A new offering from Zojirushi known as the Micom Toaster Oven (ET-ZLC30) threatened to tip the balance, though. I’ve admired the company since the day I got married (or thereabouts), when we received a rice cooker that I snuck onto our wedding registry. (Thanks Ruthie!) That sucker’s been cooking away at our place ever since, somehow completely unfazed by a decade of heavy use. I love that even though the model we own doesn’t exist anymore, I can still get replacement parts. So Zojirushi’s sleek new toaster oven made me hopeful, and I called one in to review.
Unlike the brushed stainless-steel competition, this one is black with a reflective glass door. While it appears a bit short and squat, it has a generous interior, with square-foot pans and 5 inches between the lower rack and the elements above. It clocks in at $220, just a hair less than the top-rated competition.
What struck me as funny were the two peculiar pans it comes with. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them. They are 12 x 12-inch squares, yes, but with intentionally domed bottoms—with the center of the pan rising almost half an inch higher than the edges. A company representative told me this was to keep them from bowing in the heat, and I’m sure that’s true, but that sure is a weird thing to do with a sheet pan. Outside the domed griddles around the world which are used to cook flatbreads and lamejun, I don’t often run across recipes calling for food to be cooked on top of a hot orb. In team Zojirushi’s eyes, this is not a bug, but a feature, and I wondered why they didn’t just make a flatter, sturdier pan.
Still, there’s a charming basic-ness to this straightforward oven. Everything is controlled with a dial, two buttons (one of which is just the on/off for the oven light), and a no-nonsense display. Along with toast, bake, broil, and roast, there are settings for cooking pizza, reheating leftovers, proofing bread, and keeping food warm. While a few of the newer toaster ovens take advantage of the air-fryer fad, this one doesn’t.
I emailed chef Alison Mountford at Ends + Stems and asked if she’d send some recipes to help put the Zoji through its paces. Ends + Stems is a service that plans out your meals and grocery list for the coming week while helping reduce food waste. The company’s whole tell-me-what-to-eat thing is a hit at my house now that we’re cooking almost every meal at home, thanks to the pandemic.
Mountford sent a list of recipes. Among them were slow-roasted salmon, teriyaki tofu and green beans, chicken parm, tomato pie, and spanikopita.
Using my own (non-domed) pans, the oven skated right through these recipes, doing well enough that it allowed me to just pay attention to the basic tasks of making a meal, as if it had been on my counter for years. I got to remember how much I like the technique of cooking salmon at a low temperature, requiring no attention at all while I got the rest of dinner together, and every portion coming out in about 15 minutes with that near-custardy, just-cooked texture. On another night, I realized that even if you get the store-bought dough, spanakopita is a lot of work. Then again, when I smooshed it into the quarter-sheet pan, I fell in love with the results. Breaded chicken cutlets (I used thighs) with crushed tomatoes and a big dollop of mozzarella make a fantastic, low-effort weeknight chicken parm.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/review/zojirushi-micom-toaster-oven-et-zlc30