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Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-need-twitter-on-my-fridge-but-a-smarter-oven-would-be-nice dept.
Tekla Perry writes: We cook our food today using technology invented to bake bricks. We can do a lot better. Nathan Myhrvold explains what's wrong with today's ovens and challenges oven designers make them better. He says, "Oven designers could do a lot to make ovens heat more evenly by taking advantage of the different ways ovens transfer heat at different cooking temperatures. At 200 C or below, convection moves most of the heat. But at 400 C, radiant energy starts doing a fair amount of the heat transfer. At 800 C, radiation overwhelms convection. Why couldn't we have an oven designed to cook primarily by convection at low temperatures that switches to radiant heating for high-temperature baking? ... The shiny skin of raw fish reflects heat, but as the skin browns, it reflects less and less energy. That’s why food under a broiler can seem to cook slowly at first and then burn in the blink of an eye. But technology offers a fix here, too. Oven designers could put optical sensors in the oven chamber to sense the reflectivity of the food, and then the oven controller could adjust the heat automatically or at least alert the cook as the surface browns. And a camera in the oven could feed to a color display on the front panel, giving the chef a clearer view of the food than a small window in the door can. Indeed, a decent optics system could allow designers to dispense with the glass in the door altogether, reducing the gap between the hottest and coolest corners of the oven and obviating the need to open the door and rotate the food midway through cooking.
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Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven

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  • by retchdog (1319261) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:01PM (#47363627) Journal

    the real question is "how many patents have Mr. Myhrvold and his minions already staked out in this area?"

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:42PM (#47363947)

      The real question is "who cooks at 800C?". I do quite a bit of baking and the only reason to go over 200C is pizza.

      • by guises (2423402)
        Yeah... a charcoal grill is the hottest thing that a home cook is likely to have and they don't get above 375. You might think that he's talking about professional kitchens, though even they would have fairly limited applications for something that hot. In reality though, since it's Nathan Myhrvold, he's talking about patents and ensuring that no one will ever be able to make more innovative ovens without paying him.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by funwithBSD (245349)

        If I want a steak like a steakhouse, I want 800C

        200C is too low for a pizza, unless you are talking "american" pizza. I get the pizza stone as hot as possible, somewhere north of 250C as I can get.

        Prime rib or steak I get the oven as high as possible, leave a cast iron grill in there and then sear it fast.

        • by jtara (133429) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @07:25PM (#47364743)

          If I want a steak like a steakhouse, I want 800C

          If I want steak better than a steakhouse, I cook it vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag in a water bath at 57-58C (135-138F) (= "medium rare") for 2 to 4 hours.

          Then I sear it with a torch, on a grill, or in a pan. That's when the 800C comes in handy.

          There is an art to a grilled steak, and I respect the art. But the above method is fool-proof, and will produce the exact amount of doneness you want (adjust temperature, down for more red, up for less red) and with amazing tenderness. All as set out in Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine. (I've got the more affordable "at Home" version...)

          BTW *you do not want* a truly rare steak (125F). It is inedible. Not a high enough temperature for tenderness and more importantly, not high enough to render fat. A "rare" steak has only the very center of the steak rare. This way will give you the same doneness throughout, except for the very surface. Now, if you *want* the incremental variation of doneness from surface to center do it the "artful" way. And pray.

          Not only do you get the exact degree of doneness you want - every time - but you reduce the risk of carcinogens. There is a direct correlation with flame exposure time. The quick sear at the end gets it over quickly.

          The searing step produces the desired surface char and Malliard reaction. Sear at the end. Pre-searing "to keep in the juices" has been long-ago debunked. Sous Vide' cooking keeps in the juices anyway. (Much more so than grilling, anyway.)

          • by jandersen (462034)

            Steak? The OP talks about a better oven design - who cooks a steak in an oven?

            Anyway, back to the subject. I think cooking is not so much about 'follow this recipe exactly' but more about using skills like observation and taking appropriate actions. Of course you can bake a bread by measuring out ingredients and so on, but the result will vary, because the ingredients will not always be identical - humidity or protein content in flour, for example will vary from batch to batch.

            A much better way is to work t

        • by pepty (1976012)

          If I want a steak like a steakhouse, I want 800C

          Prime rib or steak I get the oven as high as possible, leave a cast iron grill in there and then sear it fast.

          So you burn the seasoning off of the grill before cooking the steak? The carbon will be burned off by the time you hit 800C (1470 F).

