You merely close the lid and the food cooks on both sides

December 11, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

It bakes. It broils. It grills, toasts, rotisseries and boils. Three times faster than your oven. As fast as your microwave. Oven-quality food at microwave speed. Or so the promoters claim.

Welcome to the 21st century-style kitchen where something called "Cyclonic Cooking" -- a new technology using high-speed air that moves four times the speed of a convection oven -- is

making the microwave look like a dinosaur.

The Jet-Stream Oven -- at a suggested retail price of $249.95 -- has been promoted everywhere from department stores to TV infomercials, those long commercials that often appear to be a cooking or talk show rather than a paid advertisement. That's big bucks in bad times. Is it worth putting a Jet-Stream oven on your Christmas list? Does it do what the promoters claim? Or is it info-mercial hype with no results?

We put the tabletop Jet-Stream oven by American Harvest to the test in my home kitchen for a week. The bottom line: Everything from fish to baked apples cooked beautifully without loss of the food's natural flavors. In fact, some of the foods never tasted so good.

This space-age technology didn't come overnight. It took co-inventors Dave Dornbush and Chad Erickson five years to create an oven that cooked as fast as a microwave with the browning and quality associated with convection cooking. In fact, there should be nothing else exactly like it in the marketplace. American Harvest holds the patent and vigorously defends it. In August, the company obtained a permanent injunction from the Los Angeles District Court preventing a company called Access to Retail from selling a similar oven that was made in Taiwan.

"Mother Nature moves air in a straight line or a circle," Mr. Dornbush said in a telephone interview from his Chasska, Minn., headquarters, explaining why the oven is round. "Air doesn't move in a square, and that's what convection ovens try to do. . . . We wanted a clear oven where people could see into it in a 360-degree view and we took advantage of a shape that could move air at very high speeds in a circle."

Not only is the shape more efficient, the air moves much faster -- at 2,200 feet per minute compared with 300 to 600 feet per minute in a convection oven. Although the oven heats to 400 degrees, the plastic won't melt because it is made from a high-tech plastic that is used in the nose cones of missiles.

Although the inventors originally thought the oven would be used to fry foods with hot air, they found it could perform the function of seven appliances -- fryer, broiler, oven, range, toaster oven, rotisserie and grill. For example, it can boil eggs, fry sausages and bake cinnamon rolls in six minutes without mixing

flavors. When two expander rings are added, the oven triples its size and can cook a 12-pound turkey in only 1 1/2 hours, compared with 4 1/2 hours in a traditional oven.

"It makes bad cooks better and good cooks great," Mr. Dornbush claims.

But does it really? What can a first timer expect when using the oven?

Assembly: Yes, it comes in a box and you have to put it together. But the instructions are clear and explained well in both the recipe/instruction booklet and the accompanying video. We put the oven together in about 5 minutes; even mechanical illiterates should be able to put it together in less than 10 minutes.

The ovens have two racks, a bottom rack to set the food on and a top rack to hold down small pieces or lightweight food. The top rack can be tricky and can collapse if the three feet are not rotated around to 270 degrees. But as long as the feet are stable, the rack will nest properly.

Cleaning: If you follow the instructions and spray the racks and Silverstone liner with a non-stick cooking spray, cleanup should be easy. The base, liner, lid and racks can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. Use of metal scouring pads is not advised because pieces may break off the pad and create risk of electric shock.

Use: Once you get used to the basic principles, you'll love this new way of cooking. Cyclonic Cooking creates air currents in the center of the rack; to prevent food from flying around, it should be arranged around the edges. Unlike microwave cooking, where the food has to be stirred and rotated, or broiling, where the food has to be turned, you merely close the lid and the food cooks on both sides.

It may take you a few tries to learn how to seal the lid properly. If the lid doesn't close properly, heat will escape and the food will take longer to cook. When you are cooking with oil, small particles can escape through an improper seal. Mr.Dornbush suggests closing the lid by putting your thumb in front of the handle to "seat" it properly. You should feel the lid pop into place when it is properly sealed.

At first, the sound of the operating oven -- a combination whirring and buzzing sound -- may be disconcerting. But it's worth the minor noise pollution when you see the results.

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