If there is one kitchen appliance which is rapidly gaining popularity amongst homemakers today, it is the infrared oven. You may have seen it at WalMart, in your neighborhood store or even walked in to find it in your best friend's kitchen. Chances are that all of these sightings may have been accompanied by opinions from friends and family. In such circumstances, the infrared oven appears interesting, but the myriad opinions confuse you. To remove such confusion, we have prepared a short guide which will explain what infrared is, how infrared ovens are, and in what ways are they superior to conventional ovens 

What Is Infrared?

Many people who hear the word “infrared” tend to associate it with ultraviolet radiation, or radiation in general. A natural conclusion which follows is that infrared must be a close cousin of nuclear energy. In a way they are right – infrared is associated with ultraviolet, but so is visible light. All of these are simply different segments of the heat energy which have different wavelengths. Indeed, the energy from the sun itself is composed of two components – visible light, and the invisible heat. Another name of this invisible heat is infrared. ,

If infrared is invisible heat, then it follows that all cooking appliances use infrared rays. Why then are infrared ovens called so, and how are they different?  

What Are Infrared Ovens?

Infrared ovens have a far infrared heating element located usually in what is called the “power head”. Without going into physics, suffice it to say that far infrared heating elements are more efficient at converting electrical energy into heat energy, which then cooks the food. To be honest, heating elements are present in conventional ovens as well, but they are neither as efficient in producing heat, nor as capable of channelizing it into the food in a manner which is thorough and even throughout. This efficiency translates into a host of infrared oven benefits such as faster cooking times,

Before we study the causes of infrared ovens' superiority though, we need to look at the infrared oven carefully.  

Parts Of An Average Infrared Oven

Infrared ovens are available in a wide range of sizes and brands, with Hearthware's Nuwave line and Secura's range of infrared ovens being the most popular. Though they have a number of differences and therefore unique qualities, all of them have some basic components which you should have a good knowledge about

  • Power head – As mentioned above, the power head is the part which houses the far infrared heating element. It typically contains the fan meant for circulating hot air in the cooking dome as well. Finally, the power head contains the display and controls of the infrared oven which allows you to set the cooking level, cooking time, etc. As you may have guessed, it is also the only part of the infrared oven which is NOT dishwasher or for that matter, water/detergent safe and it should never be brought into contact with either. This is a foregone conclusion for infrared ovens which have a non detachable power head (Secura for instance) but even when it is detachable (as in the case of Nuwave ovens), it should only be cleansed with a soft cloth.

  • Cooking dome – The cooking dome (which is called the Power Dome in Nuwave parlance) is where the food actually sits and is cooked. It may be made of glass or PVC. In either case, it generally resembles a transparent cylinder which is open at both ends. One end of the cooking dome sits on the base. The power head sits on the top end of the cooking dome. Once cooking begins, it serves to contain heat inside itself efficiently and thus facilitate cooking. It is dishwasher safe and in fact should be periodically cleansed.

  • Base – Bases differ widely and may contain components like rotator blades, etc. At their simplest, however, the base is simply a plastic object to which the cooking rack is affixed. Cooking racks can be placed inside it as per need. Bases may or may not be dishwasher safe depending on the presence or absence of electrical components.

  • Extender ring – Most infrared ovens have the option of extending the cooking area by adding an extender ring. The extender ring is attached to the base and the cooking dome, and allows cooking of whole turkeys and other bulky foods. Conversely, it can also be used for multi-level cooking using two cooking racks. Extender rings are dishwasher safe.

  • Cooking racks – Cooking racks usually come in sizes of 4” and 2” and they serve as surfaces on which the food is placed for cooking. They can be placed on their legs, or in inverted position, depending on the requirement. Two cooking racks can be combined to cook two foods simultaneously. 

Infrared Oven Benefits

Now that we know the nature and major parts of infrared ovens, let us quickly go through the major benefits of infrared ovens -

  1. Saves space – Infrared ovens are typically far smaller than conventional ovens of the same capabilities. This saves you precious kitchen space.

  2. Faster cooking – The efficient heating of the infrared ovens ensures that cooking times are reduced by half in most cases when compared to conventional ovens.

  3. No thawing needed – Because infrared heating elements can reach the required temperature at a much faster rate, there is no need for thawing infrared ovens prior to cooking.

  4. No defrosting needed – It is not necessary to defrost frozen turkeys, hams, etc. because the infrared oven does so quickly without needing any special settings. \

  5. Helps cut down on calories – Most conventional cookers require oil to facilitate cooking. As is well known, oil contributes to obesity. Infrared ovens' greater cooking efficiency, however, makes oil more or less unnecessary, thus helping the family cut down on its calorie intake and thus lose those excess pounds.

  6. Saves electricity – The faster cooking and the elimination of the need for thawing or defrosting reduce the amount of cooking time. Since infrared ovens generally consume less electricity than conventional ovens, infrared ovens produce massive savings in terms of energy costs.

  7. Cooks evenly – Infrared ovens ensure that heat is uniformly applied throughout the foodstuffs so that you get food that is evenly cooked.

  8. Better tasting leftovers – Due to the efficient and even cooking, the chemical reactions which contribute to the making or breaking of flavor in refrigerate foodstuffs are manipulated in a manner that ensures that the food tastes great even when stored away for the night.

There is a lot more that can be said about infrared ovens, but the above short guide should suffice to provide you with a basic idea of what infrared ovens are and what they do. As you may have realized, the infrared oven is a very simple appliance that makes good use of the far infrared heating element to provide a host of benefits ranging from fast cooking to better and healthier cooking while providing substantial energy savings. When considered together with the fact that the prices of infrared ovens are typically far lower than those of conventional ovens, they tend to make infrared ovens the preferred choice for homemakers today.