        • by Existential Wombat (1701124) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @05:00AM (#47366867)

          If I want a steak like a steakhouse, I want 800C

          640C should be enough for anyone.

      • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @06:22PM (#47364225)

        Who doesn't want to cast aluminium in their oven?

      • by rokstar (865523)
        800 is a bit much but I tend to do most of my bread baking at 500F (260C). If I could get it hotter I would so that I could do other things like pizza and breads.
      • by Macgrrl (762836)

        Scones. They get cooked at around 230C, as do a number of other baked goods.

      • by sjames (1099)

        That was my first thought. Nobody in their right mind bakes at 400C and even the cleaning cycle doesn't do 800C.

        I have no idea why they were talking about sous vide, you don't do that in an oven.

        The whole thing sounds like using a massive amount of expensive technology to replace a very small amount of skill.

        • The whole thing sounds like using a massive amount of expensive technology to replace a very small amount of skill.

          Yeah, but we're talking about the guy who runs the patent troll firm Intellectual Ventures. I suspect he's got a whole slew of patents covering the theoretical oven he's describing.

          I suspect he likes pretending he has other interests than patent litigation, though, since that isn't the sort of thing that's going to look great in an obituary.

        • by SeaFox (739806)

          The whole thing sounds like using a massive amount of expensive technology to replace a very small amount of skill.

          Exactly what I think when I see those new Ford commercials with the self-parking Focus.

          There's probably ways ovens can be improved for modern times, but adding a bunch of sensors and a flat panel display sounds like a way to make a simple appliance less consumer-repairable.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Exactly so. I nursed our old early '70s oven along for as long as I could for that reason. Parts had long ago become unavailable, but unlike newer models, I could even take the switches apart and polish the pits out of the contacts and even build them back up with solder. Finally, too much was falling apart including the basic structure, so we had to get a new one. We found one that at least seems to be somewhat reperable. It is CPU controlled but at least has a PCB with large traces and mechanical relays t

      • by ne0n (884282)
        Careful now, you'll confuse the 'Murricans with that Centigrade technology. And to answer your question, anybody who likes black & blue steak is liable to want a high temperature oven.
    • by Shoten (260439)

      the real question is "how many patents have Mr. Myhrvold and his minions already staked out in this area?"

      Especially since he's co-founder of "Intellectual Ventures," which is a HUGE holder of patents.

      Yeah, I don't know that a $5,000 oven that cooks a bit faster than the one I already have and has all of these points of calibration that can go wrong is going to be better than a straightforward metal box with a heat source and a thermostat.

      • by pepty (1976012)
        Sounds like a great way to sell a $5000 oven that will regularly require parts and services to keep all of the extra features running - and of course the oven will be programmed not to function at all unless all of the features are working.

        I like some of the features, but overall I would like a cheap reliable oven which minimizes heat transfer to the kitchen I am paying to air condition.

  • Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:01PM (#47363633)

    Because the incremental improvement adding all of these optics and electronics, make it robust, and make it work is not cheap. And most cooks do pretty darn good with just what they have.

    Small benefit vs big cost => no change

    • Re:Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wycliffe (116160) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:12PM (#47363725) Homepage

      In order to see a real change you really need a few "killer apps". i.e. some dishes that are significantly easier, better, faster
      if prepared using this new oven. A single incredible dish that can only be cooked in this new oven would be a start but I'm not
      sure very many people would buy an oven for a single dish. The microwave became popular because it was faster than the
      oven for a whole range of things.

      • by jfengel (409917)

        I could imagine, say, pastry chefs, who are already famous for being control freaks. Producing truly great pastry, reliably, is an extraordinary feat of both science and art. I could imagine them wanting this for a high-end patisserie.

        But beyond that, it seems to be a solution looking for a problem. This is Myhrvold, who already wants to see you a $600 book containing a recipe for a hamburger requiring several thousand dollars worth of tools you don't already have in your kitchen (including a dewar of liqui

      • by mjm1231 (751545)

        In order to see a real change you really need a few "killer apps". i.e. some dishes that are significantly easier, better, faster
        if prepared using this new oven. A single incredible dish that can only be cooked in this new oven...

        Garlic bread. The kind you buy in the supermarket. Either the frozen stuff of the kind in the ovenproof foil bag. It never quite cooks all the way in the oven, so I pop it under the broiler. Just for a second, to brown the top. A second or two to long and it ends up charcoal burnt. And this is what happens. Every. Damn. Time.

