(Yet Another) Foodie

food experiences in this lifetime ...

Wrestling With the OTG

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I need to get a real oven.

What passes off most commonly for an oven in India is what is known as OTG or Oven-Toaster-Grill. Needless to say, they way it is designed, the only thing it does best for me is toast. And sadly I already have a bread toaster, which we would rather use than this monstrosity.

The OTG has two heat coils – one at the top and one at the bottom, and can, at least as documented, heat upto 300 degrees centigrade (572 degrees Fahrenheit). However, I very much doubt whether it actually reaches that temperature. Since there are those bare coils hitting your food with direct heat all the time, there is no true convection mode. And there is no grill, it is just not designed to be. Or probably, it is termed that way to guise the fact that the contraption is actually trying to be a broiler, and most of the people around here don’t know the difference (heck, I didn’t till a few months back!). And since there are two coils – up and down, it is disappointing to be used as a true broiler too. And even in broiler mode, the thermostat stops it from getting too hot either.

It is not that you cannot use it for making food. Of course, you can. But you will have to have workarounds for every recipe. If the recipe calls for a convection kind of cooking, you will have to protect the food from the coils by wrapping it with foil or some utensil. If the recipe calls for broiling, you have to put a pan underneath to ensure that when you are moving the food away from the top coil, it doesn’t burn the food from below. In the photo above, I have shown how I have to broil chicken. I use the tray to catch the drip (I wrap it in foil beforehand so that it is easy to clean up). I don’t use the wire tray that came with the oven. It is too big for my food and is tougher to clean. Instead I use a smaller wire tray that came with my microwave, and use it upside down so that it lays flat on the tray below. Now I can adjust the tray to change the distance of the food from the coil. A lot of needless hacks, eh?

In fact the best convection oven I have in the house, is the very unused microwave oven. It’s convection mode is real convection. And it’s grill is real broiler, theoretically anyway. And I trust this electronic gizmo of being more temperature accurate than my cheap OTG anyway. But for some reason I rarely use it. I think the main reason is my hang up that I have a dedicated (and larger) oven/broiler now, and I have to use it to prove my investment. :P

The most common dishes I make in the OTG is broiled chicken, and sometimes fish. And this is where I suspect that either I am doing something wrong or the “oven” is really incapable.

I was watching an Youtube bootleg of Alton Brown’s Bird in the Pan.

The broiled chicken he cooks in the episode was done in 30 minutes. It took me more than one hour in the OTG, and even though the bird was done (from the meat thermometer reading), it never came close to the perfect roasted color of Alton’s bird. Now granted, I was using skinless meat, like most chicken meat found in the city, and that doesn’t crisp as well as skin. But at least there should be some effect on the flesh too when it is directly exposed so long to the grill heat? I could think of only one explanation – that the coils never get to the temperature that American broilers do. And my dish was mostly baked than broiled as a consequence.

There is very little information in the Net about OTG and “best practices” of using one. I know a few relatives and friends who make great food using it. But they don’t talk much. :) And write even lesser about their techniques.

Do you use an OTG? Do you think you have mastered how to cook on it? How about some tips?