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October 13, 2004

Sharp Water Oven

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"A seven ounce steak cooked in the water oven has 13% fewer calories than if it were fried."

From Phred Dvorak's Wall Street Journal story on this new "lean machine," from the company from whose "... Sharp minds come sharp products."

I always liked that slogan; I don't understand why they dropped it. But I digress.

I must say that reading about this product made my eyes glaze over; I think I'll stick to my microwave.

I mean, one passage through organic chemistry lab back in my pre-med days was more than enough for this man's lifetime.

Sharp's website says, "The Electric Superheated Steam Oven series will be introduced not only in Japan, but also in stages in Asia, the US and in Europe, and will create a new market as the new "must have" product for this century of health.

I have my doubts.

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Here's the article.
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Sharp Renders Fat Into a Puff of Steam


People outside Japan may not realize it, but Sharp Corp. - the world's No. 1 seller of liquid-crystal display televisions - is also an avid maker of high-tech kitchen appliances.

That lesser-known part of Sharp last month released an electric oven in Japan that the company claims can help people lose weight, by driving more fat out of food.

The secret of Sharp's new "water oven," as the company has dubbed it, is super-heated steam.

The cook puts water in a compartment to the left of the oven door.

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The oven boils the water, then shoots the steam through an intricate heating coil that raises the temperature to around 300 degrees Celsius.

The super-heated steam is then sprayed over a pot roast or chicken nuggets inside, raising the temperature of the food so fast that the fat literally sweats out - then drips off with the water that condenses on the surface of the meat.

In a regular oven, it takes a lot longer to reach the same temperature, and the meat might be burned by that time, says Takashi Tanaka, who heads Sharp's water-oven team.

Sharp says the new oven delivers eight times more heat energy than the company's older convection-type model.

Preliminary tests showed the water oven roasted out 59% of the fat in a piece of pork, compared with 44% when the meat was cooked in an ordinary oven.

Sharp isn't the only company experimenting with high-tech ovens.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the maker of Panasonic brand equipment, this month is starting Tokyo sales of an oven you can hook up to the Internet to download recipes.

Toshiba Corp. already has a similar model on the market.

In Japan, a country with more grills than ovens, Sharp is advertising that a 200-gram piece of steak cooked in the water oven produces meat that's 13% lower in calories than it would be if it were fried on a pan or griddle.

The calories saved, Sharp boasts, are a bit more than you'd work off with 20 minutes of walking.

Although super-heated steam ovens have been around for years, they're rare and used mainly in restaurants and cafeterias.

Sharp's oven, which is selling in Japan for around 120,000 yen, or about $1,100, is one of the first available for the retail market.

Sharp hopes to start selling the oven in the U.S. and other markets within the next few years.

Cooking with super-heated steam has other health benefits, too, says Sharp, which has been researching the process with professors from Japan's Osaka Prefecture University.

When the steam condenses on the surface of the food, it draws out some of the salt - a plus for people who are watching their sodium intake.

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And when the inside of the oven fills with super-heated steam, much of the oxygen is driven out, a process that helps preserve Vitamin C in foods like squash or broccoli.

Vitamin C tends to get broken down in the cooking process when it combines with oxygen.

The steam also keeps food from drying out or getting tough, despite the intense heat.

Sharp demonstrated by roasting breaded chicken pieces, which ended up cooking in the oil they exuded, for a taste like deep-fried chicken.

To be sure, because the oven uses electric heat, it's bound to be pricier to run than one that uses a cheaper energy source like natural gas.

And with a cooking compartment that measures about 34 centimeters by 31 centimeters by 24 centimeters, it's a squeeze for something big, like a turkey.

Users set temperature and time by twirling a button on the bottom right of the oven, with the choices displayed on a little panel above.

For fancier cooking, Sharp has preprogrammed the oven with cooking instructions for 126 dishes ranging from pizza to baguettes to tempura - all of which are controlled by computer, which decides when to spray steam and when to roast.

Sharp's Mr. Tanaka says the cooking process was meticulously programmed to suit the Japanese palate, and was one of the hardest parts of the development process.

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Sharp is planning to adapt those instructions to American tastes before they launch the oven in the U.S.

October 13, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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