        • by MrNemesis (587188)

          The burning occurs because once all the water has evaporated from the top of the crust, it'll burn incredibly quickly. Typically it's difficult to gauge from a quick glance how much moisture is remaining in the top layers of the bread - although much easier to gauge the amount of steam you see when you open the oven door.

          Easiest solution to tackle the evaporating of water is to brush a little oil over the top. Water evporates, oil soaks in instead, the hot oil helps the crust brown quicker and prevents it d

      • by dfsmith (960400)

        In order to see a real change you really need a few "killer apps".

        You're right: this would be the perfect oven for the budding serial killer. Set dial to "cremate" and you're done!

    • The added cost and complexity would result in a pricey oven that only serious/professional cooks could justify; the same group who would probably raise their little French noses at such a contraption.

      Also, cooking is an art. no Rube Goldberg oven is going to allow people like me to make anything more than digiorno pizza.

      • The point is, we can have a much better oven without an increase in price. Same amount of material, or even less material. There is low hanging fruit that is being ignored. Consider how long it took for toaster ovens to get timers. Years after the introduction of microwave ovens, all of which have timers and automatic shutoff, most toaster ovens still had nothing more than a cheap thermostat.

        It's a similar story in housing. The features of the site are routinely ignored. Air conditioning coils shoul

    • No one likes cleaning ovens.
      I don't want to be forced to clean my oven every time I want to cook something because the camera lens is fogged up and can't figure out how hot my food is.

      No amount of thermal imaging is going to tell the oven how hot the inside of my chicken is, so I don't end up with salmonella.

      • You are right, the camera idea is stupid. The solution to your 'Chicken a la Salmonella' issue is to incorporate a probe thermometer INTO the actual oven, so you stick your chicken in the oven, unclip the probe from its holder on the inside of the oven, jam it in the chicken, and close the oven, then monitor the internal temperature of your chicken on the readout on the console of the stove, without ever needing to open the oven. (i guess that'd be what you call the part of the stove where the clock and wha
        • Microwaves have been available with temperature probes like that for 20 years. My parents owned one and it was quite useful for heating up drinks, you just put in the temperature, plug in the problem and away it goes.

          It was great until one day it wasn't plugged in properly. You know what happens when you put metal objects in a microwave right?

          You can also buy them for conventional ovens. Although they don't control the oven, an alarm can be set to go off at a predetermined temperature. They're not too expen

    • by Bigbutt (65939)

      No shit. My oven blew something on the "motherboard" that caused it to require a repair of $450. In checking on line, folks recommended just putting a piece of 3x5 between the plastic cover and the board which seems to corrected the problem, for now. But jeeze, it's an oven.

      [John]

    • Re:Cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:47PM (#47363989)

      Because the incremental improvement adding all of these optics and electronics, make it robust, and make it work is not cheap. And most cooks do pretty darn good with just what they have.

      This is spot-on. The suggestions in this article mostly range from the impractical and expensive to the barely useful and ludicrously expensive.

      I do a LOT of baking, roasting, braising, etc. in my oven. I'm also the kind of guy who owns multiple probe thermometers with different sensitivities and speeds, multiple kitchen scales with different accuracies for different quantities, a pH meter for kitchen use, hydrometers for fermentation, miscellaneous lab glassware for accurate measuring (and often convenient pouring), etc.

      Basically, I know there's a lot of room for precision in the kitchen, and I make use of it all the time.

      On the other hand, I'm also the kind of guy who throws in a handful of some herb and a couple pinches of another spice while I'm cooking or baking -- I recognize that there are sometimes when precision is warranted, and sometimes when it doesn't really make a huge difference becauses there are other variables in play. (How fresh is the herb or spice, is it small new leaves or large old leaves, etc.? -- sure, I could weigh a small amount of it, but those variations mean that a "handful" is probably about as reasonably precise as I'm going to get in terms of flavor potential.)

      Cooking and baking generally involves a lot of ingredients that have significant variation to them -- it's not like you order "laboratory grade" spices that have stable flavor profiles and are 99.99% pure or whatever. And kitchen conditions are variable enough in temperature and humidity that even if you had the perfect yeast that always started out exactly the same, by the time your dough ferments for a couple hours in your kitchen, each batch is going to be a little different. (Even with my temperature-controlled proofing box for proofing dough, my pizza timing and process will require adjustment from batch-to-batch.)

