I am not a cook, chef, or even a glorified food preparer. In fact, I view cooking as nothing more than a DIY project with heat and chemistry. I’d like to also point out that I failed chemistry numerous times in school. Along comes the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven. Pressure oven? OK, you have my attention.
Yes, pressure oven. The ONE thing I remember in chemistry is the Ideal Gas Law (PV = nRT) which in everyday terms, hints that there’s a relationship between pressure, temperature, and volume. Alter one of those, and it affects the others. I remember that traditional pressure cookers reduce cooking time with a fixed volume and increased pressure. The Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven advertises reduced cooking times of “up to 70%” while “locking in heat and moisture”.
First, let’s see what’s in the box.
- Baking/broil rack
- Drip/baking pan
- Roasting pan
- Crumb tray
- Rotisserie kit – includes rod, tines and rotisserie-removal tool (available only in the Rotisserie Series model)
- Quick start guide
- Recipe booklet
- Use and care guide
- Manufacturer’s 1-year limited warranty
- 60 day money back guarantee
- Measurements Approx. 19-7/8″L x 15-7/8″W x 12-3/8″H
- Weight Approx. 26.7 lbs.
- Power Source Plugs into household wall outlet
- Wattage 1700 watts
The front of the oven is rather handsome, to me. Just brushed stainless and black knobs. I kind of like the big He-Man door handle. It looks like something “professional” but shrunken down for the home.
The rear is completely barren. Just the plug, a small vent, and two plastic bumpers.
The inside of the oven, empty. There is a light, but as you can see, the plug isn’t plugged in yet. We’ll get to that.
You get a wire rack (left), a smaller rack for the included tray (right) and a claw-shaped wire tool (upper right).
Also included are two pans and some reading material. Speaking of which…
This what I always look for first: The quick startup guide for impatient people like me. (Click to enlarge)
Remember the bit about “faster cooking times”? Take a look at this chart and see what you think for yourself.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice this is NOT some large toaster oven. This thing has a lever you push down to seal the door. The door then gets pulled and locked into place. I felt like I was sealing astronauts in a space capsule for a trip to the moon.
These hooks engage and lock the door in place.
This is the seal that goes around the inside of the door. If pressure is involved, a seal makes sense.
The door remains slightly ajar when closed before the lever is locked. This is the “normal” non-pressurized cooking mode.
Push the lever down and the door closes completely.
Inside the oven is a removable crumb tray. Note the lower heating element.
That’s the upper heating element.
Remember that wire claw tool? It’s to remove/insert the wire rack.
Wire rack in place, light on.
Door closed, light on.
So far, the oven LOOKS okay on the surface, until you get to the printed plastic knobs. Atrocious. The printing is slightly blurry and painted with a font that I’ve seen in nearly every half-baked instruction manual since the 1980′s.
Power light in red, ready light in green.
The timer knob has a “Stay On” mode if you don’t need the timer function. If you need the timer, however…
…Just rotate the knob and select your time, like an egg timer. The marks are in 20 min. increments with arbitrary dashed lines in between. How do you choose, say, 22 min?
On the top is the most perplexing bit. This is the vent. Makes sense to have one in a pressurized appliance. The instructions state to put this thing into the SEAL position… but which one is the seal position? I kept referring to the instructions, and at this moment I still don’t quite remember. If you don’t get it right, the oven won’t cook properly in the pressurized mode. It’s also very, very loose by design, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Vegetarians and vegans, look away. I’m sorry, but I had to try a steak. It’s the only thing I can make in an oven with a 45% success rate. On the left is my control steak, which I’ll cook in my usual way in the oven with the broiler. On the right is a steak I’ll use in the Puck oven.
Here I am loading the breech. That’s a little salt I placed on the bottom of the pan to catch excess dripping, which I lined with foil for easier cleanup.
Thankfully, there’s a light inside. There’s no way to turn off the light while the oven is in operation.
I followed the directions on the quick start guide (10 minutes), and got a pretty rare piece. Back goes the rib eye.
A total of 12 minutes and I felt it was done to my satisfaction. Let’s compare to the control…
The control steak had a little more “cooked” edges to it, but I attribute that to the way I made it: In oven at 375F for 10 minutes, then at a broil (top rack) for about 8-10 minutes, flipping every 3-4 minutes. Much longer than the 10-12 minutes it took me in the Puck oven.
But how was the taste? Frankly, it was pretty darn close. The Puck Steak was perfectly edible, with only slight difference in the exterior “char” due to actual cooking method (bake vs. broil)
Cooking Poultry: Is the Bird the Word?
After I had given the Puck Oven a loving new home (I don’t have the counter space) I followed up on how it was doing. As it turns out, maybe my expectations were wrong.
Apparently, chicken cooks just fine, thank you very much. And quite a bit of it. I guess it never occurred to me you can shove an entire chicken (and then some) into the Puck Oven, despite the countertop design.
“Chicken turned out fine, juicy” I was told. “When it looked done, I took it out”. Apparently, stopwatch timing wasn’t a priority (how many minutes??) but it was “pretty fast”. I’ll take that!
Was it dried out? I had to know: Last year, my Thanksgiving bird was totally dried out. Maybe I shouldn’t have given the Puck Oven the heave-ho out of my kitchen? “Not dry at all,” she said. “I just followed the sample directions in the book”. I’m assuming this meant the included cookbook or cheat-sheet.
Well darn. And wouldn’t you know it? There’s a recipe for Speedy Roast Turkey on the website that claims to cook a turkey in about an hour. Last November it took me 3-4 hours and everyone went home disappointed.
Then it hit me: My oven at home (regular, big gas thing) leaks heat. The door doesn’t close all the way. In fact, all of the knobs are slightly warped due to the heat. The Puck Oven seals shut like a vault and has a smaller volume. Maybe there’s something to it!
I love the sealed door, I’ve got a real beef about the door design itself. To open the door, you have to unlock the lever from pressure to regular mode. That’s not a problem (and perhaps my favorite part of this appliance). But the push button release- similar to many microwave ovens- requires a lot of force to disengage the door. I found myself using the other hand to give counter-pressure by grabbing the He-Man handle. Otherwise, I’d end up pushing the entire oven back, sliding across the kitchen counter.
Closing the door had similar problems. If you push the door shut, it moves the whole oven back unless you position the oven against the wall, or if you grab the back of the oven with your hand. Do not do this. When I tried, the oven was still hot to the touch. Ouch.
One remedy for this is to simply place the oven against the back of your counter or a wall. However, since the oven was pretty darn warm to the touch after use, I wasn’t sure I’d want to do that. Why couldn’t they have just used a friendlier latch mechanism or lighter spring?
Finally, do you remember that wire claw tool to remove the wire rack? Well, once the oven and rack warm up, the metal expands and I was unable to get the rack to budge with the tool, let alone a gloved hand. Maybe it’s a safety feature! No, then how would you get food out when you’re done? Not easily.
Design oddities aside, I would consider the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven as a decent countertop oven, and that’s about it. I never saw the late-night infomercials and never got suckered into any hype, so I can easily state that if you don’t cook often or you have a shortage of space in your kitchen, don’t bother.
If you do a lot of cooking and find yourself playing oven roulette when preparing dishes, this may do the trick. Again only if you have the counter space. This beastie is about the same size as a large microwave and gets way hotter to the touch.
As for the pressure trick? Save time? The cons for me (space hog, odd design elements) outweigh the potential time savings. However, if your regular oven door doesn’t close all the way like mine is broken, and you’ve got the counter space…