In November, the Olly Writes blog gave me my first introduction to halogen ovens. Apparently they’re quite popular in the UK, but in the United States most people still haven’t heard of them unless they been, um, lucky enough to see the Flavorwave infomercial with Mr. T.
I read up on halogen ovens. They use a halogen and infrared light to heat the food. The round baking bowl and a convection fan help ensure even distribution of the heat, which speed up cooking times. All of this means that halogen ovens use less electricity than a standard oven. In the United States, they can plug into a regular 115V outlet, while a regular electric oven requires a 220V outlet.
My interest was piqued, but I wasn’t planning to spend upwards of $100 on a new appliance. Then in December, Aldi had $30 house-brand halogen ovens as one of its weekly specials and I thought, “Why the heck not?”
The first thing I decided to cook in my halogen oven was a whole chicken. I had read lots of reviews saying that halogen ovens roast meat much better and faster than conventional ovens. Their small size and the type of heat they use prevents the meat from drying out.
I started with a 5-pound whole, refrigerated chicken. I removed the giblets for later use in stock and rubbed down the skin and cavity with:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Spike salt-free seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 turns of the pepper grinder
I put the rack that came with the oven inside the bowl and scattered it with a pound or so of roughly chopped onions and carrots, then set the chicken on top and inserted the oven thermometer into the thigh. (It’s the kind of thermometer with a probe that goes into the food and a wire that connects to a display that is kept outside the oven – a Taylor 1487 digital roasting thermometer to be exact. I was worried that the wire might interfere with complete closure of the lid and prevent the oven from turning on, but it caused no problems at all.)
The manual that came with my oven estimated cooking times for a small whole chicken to be 30-45 minutes, but I had read that it could take up to an hour and a half. I guess it all depends on how you define “small.” I set the oven temperature to 375° Fahrenheit and the cook time to 60 minutes, the maximum allowed by my oven. If the chicken was done before then, I could just speed up the timer and turn it off, and if it wasn’t done after 60 minutes, I could reset the timer for additional cooking.
This is what the chicken looked like when I first put it in the cooker and turned the oven on:
At 50 minutes, my thermometer started beeping to indicate that the chicken had reached on internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit. I turned the oven off and let the chicken rest for another 20 minutes or so. This is what it looked like:
Then I cut into it and had my first taste. It was, in short, incredible. It was the most succulent, delicious chicken I have ever roasted in my life. The breast was thoroughly cooked and yet didn’t have a hint of dryness. I’m not a big fan of eating the skin, but Companion raved about its crispiness.
The vegetables weren’t as good. They had a bit of a roasted flavor, but they weren’t tender. The carrots especially had a texture that was more like raw than cooked. I’m not sure if coating them in oil, cooking them alone in the oven, or wrapping them in foil would have improved things. I nibbled on a few and set aside the rest for soup stock. I’ll be looking more into different methods of cooking veggies in this oven, because if there is a good way to roast them here, it would be so much more efficient than heating up my big oven for a small batch.
For the chicken alone, though, I consider this a $30 well-spent and would recommend others to keep an eye out to see if any of these ovens are still in stock at their local Aldi or ask staff when they’ll be stocked again.
Oh, and one final thing. My oven comes with a self-cleaning setting. After removing the food, you add a couple inches of water and a drop of dish soap, then set a self-cleaning cycle of 10 to 15 minutes. The halogen and infrared heat the water in the convection swirls it around. This is what it looked like while cleaning:
I wasn’t impressed with the results, which were no better than those of a long soak. The glass bowl still required handwashing to remove the fat that had dripped off the chicken. Next time I’ll skip the extra electrical usage required by the self-cleaning cycle and just watch the thing by hand in the first place.