      So why exactly am I going to pay a ridiculous premium for these features on my oven? Most of them can be easily approximated with cheap fixes for those who care. If I want to have higher humidity in my oven, I put a steam pan in. Great. Whee. Cost of a few bucks for a cheap pan. If I want bursts of steam like a commercial bread oven, I can use a water kettle and a piece of tubing that costs me a couple bucks -- a valve too, if I want to be fancy about it. Myhrvold worries about how some of these "fancy" ovens can produce high humidity, but what if you want to brown your food and need to get rid of the humidity, which the oven isn't designed for. What the heck? Take my $5 steam pan out of the freakin' oven after I'm done with the steaming phase. What is so hard about this?

      Or I could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for some ridiculous improvements to have precision equipment when I'm not generally using ingredients or cookware or whatever else that are built to the same precise tolerances... so I'm wasting money. The biggest improvement to my pizza-baking, for example, came NOT from precision measuring instruments for ingredients or from my special proofing box (both of which need to be adjusted according to variances in ingredients and kitchen conditions), but from buying a cheap steel plate to bake my pizza on (a suggestion that originated with Myrhvold's book, by the way).

      I'm not saying that ovens can't be improved. Many of his ideas would be interesting for general features, but his obsession with precision is just ridiculous.

      • I do a LOT of baking, roasting, braising, etc. in my oven. I'm also the kind of guy who owns multiple probe thermometers with different sensitivities and speeds,

        Have you ever wanted an oven that goes up to 800 degrees C?

  • Dollars. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by queazocotal (915608) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:02PM (#47363645)

    How to improve the oven has been known for ages.
    The problem is that it's costly to do right, especially if the oven needs to actually be a reliable oven and last at least 10 years daily use.
    For example 'optical sensors can be placed in the oven to ...'

    How do you keep these clean after the four hundredth time they're spattered with grease at 250C and it's burned on to a nice black film.
    How do you determine what the food is, and what the surrounding dish is in order to pick what needs to be browned.

    The 'right' way to do this would be with thermal IR cameras.
    Unfortunately, this raises even more cost issues.

  • Photoshop to cook our food?
    We could use the device to preview the finished dish, too.
    Of course, he is theoretically correct, but, as we know, theory and practice are different things.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Rarely, if ever, will the temperature inside your oven ever exceed 230C -- there are entire cooking techniques that rely on the uneven heating patterns of a traditional convection oven and broiler.

  • by Thud457 (234763) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:12PM (#47363721) Homepage Journal
    If the skin on your fish is going in silver and coming out brown, you're doing it fucking wrong!
  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:20PM (#47363777)

    Because building it would be so complex it would be overly expensive and break down a lot more. My oven has been running for over a decade. It may well last several more decades. That's a lot longer than the expected life cycle for 'smart' products. I'll take a dumb oven and be a smart cook any day of the week. A ring of stones and a cook fire is better than too much technology.

  • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:31PM (#47363877) Homepage Journal

    Something cookbooks harp on: most ovens do very poor temperature regulation. Baking books in particular recommend getting a separate themometer, and adding thermal ballast (such as stones) to your oven to get it to keep an even temperature.

    That's not just for ultra-high-end stuff; that's for just making good bread. Bread is fairly sensitive to temperature, because you're trying to orchestrate a complex set of reactions including yeast production, internal steam, setting the internal protein structure, and browning the crust. Swings of 25F are enough to throw off that balance, yielding loaves that are too high or too low or too brown or other problems.

    Most home ovens do it very badly. It seems to me that's a much more fixable problem without spending a fortune on the ultimate oven.

    • The temperature of the oven is irrelevant to the temperature of the food. Replaceable probes that stick into the food and still work at 300deg C (800 LOL) would be vastly more important than anything else.

      Likewise, hobs should have thermostats and work according to temperature rather than fixed power.

      These things may well exist.

      A smoke detector would be nice too but is unlikely to be reliable.

      • The temperature of the oven is irrelevant to the temperature of the food. Replaceable probes that stick into the food and still work at 300deg C (800 LOL) would be vastly more important than anything else.

        Depends on what you're making. Lots of baking is done in a relatively short timeframe (less than an hour) and the interior of foods needs to achieve the right temperature before the surface of the food burns. That's usually the reason for the difference between recipes that recommend various oven temperatures: it's always a race against time to get the inside cooked before the outside burns.

        Now, you might say, we could just pay attention to the inside, and turn the oven down if the inside temperature is

        • by UpnAtom (551727)

          You're right, of course.

