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Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven 228

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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:10PM (#47363713)

    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 funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @06:10PM (#47364123)

    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 @11:10PM (#47365891)

    I am familiar with Sous-vide, but don't like the texture it produces. Unless it is Filet Mignon, then that jelly like texture is desirable...

    If it's jelly it's been cooked too long.

    I cook ribs, flank steak, lamb shanks, 48-72 hours. Time should be reduced if marinated or other techniques have been used to break-down proteins.

    Chicken typically no more than 4 hours, preferably no more than 2. Fine steaks no more than 4. (I cook a thick prime aged ribeye 4 hours, because of the lack of moisture. Wet-aged should not cook as long.)

    Fish typically no more than 1/2 hour. You cannot cook fish Sous Vide' to food safety standards unless you like it flakey. But I do it anyway at 117f. (If you would eat it raw, try it sous vide').

    BTW, simple temperature-based food-safety standards are extremely dumbed-down. They are designed to provide safety with almost no cooking time at the indicated temperature. Sous vide' typically uses (FDA-approved) time/temperature curves for pasteurization. (Sous vide' is not a great choice for cooking meat immune-compromised individuals, but, then again, neither is *any* cooking technique - you are just going to over-cook the meat in order the sterilize. OTOH, vegetable cooking temperatures are much higher and would be fine (180F or so.) but not as often used for vegetables.

    I generally use a slow indirect heat to get to the desired done-ness, then hit it with high heat.

    Pretty much the same idea. Sous Vide' just takes it to an extreme. "doneness" is controlled by temperature. If you limit temp to the doneness temperature, you cannot mess up doneness - it is impossible. (But you can cook it down to jelly... a perfect, medium-rate (or, your choice) jelly...) You are cooking at the desired terminal temperature.

    Some things are impossible. You can't cook an extremely thick piece of fish, for example. The outside would turn to mush before the inside is cooked. And the microbes would be having a field-day.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito