18 October 2009

Advantium - First Review

I have been in our new kitchen for about three months now. The appliance that I am most excited by is the GE Monogram Advantium Oven. I have the 240v built-in version with slim Euro-handles (ZSC2201NSS).

I chose this appliance for several reasons:
(1) It serves multiple functions. When your space is limited, appliances that perform more than one task are quite valuable! This one appliance serves as a microwave oven, speedcook oven, and convection oven.
(2) I was intrigued by speedcook functionality. I have never had this before. Other companies with speedcook include TurboChef, Miele, and several others. Each "speed cook" oven seems to use different technology. I like GE's use of halogen.
(3) It looks good and has easy controls.
(4) Without having done in-depth research to back it up, my gut told me that speedcooking would save energy over conventional oven usage. I read that remark in several places but no one backed it up. No one contested that assertion, however.

The capability of this appliance is very broad -- and as such, I have not used all of its functions, not even close! I haven't touched the convection setting yet.

For microwave, I have only used literally one button - the "express" button which microwaves on high for 30 seconds. Each press of the button adds 30 seconds. I'm honestly not sure what to say in a microwave review. It microwaves well. My food gets hot and the turntable turns. Enough said.

Now for the speedcook function... this was truly exciting for me. I believe I am the target consumer -- a harried mother trying to get a dinner on the table in a short amount of time. In most ways, I have been really impressed by the speedcook. One initial missed expectation for me is that I expected everything would cook more quickly. That is not the case. The biggest gains, in my limited experience of three months, are recognized with dense and/or heavy thick foods - such as a roast chicken, or a casserole. For some foods, like cookies, speedcooking actually takes the exact same amount of time as a regular oven, if you ignore the time required to preheat. Once I realized that, I read the Advantium documentation more closely and I realized that a lot of the time comparisons took into account the preheat time for a conventional oven. The Advantium is not preheated for use. It's debatable whether or not it's fair to include or exclude preheat time in the comparisons. On one hand, you can easily start your conventional oven preheating right off the bat and usually it's ready by the time you want to put your dish in the oven. On the other hand -- I do often forget to preheat with enough lead time and I am often waiting for my oven to finish preheating.

Here are some items I have cooked and their results:

(1) Chocolate chip cookies. I did a direct comparison of cookies baked in a regular oven and in the speedcook oven... all from the same batch of dough. I had my contractors sample the cookies (see, I'm a good boss!). There was an even 50/50 split of who preferred the speedcook cookies and who preferred the conventional. It boiled down to who liked crispy cookies and who liked soft. The speedcook tended to produce crispier cookies. We were really splitting hairs though -- the cookies were fairly similar. The time was the same between both ovens (excluding preheat time).

(2) Roast whole chicken. The speedcook chicken was certainly adequate for a weeknight meal. It was not nearly as good as the perfect roast chicken in my conventional oven, though. It did not cook as evenly (neither meat nor skin) in the speedcook. Some bits were juicy and fine, others were dry. That said, if I was just roasting a chicken to get the cooked meat for other dishes, I would not hesitate to speedcook it. One negative for me is that I could not put the chicken on a metal rack to let the drippings roll off. You can't use metal during speedcook. As such, my speedcook chicken came out of the oven in a pool of fat. appetizing!

I am going to try roasting the chicken in the speedcook again with trussing (how I do my chickens in a regular oven). Perhaps that might help it to cook more evenly - we'll see.

Time to roast in oven: 80 minutes (excluding preheat). Time to roast in speedcook: 20ish minutes.

(3) Baked chicken breasts. The speedcook did outstanding here! The breasts were tender and juicy and evenly cooked. This was my first real success with the speedcook.

(4) Pizza. The speedcook EXCELS at pizza! Pizza used to be a weekend meal for us and now with the speedcook, I can get a homemade pizza on the table in 45 minutes (and just 30 minutes if I use freezer dough which I often have).

In a conventional oven, pizza has to cook at a very high temp (450 or 500) so I should point out -- the preheat time DOES have a real impact on the timeline here. For a conventional oven pizza, it takes 20-30min to get my oven hot enough to put my pizza in. And then unless I take the time to preheat my pizza sheet, or prebake my pizza crust, I can have problems with the underside of the crust being underdone while the top is fully cooked.

I have no such problems in the Advantium. With the alternating energy technologies, it gets the toppings and crust all done at the same time. And I do not need to wait a half hour for preheating. Total score!

Here are some other Advantium speedcooking notes:

- There is an instructional CD that comes with the appliance. I found this pretty cheesy and useless. Most of the things they used to demo the advantium are food items that I do not make (a lot of freezer foods).
- So far I have only been able to use the pre-programmed menu options for speedcook. I would like to figure out how to convert some existing recipes to speedcook but I haven't found anything from GE to really make this simple.
- There are different rules for which trays and cookware you can use during which functions. While they do all make sense, I worry that one day I will forget and try to microwave with the metal tray in place.
- I love the accessory drawer that I was able to purchase and install under the oven. I wish, though, that the drawer was also available for the pro style handle. Oddly, the drawer is only available for the euro style handle. I switched my choice of handle from pro to euro just so I could get that drawer (and I am glad that I did).
- For the most part, the appliance seems easy to clean. I did have problems with grilling chicken breasts on the ridged tray, however -- a lot of elbow grease went into cleaning that one, even though it's a nonstick surface
- At one point I was concerned what exactly WAS in the nonstick surface (PFOA, PFTE, etc)? I contacted Paul Anater who went on a hunt to answer my query. Luckily, it's just porcelain enamel. (Note, the 120v version of this appliance does have PFTE however, if that matters to you).