          I was thinking the outside is more predictable, particularly if you keep opening the oven or someone invents a reliable monitor.

  • Is this due to unfamiliarity with Centigrade?

    All the food baking I've done is well below 260C (500F).

    800C (1472F) is cherry red can melt a lot of metals.

    It's in the range you would use a muffle furnace or kiln to get.

  • Better question... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs (99133) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:45PM (#47363965) Homepage Journal

    Why the fsck should we listen to anything this dishonest vulture says or wants? He has worked to single-handedly ruin everything about anything we could ever care about. Intellectual Ventures is the scum of the Earth, and is akin to the mafia coming to you and mentioning that they need some money else something bad could happen to your precious new business venture. Everything this man and his cohorts touch is tainted - Intellectual Ventures and Mr. Myhrvold needs to be removed like a cancer before they can spread even further.

    Fsck Intellectual Ventures.
    Fsck Nathan Myhrvold.

    In some parts of the world, they'd cut off his thieving hands. I wouldn't take one of his new ovens even if they gave it to me - except maybe to smash the crap out of it on YouTube.

    • by gander666 (723553) *
      Shit, my world for mod points. Amen brother
  • 1200 C?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by QilessQi (2044624) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:56PM (#47364025)

    "With reasonable energy efficiency, electric broilers can heat quickly and reliably to temperatures as high as 2,200 C. Maximum settings are typically restricted to 1,200 C in order to extend the life of the heating element and avoid charring the food."

    I think repeatedly confusing C and F should immediately disqualify someone as an oven engineer. Or an oven operator, for that matter. :-)

    • Gosh 2200C? That's hot enough to melt steel by quite a margin. Tungsten would survive, but not many other elements would,

      Heck, 1200C is nearly enough to melt steel (actually 1500C), and would be more than enough to cast copper, bronze and brass, blow glass, fire ceramics and so on.

      Where can I get one of these atomic furnaces?

    • "With reasonable energy efficiency, electric broilers can heat quickly and reliably to temperatures as high as 2,200 C. Maximum settings are typically restricted to 1,200 C in order to extend the life of the heating element and avoid charring the food."

      I think repeatedly confusing C and F should immediately disqualify someone as an oven engineer. Or an oven operator, for that matter. :-)

      What about confusing the temperature of the food or the air in the oven and the temperature of the heating element?

      Electric broilers use bars or rods made from Nichrome, an alloy of nickel and chromium (and often iron) that heats up when electricity passes through it. With reasonable energy efficiency, electric broilers can heat quickly and reliably to temperatures as high as 2,200 C. Maximum settings are typically restricted to 1,200 C in order to extend the life of the heating element and avoid charring the food.

      The nichrome bars heat up to 1200C. They heat up the air and also radiate in the infrared to cook the food.

      I have no idea why so many people reading this article got confused about that point and think the guy's trying to cook food to 1200C.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Probably because it started out talking about 200C which is way cooler than the elements run, convincing people it wasn't talking about that.

  • by serbanp (139486) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:59PM (#47364045)

    Not only it's not obvious what "better" means when baking is involved, but he's showing his Microsoft roots here, stupid "improvements" that make the whole system break so much easier.

    It's a known fact that most "modern" residential ovens, the ones with displays, lots of buttons to set baking programs etc, should never use the self-clean cycle. The thermal insulation is not good enough to protect the electronics (a.k.a. control board) and the oven fails, typically after a high-heat cycle (the self-clean reaches 700-800*F). This is equally true for GE and Whirlpool as well as for Viking and Ilve.

    Adding more electronics to a hot environment is asking for more and expensive trouble.

    Commercial appliances are better built though, are they Myhrvold's target? In any case, his post is just a petulant rant showing overkill application of technology, just because "he can". Zapping mosquitoes with laser beams sounds more realistic...

  • Given that he raises the spectre of salmonella from uneven temperature in sous-vide cooking, it's pretty clear he knows fuck all about cooking. Hey Nathan? Sous vide is done in a precision-controlled water bath, you numpty. Not an oven.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      Given that he raises the spectre of salmonella from uneven temperature in sous-vide cooking, it's pretty clear he knows fuck all about cooking. Hey Nathan? Sous vide is done in a precision-controlled water bath, you numpty. Not an oven.

