How I fell in love with halogen ovens

It may look low-tech, and it's a fraction of the size of your normal cooker – but this odd-looking contraption will revolutionise the way you cook, says Richard Ehrlich

I've been writing about food and cookery for a million years, and have always been interested in new ways of cooking, because, well, because I'm a guy. And most guys like innovations, and gadgets. Pathetic, I know. But at least the gadgets I like have a practical use: I use them to cook for friends and family.

But there's a huge difference between gadgets and genuine innovations. A device that it makes it easier to peel garlic qualifies as a gadget – and a pretty useless one, in my view. A piece of kit that enables you to cook faster without loss of quality, and which saves energy into the bargain – that is not a gadget. It's a godsend. And the halogen oven falls into that category.

I had heard about halogen ovens in the USA, where they're pretty popular, and some months ago I decided I had to give them a try. The oven is a large Pyrex-type bowl on a stand, with a lid housing a halogen element and fan. It looked like such a simple, and though it took some getting used to, I pretty well mastered it in around 30 minutes.

Since then, I've been proselytising for halogen. I want to convince everyone that this simple, odd-looking device can revolutionise the way they cook their meals.

The first thing people ask me when I start boring them about halogen ovens is whether they are a microwave oven. The answer is no, though they share the ability to cook very speedily. Microwaves use very short radio waves to cause a rapid movement of certain molecules (mainly water and fat) inside food, and this movement makes the food heat up. The oven itself doesn't produce heat. Halogen ovens produce loads of heat. You can see that from the moment you first turn one on and see the ring of light in the lid. The light comes from a powerful circular filament inside a glass tube, which is filled with inert halogen gas. The lamp powers up to create an instant, intense heat. Some hobs use the same technology to great effect.

Halogen ovens cook far more efficiently than conventional ovens. They reach full heat faster than a conventional oven, largely because of their small size but also because the fan circulates the air inside, distributing heat throughout. And when you cook something close to the element, the oven acts as a turbo-charged grill. Indeed, many dishes cook through a combination of grilling and roasting.

Where can you use one? Anywhere. Any kitchen with a couple of square feet of empty counter space can accommodate a halogen oven. The oven should have a clear space around it, because you don't want to the hot element to be near anything that can burn or melt. You should also make sure there is nothing overhead which would make it hard to remove the lid. Halogen converts need to buy a stand on which you rest the hot lid and a special extending ring which allows you to cook larger items such as whole chickens and joints of meat. But these cost little, and are sometimes included with the oven itself.

Does halogen eliminate the need for a large, built-in oven? If you regularly cook for eight or more, you won't be able to shed the big oven completely. But consider: I've had my halogen oven for nearly a year and I've not used my full-sized oven since. And I've produced meals for six in it without any trouble.

And some people can use the halogen oven as an alternative to a conventional oven. For anyone cooking in a small studio flat, a boat or a caravan, it's a no-brainer. Single people, and couples living on their own, can produce roast dinners or quick midweek suppers in a fraction of the time needed by a larger oven. If you are refitting your kitchen, you might find that you can replace your traditional oven with the halogen option.

So, what to cook in it? It's better to ask what it isn't good for. It roasts beautifully: meat, poultry, vegetables. Large joints take a bit of practice because the heat is higher from the top, but these problems can quickly be overcome with experience. Breads and tarts cook well, and so do simple fruit-based desserts.

And the joy of shortened cooking times really is wonderful. I cook up to two ribs of beef, through a combination of grilling and roasting, in as little as 20 minutes. I think that's pretty impressive. You can also roast a chicken; make a pie; you can make great tomato sauce, or fish stew – and all in 15 or 20 minutes.

You'd think, because of the size of the oven, that it would be hard to get a whole roast dinner out of it. But I abide by the rule that no home cook should be obliged to serve more than one hot dish in any meal. The idea of conjuring everything up at once is a fantasy concocted by Masterchef. The thing to do, I think, is produce a starter at room temperature, such as a terrine cooked under halogen. That should free you up to use the halogen again for some roasted vegetables (served at room temperature) and a hot leg of lamb.

Those with young children might be worried about safety, but there's a clever mechanism in halogen ovens to eliminate the danger. The power snaps off when you lift the handle, which is the only way to take the lid off. And while it can get very smoky inside the oven, especially when the food is being cooked in a grilling position, it never flares into flames – probably because there isn't enough air.

With all that food at a high temperature in a small space, the oven gets dirty – it needs washing once a week, and some would do it every time they use it. Washing the bowl is easy in the sink. Cleaning the lid is more difficult, because the element shouldn't get wet. For best results, wipe with a soapy brush then wipe off. Abrasives are a no-no for the glass, but cleaning a halogen oven is a lot easier than cleaning a conventional oven.

Because of the top-down heat, some foods must be tossed or turned at least once. But you won't need to do it more than four or five times for a dish that cooks in 20 minutes. And if the top of the food is too near to the element, it may brown excessively before the inside is cooked. Using the extending ring or a lowish temperature eliminates that problem.

The best thing of all: halogen cooking is fun. Because the oven is transparent, you can watch the food changing minute by minute. It's an intimate, exciting experience. You'll occasionally find yourself crouched with your nose close to the glass. This is a somewhat addictive form of culinary voyeurism, though it also has the practical advantage of letting you see when something's going wrong. And if you get the hang of things as quickly as I did, that's not likely to be very often.



'80 Recipes For Your Halogen Oven', by Richard Ehrlich (Kyle Cathie, £12,99). To order this book for the special price of £10.99, with free P&P, go to www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk or call 0870 079 8897

Cooking with halogen

* Halogen ovens use infrared technology to cook food up to 60 per cent faster than conventional ovens. As well as being energy efficient, they don’t give the hot and cold spots you get with microwaves. They also create food that tastes as though it’s been cooked, but in an oven, and with a microwave’s speed.

* Halogen ovens can be bought for as little as £30, with one of the main British suppliers, Coopers of Stortford, selling them for around £40. “Turbo” versions, boasting a more powerful fan and heating equipment, as well as associated paraphernalia, such as trays, sell for around double this.

* Cooking with a halogen oven is healthy, too. Their design means that fat drains away. And because they are quite small in size, users are restricted to small portions.

* Some halogen ovens only go up to 200C, but this is not high enough for many foods. If purchasing one for the first time, you should make sure it goes up 250C, to cover the full array of recipes you are likely to want.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice