Designed to cook chef-quality meals quickly, Panasonic’s Countertop Induction Oven is easily using a combination of induction and infrared heat. It is along with providing fast cooking times and simplifies the cooking and cleanup process through its automated operation and single, dishwasher-safe grill pan. The small, airtight interior keeps food from drying out and moisture is circulated throughout the cooking process to create more complex, delicious flavors. The oven is a unique concept that has created a new category of appliance, along with considerable buzz for Panasonic.
Chicken breasts surrounded by Brussels sprouts, ready to be placed on the oven
Panasonic touts the oven as able to prepare entire meals for up to 4 people, though I think 2-3 people is a bit more realistic if preparing everything simultaneously in the single grill pan. The oven can be used to cook different types of food at the same time. Meat is placed in the center where it is hottest, and the vegetables and potatoes go around it and receive less heat.
Place the grill pan in the oven, set the correct auto program and in less than 30 minutes your meal is ready, with no preheating. It can also make desserts, side dishes, casseroles, and bake frozen pizzas, also without preheating. It is also quite efficient, using about the same amount of electricity as a microwave.
A cookbook is provided with many different types of recipes, from complete meals to desserts. I started with the family chicken dinner, using skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts and a side dish of red potatoes, celery, and carrots. It took about 10 minutes to prepare the ingredients and arrange them in the grill pan, put it in the oven, select the proper program and press start.
Less than 25 minutes later I removed the grill pan and tasted the results. I learned two things from the experience: the oven lives up to its promise, and my own cooking technique needs a lot of work as I had never obtained such good results before using my full-size oven. The chicken was moist and tender, with nicely browned, crispy skin and the vegetables and potatoes were just right.
Moving on to other types of food, I found that frozen pizzas had a nicely browned, firm crust with grill marks on the bottom, which added to the flavor and texture. Ordinary frozen pizzas always tasted perfect, but different brands of pizzas with a self-rising crust yielded different results. For example, one brand had a bit of a doughy, uncooked flavor even when fully baked, while another brand tasted as it should. Plan on experimenting a bit to find the self-rising pizza that works for you.
The oven proved to be equally adept at cooking vegetables. I especially liked the maple-glazed Brussels sprouts from the cookbook, which were cooked throughout yet had a nice, crunchy texture to the outermost leaves and a perfect combination of greens and maple flavor.
There are a few recipes I tried (like the Brussels sprouts) that did require preheating, but after I gained some experience with the oven I was able to modify the cooking programs and times to get pretty much the same results without it, though the total amount of time remained about the same. I looked at this as something to be done for convenience’s sake, where you want to set and forget, rather than preheat and go back to put in the food.
The oven delivers on its promise of chef-quality meal, quickly and easily. Using it I had an absolutely perfect success rate, with no problems with undercooked, overcooked or burned food. I had to add to the cooking time on a few occasions, but the oven makes it easy to do so when necessary and a few more minutes was all I ever needed. The simplicity of the single grill pan and easy cleanup, fast cooking times without preheating, the quality of prepared food and consistent results combine to create a total experience that is greater than its individual parts.
The only real drawback for many is likely to be the price. At $599 it is about the same as an entry-level full-sized range, which admittedly does not offer the same experience or use of high technology. The personal value equation comes down to how much you would use it and how it impacts your quality of life. In my case as a single person living alone, I used it very often during the review period and cooked for myself much more frequently than I did before. When it came time to return the review sample I decided to buy one as I didn’t want to be without it. It’s a new category of appliance that will find many friends among single people, couples, retired folks, busy professionals, and anyone who loves to cook. For those who wish they were better cooks, the oven will help them get results they never thought they would achieve so easily.