Oven makes “fried” foods without oil
As delicious as fried food tastes, most people realize that french fries and potato chips are not the healthiest things to eat. Now, food scientists have invented an oven that produces food that looks and tastes fried, but doesn't use the fattening oil that typically gives fried food its taste.
Scientists and inventors Kevin Keener of Purdue University and Brian Farkas of North Carolina State University call the oven a "radiant fryer." The device emits wavelengths of radiant energy to cook food according to precise instructions. It works best with pre-shaped food such as chicken patties, fish sticks, and donuts, or any food that has a specific shape.
Many times, fried foods are fried in oil twice - once before being frozen and shipped to a restaurant or grocery store (called "par-fried"), and once more when a chef prepares them for eating (called "refried"). The oven would eliminate the need for refrying, which could cut 50% of the oil, fat, and calories compared with conventional fryers.
The oven can churn out fried-tasting foods extremely quick, along the lines of about 300 dozen donuts per hour. The new device is also capable of rapidly reheating frozen products, such as transforming a frozen donut into a hot one in just two minutes. A side benefit is increased safety, since the oven eliminates the use of hot oil which is hazardous to discard and can burn chefs if spilled.
In experiments, taste-testers confirmed that food from a small prototype of the oven tasted the same as normally fried foods.
Now, the researchers, along with Indiana-based Anderson Tool and Engineering Co., have begun to assemble a full-scale version of the oven. They plan to have the oven working by the end of the year. If the oven passes a series of tests, the team plans to commercialize the product.
"All of these things we envision cooking with the oven are products the food industry would like to find out how to design with less fat," Keener said. "This might be one way."