In the second half of the 20th century, the model for innovation in the kitchen was the microwave. Borrowing technology designed for use in radar during World War II, it offered a truly new way of cooking food. A magnetron creates an electromagnetic field that reverses polarity billions of times per second, flooding food with waves that cause its water and fat molecules to constantly reorient. This vibration heats up neighboring molecules, causing rapid cooking… in a way. Since microwaves cannot penetrate food very far, and the waves do not contact food evenly, only certain parts heat up quickly. Anyone who’s zapped a slice of frozen lasagna and had alternate bites of hot magma cheese and frozen meat sauce knows this too well. The microwave is fast, convenient and inaccurate.
In her 2005 New York Times Magazine article “Under Pressure,” Amanda Hesser postulated that sous vide – at the time a technique used almost exclusively by the best experimental chefs – “would probably one day make its way into the kitchen. the House”. How right she was. Today, you can buy an affordable vacuum circulator, in the shape and size of a Maglite flashlight, that can hold a container of water at a temperature accurate to tenths of a degree. Let a rib eye steak, sealed in a plastic bag, swim in a 130 ° F tub and it will come out medium rare from side to side. Sous vide negotiates almost antithetical qualities in the microwave: it’s slow (an hour and a half to two hours for this perfectly cooked sirloin), relatively impractical (you have to plan in advance and often finish the job with it). one last entry), and very precise. The fact that sous vide has found real success suggests that for many home cooks today, accuracy is at least as important as convenience.
Do cooks in 2021 really have to make this binary choice? A clutch of state-of-the-art household appliances would make us believe the answer is no. Many promise precision comparable to sous vide cooking, but with more robust capabilities, such as the ability to brown food, while also providing convenience with a host of smart features like apps and pre-programmed recipes. Like their predecessors, a number of them rely on awesome sounding technology for cooking.
Take the Brava oven, which cooks in visible and infrared light. According to the manufacturers, inside the windowless box the size of a toaster oven are “six high-powered lights that heat more than a wood-fired pizza oven.” But brute force heat is not the intention here. Instead, the oven targets these lights at different areas of the oven, such as the underside of the pan your food is on, or directly on top of the food, to cook two different foods simultaneously – for example, a steak and asparagus. – on the same board and produce an ideal version of each.