Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Review: Black & Decker Infrawave Countertop Oven
Basically it uses infrared light to do the cooking, which means that it cooks with radiation (no need for the lead suits), and not the convection of heat via the air. One positive there is that there is no preheat time; you put the food in, turn the oven on, and you've started, as lights at the top and bottom go on and off periodically as the food cooks. That alone saves you significant time, and it also can cook very quickly. For example, I put in some appetizers that were supposed to take 14 minutes, and they were done in 7. The speed success, I gather from my experimenting, depends on how flat the food is. For example, I tried baking five small potatoes. The system recommended 30-some-odd minutes, but to get them really done (with a nicely crisped skin) took closer to an hour. A traditional oven would have taken at least a half hour longer. But toast that might have been five minutes in a regular toaster was often done in two to three here. You can get a good browned surface in a way a microwave would never achieve. (Except for the late, lamented Sharp combination microwave and conventional convection oven, which was a drea but eventually died and I've yet to find an adequate replacement).
But you do have to get used to this oven. For example, you don't think in terms of temperatures, because the oven cycles differently for different types of food. Instead, you try to find the food that is closest in nature, which can be an interesting experience itself. Also, you can't try to outguess how the cooking happens. I had originally put two pieces of bread in to toast and took them out prematurely. One side was done, but the other wasn't. When I did leave it in, though, it worked right. So there's an element of trust involved until you get used to it.
I haven't baked anything in it yet, partly because of the oven's major fault: it's a bit small. Four pieces of bread fit in - barely. I was going to bake a cut-up chicken until I found that I couldn't quite fit all the pieces into the small baking pan, though a slightly larger oven probably would have worked fine. In short, it's an oven worth adding to your tool arsenal, although you'll need some training time.