Some Overdue Compliments…

My compliments to the chefs.

They’re the craftsman who can create dishes that we lack the imagination, skill, and time to create ourselves. They feed us, they satiate us, and they cater (pun intended) to our every culinary wish.

And one of their most powerful “tools” is a mystery to people outside of professional kitchens. I speak of course, of combination ovens. Or as they call them in the kitchen, combi ovens. And trust me when I say: they’re amazing.

Why? Well, I’ll tell you.

These remarkable ovens give chefs the ability to create dishes that would be nearly impossible to duplicate at home. Combi ovens combine the tried and true power of dry heat with the underrated cooking method of wet heat.

“So what?” You’re probably thinking. “Why the heck do dry and wet heat matter?” Well, I’ll tell you that too!

Most proteins can easily dry out if cooked with only dry heat (as anyone who’s ever left chicken in the oven for an instant too long knows all too well). Wet heat — steam, to be precise — keeps your food moist and tender. And helps it cook faster! Steam’s magic comes from the water in the air, which conducts heat faster than dry air — the same way that a humid day feels so much hotter than a dry day.

Of course, dry heat is essential to the magic too. Steam cooks quickly and efficiently, but steam alone would leave many proteins soggy and anemic-looking. Only dry heat allows chefs to create chemical reactions called Maillard reactions in the food. Maillard reactions create a brown color, a crispy texture, and a range of flavors that bring an entirely new layer to a dish. Basically it’s the icing on the cake, but, you know, for proteins.

The combi oven’s game-changing combination of dry heat and wet heat is truly a wonderful, unique and powerful one. It accomplishes a range of culinary goals all in one wonderful appliance. That’s how a chef can create a piece of chicken with a consummately crispy outside and a magnificently juicy inside.

The jig is up. Now we know how those masterful maestros of meals make their magic. But all that said, the combi oven is just a tool. It’s nothing without the craftsmen who wield it. But still, where would they be without dry heat and wet heat combined in one space? How would they feed us, satiate us, and cater to our every culinary need, all at breakneck cooking speed? Yes, the craftsman deserves the credit, but the tool merits a shoutout too.

I guess that only leaves one thing: my compliments to the combi ovens.

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