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Cool Way To Cook
THE FISH COOKED IN ICE magic trick is something David Copperfield might have wished he dreamed up - but at least he wouldn't need a court order to reveal the secret behind it. He would have just called upon luxury kitchen appliance maker Miele to send the judge its latest groundbreaking Dialog oven and let it do the talking.
The oven, you see, is able to "speak" to the food that's in it. Not in a "Hi, how are you, read any good books lately" kind of way, although at the rate technology is evolving anything is possible. Instead, it sends electromagnetic waves through the meat, fish or vegetable in it, and calculates the amount of energy needed to cook each ingredient - delivering the precise amount for perfect results. So, for the aforementioned trick, a piece of fish is placed inside a block of ice, but because electromagnetic waves can't "speak" to ice, it goes right through to cook the fish within. Hence it emerges steaming hot and cooked while the ice stays intact. Cue applause and exclamations of wonder.
But it's not magic - it's science, and that's why the Dialog oven is the star of Miele's biggest, single-product launch that hasn't been done in over 20 years.
It's a testament of how ground-breaking the technology is, and how it's the biggest thing since the microwave oven was invented, says Axel Kniehl, Miele's Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, at yet another showcase of the oven in Milan - in conjunction with Eurocucina.
The oven's technology took eight long years to develop and was adapted from a delicate heating process used in organ transplant, says Dr Kniehl. "When you transplant an organ, it is first cooled down for transportation but needs to be brought back up to body temperature for the actual transplant and it needs to be heated very evenly, and very slowly."
Miele linked up with the Israeli technology company that developed this heating process to develop it further "because this kind of even cooking is exactly what we look for in cooking," adds Dr Kniehl.
All this while, cooking has been about applying heat to the outside of an ingredient and waiting for it to continue its way in until the whole piece of meat or fish reaches the right core temperature. If you've ever tried to defrost a chicken in the microwave you would be well familiar with a defrosted bird that's already cooked on the outside.
"The key is that instead of cooking from the outside to the inside - which we have done for the last 1.5 million years - we cook everything at the same time with the same intensity. Hence we call it volumetric cooking."
Unlike a "monologue" conventional oven which just zaps everything with the same heat intensity and you just hope your roast gets cooked through, the Dialog oven lives up to its name by creating a constant "communication" of energy that adjusts and repeats according to the ingredient being cooked. That's why you can put food with different densities such as meat and vegetables together at the same time, as the Dialog knows what to do. AND - at up to 70 per cent faster than normal ovens.
No, it's not a souped-up microwave. The microwave, says Dr Kniehl, uses radio frequency waves of 2.4 GHz in speed, which is why microwaved food doesn't cook evenly. The Dialog uses electromagnetic waves of around 900 MHz which is the same as the mobile phone. "It's a different type of wave and a different bandwidth. It's a totally different technology."
As for concerns about mobile phone waves scrambling people's brains and whether the same health paranoia about microwaved food would apply to the Dialog, Dr Kniehl, clarifies that microwave fears were more about "the potential effects of that cooking method on the vitamin content of food".
Where the Dialog is concerned, the waves are at a much lower frequency "that penetrate much deeper into food and therefore only require a fraction of the energy and are therefore gentler in terms of results. As the frequency range it uses overlaps that of mobile telephony, the machine is designed to shield the environment from electromagnetic waves to give a degree of protection which is several times higher than on any microwave oven."
At an elaborate dinner showcasing the oven's skills in Milan's Zona Tortona, much of the response has been around how this could truly revolutionise cooking the way the microwave did. "Back then when it first came out, nobody knew what to do with a microwave oven. And when Miele introduced the steam oven, people were going, 'what do we need a steam oven for?' Now they're must-haves."
It's all part and parcel of Miele's purpose of using technology to better lives but without neglecting the soul of the cooking process. "Nowadays, everyone is focusing on digital technology, smart homes and all that, which is important but we're still here to provide a fantastic cooking experience. We believe it should be a combination of both. We don't want to take the heart out of cooking your grandmother's recipes but at the same time when you're too busy to cook but still want a good meal, the technology is there for you to get great results."
For now, there is still no price indication for the Dialog oven even in Europe, and the only hint is that it's going to be very expensive. When it will come to Singapore or Asia is another question. But if the price of Miele has generally discouraged you from filling your home with them, they hear you.
A new Discovery range of Miele appliances is being launched "to make the brand accessible to a younger consumer," says Dr Kniehl. "You have couples buying their first apartment, how do you make sure they have access to your brand? If we just offer them appliances that are so far out of their reach, they will never have access. So what we focus on with the Discovery line is to make sure all the core functionalities are there so they don't have anything to worry about. When they buy their second home with the great experience they have they will stay with Miele - that's the core idea."
But if you've already been a fan, the Dialog isn't the only thing to look forward to. From its Miele@home digital concept to a possible launch of more new models and an even more advanced Dialog oven, Dr Kniehl says, "I can't say much but the next six months will be very exciting."