The power to wring out fat and salt without removing flavour. Precise control for crispy side-dishes and succulent meat in the same pan. Oh, and a little thing we call speed: Meet the chicken dinner, healthier than ever, and ready from raw to roasted in 50 minutes flat.
Great chefs understand that cooking is all about chemical reactions. Many great chefs are also great scientists, but the perfect meal is within reach without a chemistry degree, thanks to great kitchen innovations like the Healsio steam oven.
The secret is in new steam technology, originally developed by Sharp. The Healsio oven shuns traditional convection, microwave and direct heat, instead using superheated water vapor, pushing it above 300°C and creating a low oxygen cooking environment to exert complete control.
While most steamers stop pushing the mercury at 100°C, the Healsio keeps the temperature rising. At just over 200°C, the Healsio’s cooking compartment has enough heat to make paper spontaneously combust without a flame. The low oxygen environment removes the risk of a fire, and means Sharp’s engineers can keep on cranking up the heat.
At 300°C, the Healsio has enough energy inside to warp and melt un-treated tin. It’s engineered to withstand the force of its own cooking power, and through the viewing window, you’d hardly guess at the flinch-inducing power inside. But with a chicken placed within its ultra-hot walls, this temperature marks the realisation of a culinary, and technical, dream come true.
The Healsio has enough power to break down fats and force them out of food using superheated steam alone. Chicken loses a whopping 18% of its calories during high temperature steam cooking, but despite those oils dropping away, the Healsio cooking process means the end result is plump, juicy and full of nutrients.
And as well as a highly efficient fat-removal process, those steam jets cut down on salt content. Steam at this temperature causes salt to diffuse from the chicken’s flesh. It accumulates on the surface, where it comes into contact with condensed water and runs harmlessly away.
If you are going to do any cooking, and cooking is largely chemistry, you are going to be doing chemical reactions
Vitamins are better preserved too. The Healsio’s steam jets create a low oxygen cooking environment very different to a standard oven or microwave. The result is a lower rate of decomposition for easily oxidized nutrients, such as Vitamin C. The chicken, when cooked, will have a higher vitamin content than one cooked by more conventional heat.
It’s this mastery of chemical reactions, coupled with complete control which makes Healsio’s engineering so impressive. This is more than a high temperature oven, it’s one in which the cooking process itself is manipulated exactly.
This next-generation approach to cooking doesn’t stop with Healsio, but encompasses innovations such as sous-vide water baths, made famous by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
“We embrace technology in everything that we do (cars, phones, TV and radio, computers etc.). Why not in the kitchen? ” he explains. “Remember that, at some time, the liquidiser would have been a state of the art innovation! For any of these traditionalists, being a purist would mean that man should only ever cook over a naked flame or fire as there would be no electricity without innovation.”
Peter Barham, Professor of Molecular Gastronomy, and Heston Blumenthal collaborator agrees: “If you are going to do any cooking, and cooking is largely chemistry, you are going to be doing chemical reactions – denaturing proteins when you cook meat, for example. If you change the temperature at which you do that, the reaction rate changes and this affects the texture of the meat dramatically.”
So next time you’re sat itching for your Sunday roast, waiting for yet another dried-out chicken dinner that’ll leave you groaning and feeling guilty, think about the steam revolution being cooked up by some of the finest scientists our kitchens have ever seen. Isn’t it time you thought twice about steam cooking?