Here are some photos of my pizza adventures with the Advantium:

Fresh pizza, homemade pear and gorgonzola with caramelized onion, on the GE Advantium speedcook tray:

Selecting my menu option from the GE Advantium menu:

Watching my pizza cook in the oven:

Sliding the cooked pizza off the tray (onto my end-grain butcherblock counter, love love):


Paul Anater said...

Great post! I will refer clients who are on the fence about speed cooking to this. I have to say too that a pear, gorgonzola and caramelized onion pizza sounds too good for words. Wow. Do you make your own pizza dough?

Rachele said...

Yes, I do make my own dough. I use a recipe from a Junior League cookbook. Here it is: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dhdzj4g4_109g7xpn4v9
One day we will get together and you can make me a baguette and I can make you a pizza.

I guess I forgot to mention that I have used the "proof bread" and "keep warm" functions of the Advantium too. Both work well. I use the "proof bread" setting for my pizza dough, actually! I intend to write more Advantium reviews as I explore other functions of the appliance, and try speedcooking other foods, so I can include "proof bread" in a future post.

Ace's Lady said...

So, on a scale of 1 - 10, how would you rate the system, overall? Sounds like a lot of pros, not too many cons, and some trial and error when trying to figure out new cooktimes.

mom2reese said...

I can vouch for the tastiness of a pizza cooked in an Advantium - yummy!

This really excites me for weekday dinners. I get home fairly late (6:30ish), and there's just a short window between the time we get home and when the girls go to bed in which we have to make dinner, eat, do homework, have quality time, and get the girls bathed/into bed.

Would a porcelein coated broiler pan be useable in the speedcook mode?

Rachele said...

Ace's Lady - I don't do scales. I'll say the Advantium is "recommended without reservations"

mom2reese - Paul has forwarded your question to the guys at GE Monogram so that you can get a definitive answer.

Linda said...

I have done baked zita, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables and an awesome cornbread in my 120 over the stove advantium. Works great. Trader Joe's makes some potato pancakes that heat up crispy and taste like homemade with no added oil like when I fried them on the stove. I've got a pizza in mine now.

Anonymous said...

So Linda, what were your settings for roasting veggies in your advantium? I haven't tried it yet, but would like to.
Also, Rachele,I have had the BEST results roasting chickens in my Advantium. I do, however, start it uoside-down and then flip it half way through. People can't believe it only takes 20 minutes. The white meat comes out really juicy.

sohan said...

There are lots and lots of recepies when you turn the dial and they show up alphabettically. We use only one or two of those recepies and you have to turn the dial almost to the end. I wish you could arrange those recepies "your own" sort way like some sort of "Favorites".

sohan makker

Anonymous said...

Hi I am interested in adding the advantium in the kitchen remodel. Have you had any issues witht he light burning out? I have read in other posts that the light has been an issue.

Heather said...

I'm thinking about buying the Advantium but have heard that it cooks a baked potato fast but it does not crisp the skin. I also heard that the same is true if you put fish sticks, chix fingers, etc. in it. Have you tried these things and do you find this true?

Anonymous said...

We are remodeling our kitchen and considering an 120V Advantium (not over the stove) but have heard it doesn't really do what it says. Baked potatoes aren't crispy like they say, fish sticks not crispy. I basically want it as a 2nd oven. Have also heard the light bulb blows out inside and you have to call a repairman to fix it and it is expensive to fix. Anyone have a different opinion? It is a lot of $$ so I want to make sure it does what it says.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what you mean "you can't use metal during speedcook" - the primary cooking tray used for speedcooking is metal (as is the elevating rack) - you should have no problem putting a rack in your pan to elevate the bird during speed cooking

Rachele said...

I have not had a problem with the light bulb.

The potato skins crisp up some, but not as much as they do in a regular oven. It is more than sufficient for a weeknight. My husband, kids, and father all think the baked potatos are great. :) The best crispy skin is to coat the potato in oil and bake it in a regular oven with no foil. No time for that on weekdays and the Advantium oven will do just fine.

Anon on July 12th -- the directions say not to use any metal for speedcook. You can put the elevating rack in only for convection cook -- not speedcook. One of the energy waves used during speedcook is microwave which is not compatible (to say the least) with metal.

Linda in Omaha said...

I got my 1st Advantium in 1999 or 2000. Never (!) had
a repair issue until Feb 2011 when I think the magnetron blew. Immediately replaced the entire unit w/the newest and I'm keeping my fingers crossed due to some negative on-line comments. I loved the 1st oven and I love this one w/the added convection feature. Time saved, excellent results for 11 yrs! You can't argue w/success.....

The Weekender said...

Hi Rachele, it's been 2 years now since you've had your Advantium 240. Still going strong? We're considering it for our kitchen. Any input would greatly be appreciated. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wondering if since you love your butcher block end so much, if you sort of wish you'd done your whole island top in butcher block?

Rachele said...

Still love the Advantium! We don't use it as much as a speedcooker as I would have thought, though.

No, I would not want an entire butcher block counter. I prefer the resilience and nature of soapstone. We are always tossing stuff on our counters and I would not want to do that onto wood butcherblock.

adrobny said...

Looks like you love your Advantium! We are remodeling our kitchen and I was thinking of the Advantium PSB1001NSS instead of a second oven and microwave. Yay or Nay???

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