey said.

But he designed his own, using power TRIACs and opto-TRIACs to implement discrete solid-state relays. The software was developed using Energia and with support from TI cloud partners Temboo and Twilio.

"The code was originally written by someone else for an Arduino, but because of Energia, we can take that sketch and port it to the LaunchPad to build anything," he said.

Putting the cooker to the test

On Sunday, Trey plans to cook a platter of chicken wings in his homemade sous-vide cooker for four hours at 170 degrees. After that, he will throw the wings into a deep fryer for a hot minute to crisp the skin. The wings wouldn’t be complete without that classic buffalo wing flavor, so he will finish them off by tossing them in the classic combo of some Frank's RedHot sauce and melted butter.

The slow-cook process not only helps the meat keep its juicy flavor, but it also allows Trey to take a laissez-faire approach to cooking.

"By allowing the food to cook itself, you have more time to spend with your guests," he said. "You just throw the bag in the water bath. When you're ready to serve it, you spend about five to 10 minutes in the kitchen. It frees you up to do other things."

TI AvatarTrey's girlfriend gets to enjoy both his company and his cooking.

Last week, she got to try another dish that he whipped up: a reverse seared Kobe beef rib-eye steak with fried Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, along with garlic rosemary roasted potatoes.

"She was impressed," Trey said. "My cooking techniques are improving, and I think I'll have a girlfriend for at least another week."

Trey said he has developed a strong appetite for cooking and has started investing in more cookware and kitchen gadgets.

"I really enjoy it. Food should be awesome, but often times it isn't," he said. "Honing my cooking skills has allowed me to eat well more often."

Making a name for himself

Many people in the DIY community know Trey for his creations like the InstaSPIN Quadcopter, LaunchPad-based Wi-Fi connected hat that was shown at Maker Faire New York, and student projects like a 3-D glasses washing system. He is also a well-regarded mentor at TI.

Trey, who lives in Houston, Texas, plans to bring his sous-vide cooker and a couple other new projects to Dallas for this year's "DIY with TI Showcase Event" on Friday, May 29, at the South Campus.

And if Chairman, President and CEO Rich Templeton stops by again for the DIY event, Trey may even have some samples of his cuisine to share with him.