Words such as “instant” and “touch of a button” are attention-grabbers, especially with food. When Godrej launched its range of InstaCook convection microwave ovens recently, it was tempting to try what was designed almost as a magic box. The oven promises to bring the “joy of cooking to your fingertips” by single-touch programmes with which you can make everything, from tea and omelettes to pizza, baingan bharta, grilled fish and tandoori chicken.
Convection models of microwave ovens usually had eight basic dishes on their auto-cook option. But now appliance companies are adding more Indian dishes to the auto-cook option.
The Godrej range makes 40 dishes seem idiot-proof. The company says all you have to do is put the raw materials in a microwave-safe dish, press a few buttons and pull out a ready-to-eat meal.
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Ramesh Chembath, a senior general manager with Godrej Appliances, says Indians find operating electronics in the kitchen cumbersome and have limited their microwave usage to heating and boiling. The InstaCook range is their way of “Indianizing” the microwave.
LG too recently launched its auto-cook range, with 101 dishes on offer.
Having tried and not quite succeeded in replicating chicken kebabs in an electric tandoor at home, it was tempting to test Godrej’s claim of making tandoori chicken in a microwave oven. The oven comes with a booklet that gives the recipe for the marinade while providing instructions on the buttons to press. After marinating a whole chicken in a mix of spices, yogurt and corn flour for a few hours, the manual instructed, place the chicken on a lightly greased glass plate and into the oven, choosing InstaCook 7, punching in the weight of the chicken and pressing start.
The instructions were easy enough to follow and literally involved pressing three buttons. The time display read 38 minutes. At half-time, when the kitchen was filled with the aroma of meat cooking, the instructions went, turn the bird over on the plate for even cooking. The microwave pinged about 15 minutes later and the chicken was ready to eat.
The top layer of the chicken looked crisp, the exposed bone was charred and although the chicken didn’t really look tandoori, judgement was reserved till it was tasted. The meat was evenly cooked and succulent, but neither the texture nor the taste came even close to tandoori. That trademark smoky flavour was missing and the texture of the meat was too smooth to compare to meat that’s been in a clay oven.
All black and steel, the oven looks good. It’s easy to understand, operate and is less messy than cooking on a flame. The InstaCook option makes it less confusing but basically, instead of punching in the time yourself, you are relying on your microwave for it.
Rather than providing any major benefit, it works more as a new sales proposition. Also, it’ll work better if they take the word tandoori out of their menus and replace it with grilled. That smoky flavour of the tandoor is so entrenched in our senses that there’s no way microwave grilled chicken can compare.
• Godrej InstaCook microwave oven with 40 auto-cook options, 25 litres, Rs10,290.
• LG with 101 auto-cook options, 30 litres, Rs13,490.
• Samsung with 44 auto-cook options, 28 litres, Rs11,900.
• Onida with 80 auto-cook options, 20 litres, Rs9,990.