No matter how much one likes to cook, there are days when you want to get out of the kitchen, and as quickly as possible. Of course, the simplest alternative may be to take the family to a restaurant or dash to the deli for some convenient take-out foods. Modern technology in innovative appliances has, however, made quick cooking or cool cooking possible. Gone are the days of sweating over a hot stove for hours to feed a hungry family.
Probably the greatest invention directed towards no-sweat cooking is the microwave oven. However, the appliance has limitations in browning, crisping and imparting a baked flavor. Solutions to these problems may be on the way, however.
Unveiled during the early part of the year and soon to arrive in the appliance market is the Hi-Speed Combination Convection/Microwave oven from Brother Industries (model MF-2100 $399). Its most exciting function is the Hi-Speed mode, which uses microwave and convection energy simultaneously. Moisture released by the deep-heating microwaves is removed by the hot air that flows around the food, imparting a desirable golden brown, crisp and delicious quality to foods cooked in it in a fraction of the time a regular oven requires. The two other heat settings in this new appliance are Turbo for straight convection cooking and the Microwave mode, which can be set at low, medium and high power.
It's easy to like the Brother MF 2100 for its simple operation using the touch control panel. In the microwave mode you hold down one button to get the different power levels. Due to advanced technology, the new oven is also capable of working with food in metal and foil containers.
An immediate attraction in the Brother microwave is the oven's clean, white styling with sleek black glass door. Extra incentives come from the accessories: a splash trivet, an insulated ceramic mat, a turntable, wire rack and a beautifully illustrated full-color cookbook.
Two other microwave/convection models from Brother will also be forthcoming before long: the MF-3200 ($599), which has an automatic sensor system so "it thinks for itself" and the MF-2200 ($499), with automatic defrost and automatic cooking and timing by weight.
Fast and cool stovetop cooking is easy with an induction system such as the Magna Range portable unit from All-Clad Metalcrafters ($199). What a blessing to have instant high heat at the touch of a button and to have liquids boiling in a matter of seconds.
"People are even more surprised when a rolling boil stops with the push of the off button," said Phil Carter, owner of Kitchen Kitchen gourmet shop in Rancho Mirage. The energy-saving induction range has become popular with people in the area, being an ideal cooktop for the hot, desert climate. Another great feature is its flat, smooth surface that is convenient to clean, particularly for retired seniors.
"All are impressed that the cooking surface outside the pan area is cool," Carter added. Like all induction units, the Magna-Range works by using magnetic energy for heat. When magnetic cookware is placed on the ceramic top, the ceramic plate and air around it stay cool. For proper heating, flat bottomed utensils made of the following materials may be used: cast iron, stainless steel clad pans and porcelain enameled iron . An excellent choice is the Magna-Core, a seven-ply stainless construction cookware set that's also manufactured by All-Clad.
Last but not least in the fast and cool cooking appliance category is the pressure cooker. One can still enjoy tender-boiled pot roasts, chili beans, soups and stews without staying in the kitchen for hours. The dangerous image of old pressure cookers is being replaced by the safety of modern units, which have excellent safety features and are easy for the average consumer to use. Consider the Chantal Speed Cooker (from $175). Safe, quiet and simple to use, this contemporary pressure cooker can save up to 70% of the time needed to prepare inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat.
The Speed Cooker is available in either all stainless steel or enamel on steel with a stay cool side handle. The stainless steel comes in three sizes: 6-quart, 8-quart and 11-quart. Available only in a 6-quart size is the enamel on steel unit, which comes in cobalt blue, almond and sleek-looking white or black. All have high-polish stainless steel lids.
The Chantal Speed Cooker has extra features that other pressure cookers don't have. The porcelain-on-steel body heats up faster than others to build up pressure, and it works on induction cooktops for even quicker cooking. The utensil also offers the simplicity of a two-piece stainless main valve--no tiny screws, springs and washers prevalent in the old cookers. It is also the only pressure cooker to convert into a traditional steamer/stock pot.
You may still run to the sink to depressurize the cooker under cold running water but a more convenient quicker way to release pressure from the Chantal Speed Cooker is to firmly push down on the red button until the indicator rod has completely lowered into its socket. However, this method is not recommended for foods that have a tendency to foam, such as soups, stews, potatoes and other starchy foods.
For information on the future availability of the Brother combination oven call: (800) 284-2844 .
The Magna-Range induction cooktop is available at Kitchen Kitchen (Rancho Mirage) and Williams-Sonoma.
The Chantal Speed Cooker is available at Robinson's, Broadway and Bullock's.