I can clearly remember my very first introduction to a halogen oven. That was some 15 years ago and long before they could be found in almost every cook shop across the land.
At the time, I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical - I took one look at it and wondered why anyone would need this. Most people would already have got a perfectly good oven (and probably a microwave) sat in their kitchens? Would this become just another gadget consigned to the back of the kitchen cupboard gathering dust?
My attention was drawn to the fact that it said on the box that this space-age looking oven could grill, bake, roast, steam, reheat and defrost and also claimed that halogen cooking would save me money and time. All good stuff, but actually, was it really going to stand up to these claims and tick all the boxes? Confidently, I promised myself that I would happily eat my hat if it did!!
The only way to find out was to test it over and over again, so having carefully read the instructions (yes, you do need to read them!), I set to putting it through its paces. I toasted a slice of bread (perfect on both sides, just like a toaster), grilled a pork chop (cooked all round with just a little squirt of oil), roasted a whole chicken (moist inside, crispy skin), steamed a piece of salmon in a foil parcel (done to perfection), baked a cake (rose beautifully, cooked through, no burnt top), reheated a bowl of pasta and finally,defrosted a pack of beef mince direct from the freezer (thawed in 10 minutes). A whole row of ticks.
I watched in fascination as the halogen light went on and off, timed each thing I cooked to the second, checked against how long it would take me in a conventional oven and decided if the results were the same or better. They were exactly the same - but quicker. Tick.
I had a thought - could I use a traditional recipe and adapt it to the halogen way of cooking? It said that you could use any "normal recipe, use the same temperature but just reduce the cooking time by 20% - so I did. My roasted beef joint was delicious. And as the cooking time was shorter, I have saved on my energy bill. Another tick.
I was on a roll now and both excited and intrigued by this little oven and decided to try and catch it out by cooking a casserole of braised steak (60 minutes on the timer, a ping and then set for another 30 minutes - result, delicious), roasted potatoes (40 minutes, crisp and brown on the outside, fluffy in the middle) and finally (believing I would get the usual microwave-type soggy bottom) a full sized pizza (15 minutes, bubbling top and crispy bottom). Big tick. Foiled again!I was pretty convinced by this time but then I spotted that it said it would clean itself. So as per the instructions, filled the bowl to the half way mark with water, added a squirt of washing up liquid and set the timer to clean for 20 minutes. Ping went the timer. Water discarded, I had a clean and sparkling glass bowl. BIG tick.
Two thoughts then occurred to me - how much actual space would it take up on the countertop? Coming from a house where my wife likes her worktops clear with only the kettle in sight could be a stumbling block. I called her in for her opinion but I could tell by the look on her face that she needed some convincing, so I promptly cooked the evening meal in record time whilst she looked on. I think she was secretly impressed but the turning point came when she realized that all the mess of cooking was contained in the glass bowl, and that she would never have to clean the oven again. That halogen oven never left our kitchen again. Massive tick from the wife.
My second (and final) thought - is it portable? It must be was my conclusion and I have proved it so since - it goes everywhere with me, since it is completely portable (even on the odd camping and caravanning holiday - it's been cruising on the Norfolk Broads before now!). As long as you have a 13amp socket to plug it in, you can take it anywhere - have halogen, will travel. So, the list was completed and all the boxes ticked. Congratulations halogen oven - you passed the test with flying colours.
Later, having proved my first impressions completely wrong, I ate my hat with a small green salad and vinaigrette dressing and conceded that this was one of the best things I had ever come across! And I still believe it to this day. Walk into any of my in-store demos and you will see me cooking with a halogen oven. Visit my home and you will find one sitting on top of our beautiful range cooker in constant use. (Check in the range oven and it will be pristine - that's because we don't use it, preferring to confine the splashes and spills of cooking to that glass bowl!).
Of course, in 15 years, the halogen has evolved and improved no end but the basics are the same. If you choose to buy one, do be patient, try things out, experiment with your own recipes and before long, you will feel totally comfortable with your new purchase. All the science bit, what you get, how to use the oven, my own personal hints and actual halogen oven recipes are all on the links below. And of course, if you have any questions, recipes or tips of your own, please do email me via the contact form. Your comments are always welcome.