      From the article:

      Domestic ovens tend to swing in temperature and can be off by as much as 5 percent at any point during cooking. At 205 C—a temperature at which you might cook a turkey—that 5 percent isn’t a big deal. But consider a style of cooking known as sous vide, in which you cook food in bags in a water bath at low temperatures such as 60 C, near the threshold at which bacteria can survive. Here, 5 percent can be the difference between safe and unsafe.

      He raises the spectre of salmonella from uneven temperature to point out why ovens can't do the low and slow temps in sous vide cooking. And I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he knows significantly more than fuck all about cooking [amazon.com].

    • by jtara (133429)

      Sous vide is done in a precision-controlled water bath, you numpty. Not an oven.

      Pretty sure he knows that, given the featured technique of his pricey multi-volume Modernist Cuisine (purportedly the most financially-successful cookbook ever - and at $500 it should be!) is Sous Vide'... Lots of pretty pictures of bags hanging in water tanks. (There's a more-affordable "at Home" version, which I own.)

      Think they didn't show the pretty pictures to Nathan?

      SRSLY, that set is probably one of the major drivers behind the popularization of Sous Vide'. (Along with Thomas Keller's book.) And it re

  • ...when there is nothing left to take away. Myhrvold seems to think the opposite is true. Did he by any chance work for Microsoft? It would explain the byzantine maze of Windows-related API's...

    • In case you didn't know, Myhrvold's major claim to fame is being former CTO at Microsoft. Yes, it really does explain a lot.
  • We have about 80 years worth of recipes based on the current oven standards.
    All of them would need revisions and people who don't cook that often wouldn't be aware of why their recipe failed if they used a new style oven.
    Convection is great for crispy skin, not so great for custards.

  • Hacking ovens? (Score:4, Informative)

    by GooDieZ (802156) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @06:29PM (#47364271) Homepage

    I modded my almost new dumb oven (2 knobs and indicator light) with cast iron plates about 5 millimeters thick on top and bottom, with some additional rails to quickly remove them if necessary. The heat up process is a bit slower, but overall the oven performs way better than stock one and bakes evenly.
    This is thermal mass right over heaters for even roasting/baking.
    If I want crust, I just pop on the ventilator in the oven for 10 minutes before done, perfect every time.
    As for bread, i pop out the plates, Heat the oven and cast iron pot with lid to 260C, pop in the bread when hot and forget about it for 45 minutes.

    If he wants Tech in the oven, well let's see his ideas. At friends house they bought new $INSERT_NAME oven (overpriced around 1500€) with all the bells all over, you can't even expect to turn it on without at least reading 10 pages of the 80 pages long manual. It's super energy saving design takes like 20 minutes to heat up to 200C or ~30 minutes to 250C. For the fun of it we popped in an NTC sensor to see what's going on in heat up and baking process. Nice SLOOOW and steady heat up, then we popped in a roast. Temperature dropped around 40C then heating back up for 16 minutes, overshoot set temperature by 18C, dropped back 21C under set temp and oscillated all the way to the end. All the micro controlling in there failed with REGULAR use.
    With that price tag you expect at least steady even temperature, but noooo, $INSERT_NAME decided to screw the customer with poor excuse for an oven, and telling you that you baked your stuff wrong all your life, so they decided to set you straight.
    If I wanted to die of waiting I would go to DMV line...

    • by serbanp (139486)

      I have half-bricks on the bottom of my gas-fired oven. It bakes much more evenly and keeps the temperature very steady.

      Yes, thermal mass is the ticket, not just-in-time heat control gimmicks.

  • I'll just rely on Chef Mike for the time being.

  • thanks, nathan, you scumsucking patent troll!

  • Has he patented it yet?

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    What are you cooking? Aluminum? "Welcome home honey! Dinner's almost ready! Tonight we're having melted aluminum!"
  • Durable goods are supposed to be durable. They are simple to be durable. Adding all these features means they will break more often, it's a foolish path IMO. I wouldn't trust a single circuit board in a oven that can reach 500F.

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:41PM (#47365135) Journal

    The article footer implies that he's some kind of cooking science wizard, but I have trouble believing that Nathan Myhrvold has ever done more with an oven than toss a slab of meat in it. I'm no expert, but I've baked an awful lot of cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries, and I find this article very confusing:

    Most of us bake, roast, and broil our food using a technology that was invented 5,000 years ago for drying mud bricks: the oven. The original oven was clay, heated by a wood fire. Today, the typical oven is a box covered in shiny steel or sparkling enamel, powered by gas or electricity. But inside the oven, little has changed.

