Microwave ovens--they are cool. Summer cool, too, these warm sultry days when flash cooking is preferred.
Microwave subcompacts, microwave cookware, gadgets, recipes, anything related to the magnetron tube . . . they are hot.
What's new? It's a rush out there among manufacturers hustling to unload their micro-style goods, while consumer interest glows red hot.
Sharp Electronics Corp. decided to add color, electronic touch pads and a little more room to its latest show and tell, the Half-Pints, which were originally introduced in 1985 (model 4260). Lower priced, subcompact microwave ovens are successfully finding their way into small home kitchens, wet bars, second homes, yachts and college dorms.
Sharp created a microwave oven first--decorator colors--in its model R-4060. The 13-inch cube ovens come in five colors, each with a black door: burgundy red, pastel blue, white with pink trim, pastel yellow and pastel pink. Each unit has a 0.43 cubic foot interior capacity, which holds a 10-inch dinner plate. The output power is 400 watts, and it has a 15-minute dial timer. An oven light for viewing and a removable glass tray are added features.
Available by October is Sharp's Model R-4070, an almond-colored Half-Pint with added features of a cooking and defrosting guide on the horizontal control panel and a larger interior capacity of 0.53 cubic feet. A third model, R-4270, which is slightly more expensive, has auto-touch controls for all cooking functions, digital display for time-of-day clock, cooking times and variable power settings and an electronic timer up to 99 minutes, 99 seconds.
A new feature has also been added to Sharp's touch control models. Called Minute Plus, the feature helps when cooking is already in progress and a little more microwave time is needed; by touching the Minute Plus pad, another minute is added at the preset power level. Touching the pad several times adds that many more minutes, twice for two more minutes, three times for three more, etc.
Providing innovative cooking options, General Electric's new oven is the Omni 5, a combination micro-based unit that broils, bakes, microwaves, microbakes and toasts. Available in almond or wood grain with touch-control panels, the wide and low dimensioned unit goes under the cabinet for convenience. An advantage of this oven is the option of microbake combination, which reduces total cooking time while producing browning and crisping. A Time Cook setting indicates completion of cooking time and turns the oven off automatically.
The Omni comes with a wire oven shelf for conventional and microbake combination cooking, an enameled oven tray for microwaving and broiling and a broiler rack. A recipe book with convenience food and microwaving charts is included in the unit. Because of the low height, the oven will not accommodate roasts. The manufacturer also advises against popping popcorn in the unit.
For consumers who are leery about radiation leaks in their microwave units, the Microscan from Atlantic Representations can serve as a comforting gadget. The microwave oven radiation detector, which comes in the form of a stick, is much easier to use than other products that involve a meter reading. To detect leakage, the detector head may be run over areas such as vents and door cracks.
Leo Dardashti, the manufacturer representative, explains the working principle of this inexpensive product: "The detector derives its power directly from the microwaves themselves. The internal indicator is made up of a glass bulb containing rare earth gases, along with two electrodes which initiate the release of photons (everyday light)."
When placed inside a working microwave, the Microscan lights up to a bright red to indicate that it is functioning. The gadget itself, according to Dardashti, does not generate microwave.
The gadget will also detect hot and cold spots inside the unit. Place the detector in different areas of the oven floor to see what the cooking pattern is. When the detector is consistently lighted, it indicates a hot spot and when sporadically lighted, or off, there is a cold spot. In the event that a leak is detected, an authorized microwave oven technician should be contacted.
The last set of microwave helpers comes from MicroMeals. Developed by Diane Lewis and Karen Haas, this includes microwave recipe cards and a new videotape on basic microwave techniques.
Lewis and Haas, Illinois-based, have been demonstrating and teaching microwave cooking from coast-to-coast for seven years. The MicroMeals series of recipe cards is now in its eighth printing. A set of 210 recipe cards are neatly packed in a plastic box that is designed like a little microwave. Also available is a plastic card holder that displays and protects the card while the card is being used. This has three windows that allow you to see at a glance, the power level, cooking time and rotation.
The Half-Pint microwave ovens from Sharp have a suggested retail price of $129. Models 4060 and 4260 are available at Broadway and May Co. Models 4070 and 4270 will not be available until October.
The General Electric Omni Microwave Oven has a suggested retail price of $249 to $289. Omni models are available at Friedman's Microwave Ovens and the Broadway. Or call G.E.'s Answer Service for the nearest store: (800) 626-2000.
The Microscan may be ordered by sending $9.95 to Atlantic Representations, 733 N. Huntley Drive, Suite 2, Los Angeles 90069.
MicroMeals recipe cards, from $2.49 to $19 are available at Gelson's. The videotape, "Diane and Karen cooking with MicroMeals," is available in Beta, VHS or 8 millimeter. Send $29.95 plus $2.50 shipping cost to Media Development Corp., 721 E. State St., Rockford, Ill. 61107.