Bad Taters

Just had my first failure of trying to resuscitate the freezer-burned old food I had stashed away, with a Stouffer’s Balsamic Chicken entree. It came out with one strip of really tough freezer-burned potatoes, and a cold spot at the bottom of the potatoes, which led to one edge of the chicken patty being cooler than it should have been.

I suspect the problem is that this one had it really bad for moisture having crystallized out onto the plastic film, and I cooked this one in microwave mode instead of oven mode. The water just escaped as steam, and then the potatoes were too dry to pick up enough microwave energy. (The tough strip was probably unsalvageable, though.)

I suspect it would have turned out better if I’d cooked it in oven mode, giving heat more time to penetrate and maybe reabsorb some of the lost moisture. I’ll have to stick to that for the rest of them.

Size Problems

I mentioned before that I needed new cookware for my new oven, and while I was at the Safeway I noticed they sold some little baking pans that were only $8, so I grabbed one. It wasn’t until I got home and could peel the label off that I could read on the back of it that it’s only rated to 415°F. So that’s why it was cheap. I cannot be trusted to remember to put pants on in the morning, let alone remember what the temperature threshold for a random piece of cookware is, and it’s not stamped on the pan itself.

So today I picked up a different set, this time a bundled package of a baking dish, baking pan, and broiling grill, rated to 450°F, which is the highest this oven can do anyway. It’s technically a “toaster oven” set (and, amusingly, it says not to use the broiling grill with a broiler), but whatever, that’s still about the right size that I want.

Except not quite. The baking pan is a bit bigger than the others, and you can put it in the oven, but this beast does something that toaster ovens don’t do: it still turns the turntable in oven mode, and then the pan jams up against the edges. Fortunately there’s a mode setting to disable the turntable, but now that’s another thing I’ll have to remember to set. I foresee a bunch of “*clunk* Oh dangit,” in my future…


I finally got a chance to give my new toy a test in its oven mode, instead of as a microwave. Some notes:

  • Some wisps of smoke started to come out of the back while it was preheating, and I panicked and shut it off. After a bit more research, it turns out this is common when using a new oven for the first time, as it burns off various oils and greases and such on the internals from when it was assembled. I guess I’ve never been the first person to ever use a brand-new oven before! It cleared up before too long, but I still kept an eye on it during its first run just in case it burst into flames…
  • The area around it gets pretty warm. Well duh, it’s an oven, but I’m not used to having that warmth up on the kitchen countertop. I think I might need to get a separate shelving unit or something for it, to free up some counter space, maybe get it better ventilation, and keep its vents away from potentially getting splashed by the sink.
  • I’m going to need some new cookware, since the baking sheets and pans and such that I have are mostly sized for a regular oven. Plus an anti-spatter cover for microwave mode.
  • It does an automatic preheat cycle after you set the temperature and timer, but one annoying quirk is that once preheat finishes, it lets you know with a chime, but then immediately starts counting down the timer before you’ve had a chance to actually put the food in. Maybe I’ll just have to set the timer to a minute longer than needed.
  • It’s a bit noisy, as it keeps a fan running continuously while operating. About as loud as it is in microwave mode, but in oven mode you’ll be running it for longer.

For its first test, I dug out some frozen stuffed chicken cutlets that have apparently been in the freezer for, uh, six years. They turned out to be a little tough along some of the breading, where moisture had been lost, but were still perfectly edible. As far as being an oven goes, it successfully heated stuff.

There’s still a grilling/air frying mode to test as well, though.

Fry, Baby, Fry

I haven’t had a microwave for a long time. The one I previously had broke probably 15-20 years ago, and I just never bothered to replace it, and I got used to cooking or reheating things on the stove instead.

However, my oven also broke a little while ago, and I’m kind of sick of prepared meals and recipes that increasingly assume you have a microwave, so as my xmas gift to myself, I went and got one of those fancy-shmancy combo air fryer/convection oven/microwave units.

One of the reasons I didn’t replace my old microwave was a lack of space, and unfortunately, with it hogging the right side of the counter, and the dish rack on the left side of the counter, I’m left with this as my meal prep area:

I bought it locally ($250 cheaper than it would have been through Amazon!), and getting it home was also ‘fun’. Carrying it to the cashier didn’t feel so bad, and it’s a fairly short trip to and from the train so I felt pretty confident, but on that last block before home, I probably had to stop and rest my arms four or five times. I’m sure they’ll feel like limp noodles tomorrow.

So far I’ve only used it to warm up some sandwiches and buns, and I still have to see how well it actually works as an oven. Time to see just how bad the freezer-burn is on some of the stuff I have but couldn’t cook anymore when the oven broke…