    Weird condescension towards "brick dryers" is a running theme of this article. To see how ridiculous this is, I invite you to consider a nineteenth century cake recipe [lonehand.com] with its many methods for determining correct oven temperature and shielding parts of the cake from the oven walls so that it bakes evenly. Turning a knob to set an arbitrary temperature, while imperfect, is a *vast* technological improvement over wood-fired ovens. (Remember: just because it's analog (or non-electronic!) doesn't mean it's not technology.) Likewise, the metal that the oven is made from represents thousands of years of technological advances in itself.

    Preheating always seems to take an unreasonably long time because ovens waste most of the hot air they generate. The actual amount of energy required to reach baking temperature is quite small: Just 42 kilojoules will heat 0.14 cubic meters of air to 250 C. The heating element in a typical domestic electric oven supplies this much energy in a mere 21 seconds. Unfortunately, the heat, which originates in the heating coils of an electric oven or the burner of a gas oven, must pass through the air to get to the walls, and air is an awful conductor of heat, only slightly better than Styrofoam. Even worse, air expands when heated, so much of it flows out of the vent, heating the kitchen rather than the oven.

    But the oven walls will heat the air anyway, so how much energy would we really save by heating the walls directly? Pre-heating is only a fraction of the oven's total operating time. And wouldn't an electric burner also produce radiant heat? And then a few paragraphs later:

    As soon as you open the oven door to adjust or check on the food, nearly all the hot air spills out. The puny electric element or gas burner is no match for such large surges of cool air, so the temperature in the oven plummets, and it recovers slowly.

    which is totally inconsistent with what he said earlier.

    At 200 C or below, convection moves most of the heat. But at 400 C, radiant energy starts doing a fair amount of the heat transfer. At 800 C, radiation overwhelms convection. Why couldn’t we have an oven designed to cook primarily by convection at low temperatures that switches to radiant heating for high-temperature baking?

    As others have mentioned, this is a Fahrenheit/Celsius error at best and a non-sequitor at worst. The highest normal baking temperature is around 500 F (260 C) unless you're going crazy with pizza. If the article's numbers are correct, we should totally ignore radiant heating! (I don't think they are.) And I'm not clear on how the oven is supposed to "switch" to radiant heating. If the walls are hot enough to radiate, you get hot air for free. If the air is hot, it heats the sides of the oven.

    Myrhvold next dives into a laundry list of suggested improvements, which fall into a few categories:

    1. Stuff that already exists, but is expensive.
    2. Stuff that's not done because it's too expensive and/or inconvenient.
    3. Complicated gimmicks that require recipe-specific behavior.
    4. Star Trek.

    And you’re not going to be able to stop a cook from opening the oven door on occasion ...

    • by mindstormpt (728974) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @06:47AM (#47367129) Homepage

      And you’re not going to be able to stop a cook from opening the oven door on occasion ... But designers could prevent that blast of cold air by building a blower into the door frame that generates a “curtain” of air whenever the door is opened, retaining more of the preheated air in the oven. ... Designing one for an oven is trickier because the chamber is small and turbulent currents could do more harm than good. Still, it could be done.

      Personally, I haven't found the occasional door-opening to be a big deal. It is discouraged for delicate foods like cakes. But clearly we need a complicated, expensive air curtain that either runs constantly or turns on in an instant. Nobody knows how to do it and it might be more trouble than it's worth, but Myhrvold is *sure* that someone (not him) will make it work.

      Siemens solved the door opening problem in a simpler/smarter way with its liftMatic ovens [siemens-home.co.uk]. These are wall mounted ovens, and instead of having a front door, you push a button that lowers the bottom and trays. They're predictably expensive.

  • As a set of co-workers at an energy retailer (now defunct) did all this 30 years ago, just come down to Aus and buy one with either methane or electricity as the heat source.
  • As with most of Myrhvold's stuff, it's not so hard to blue-sky it (and take out a broad patent which covers everything while teaching nothing); it is hard to actually implement it. Take the optical sensor to detect browning. Yeah, works great... except it's got to be inside an oven. Which gets grease all over it. Grease that is not transparent.

    If you want to make something practical for a residential oven, it has to work in an oven environment. Reliably. Without much maintenance.

  • Yeah, let's glorify more people who say "X is done wrong, someone else should fix it. But not me! I'm just here to point out that everyone else is an idiot!"

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.

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