GE cooks up oven with quick results

Food: The Speedcook appliance's technology can cook meals four times as fast as conventional ovens.

November 08, 1999|By Jonathan Takiff | Jonathan Takiff,Knight Ridder/Tribune

The Gizmo: GE Advantium Speedcook Oven.

Why We Care: According to GE research, half of us decide what we'll eat for dinner between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. And among all those eating at home, half will devote 45 minutes or less to preparing the meal.

These restrictions limit procrastinators' menu choices. But now comes a revolutionary technology that works four times as fast as a conventional oven, without the compromises in taste or texture associated with microwave cooking.

With GE's "speedcook" technology, also known as "flashbaking," you can roast a 5-pound chicken in 25 minutes, with the skin crispy and insides juicy, or heat up frozen fried chicken in five minutes without losing the original texture and taste.

While the main course is being carved, you can bake biscuits in 4 minutes, or watch a carrot cake rise in a scant 13 minutes. All with no preheating or cool down.

How it works: Remember the "Easy Bake" toy oven of your childhood that made cupcake dough rise with the power of a 100-watt light bulb? Speedcooking updates that principle by using tungsten halogen light bulbs as heating elements, with computer programming that monitors and adjusts the oven's temperature as the cooking evolves.

A conventional oven heats food from the outside, while a microwave works by agitating the water molecules inside the food. By contrast, halogen light warms the outside of the food and molecules below the surface simultaneously, with less heating of the moisture particles. As a result, food comes up to temperature more quickly, without drying.

The pricey ($1,300) Advantium applies energy at different rates during different portions of the cooking cycle. In baking mode, the power is higher when the dough is wet, then lower as it rises. At the end, the oven delivers a hot shot of light to the surface for browning, unless you decide otherwise.

Why haven't we heard of this before? Halogen light cooking has been available to commercial kitchens for seven years, and a Silicon Valley start-up called Quadlux introduced the Flashbake 120 to the consumer market a year ago for about $1,600. It sells under the Wolf brand directly from the company (call 800-THE-OVEN or visit www.flashbake.com).

GE licensed technology from Quadlux, and "probably could have come out with a version sooner," but decided to improve the product first, said spokeswoman Julie Wood.

How so? For starters, the Flashbake 120 is a chunky, free-standing counter-top model dedicated strictly to halogen cooking. The first GE Advantium is an over-the-range replacement for a microwave oven -- occupying the same, standard 30-inch width and 15-inch depth. It doubles as a microwave oven if you choose to use it that way.

Flashbake uses eight small, pulsing halogen bulbs (four on top, four on the bottom) that collectively put out up to 1,650 watts of energy. The GE Advantium has three halogen bulbs (two on top, one below) that put out up to 4,500 watts. That's why it roasts twice as quickly as the Flashbake. GE guarantees the bulbs for 10 years.

The downside of the Advantium's energy is that it needs a dedicated 240-volt, 30-amp line, like a conventional electric oven, which is one reason there's a $100 installation rebate through Jan. 1. Quadlux's Flashbake 120, by contrast, uses a standard outlet.

Advantium displays cooking formulas for the 100 most popular foods on an LCD screen with a menu system. You access (and adjust to taste) with the turn of a dial and push of a button. How's the flavor? Excellent! GE Advantium dealers are stocked with treats they'll be happy to bake, broil, roast or grill for you.

Information: 800-626-2000, or the GE Web site at www.geappliances.com.

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