Cooking in Japan, level 2: buy tiny oven, or buy crockpot?
September 15, 2016 1:33 AM   Subscribe

On my 6th year of living in Japan, spent those years cooking with tabletop burners. Have moved to place that is not microscopic, so thinking of adding new gadget. Should I get an oven, or a crockpot?

Moving to Japan with negligible cooking skills, I spent my first couple of months trying to use English recipes, only to be thwarted by the lack of ovens in Japanese kitchens. (Plus meat is too expensive. Recipes calling for a pound of beef??? Are you joking?)

6 years later, I am comfortable with Japanese recipes, what with their dependence on tabletop burners. But: we moved into a place with more space to put stuff, and I am dying for, I dunno. Baked enchiladas!! All manners of put sauce on fish and bake it cooking! Muffins! Chili!!!

Should we spring for a small Japanese oven, or a crockpot? I've read that some Japanese ovens aren't accurate about internal temperature, and I'm worried it'd take too much troubleshooting for an oven newbie. I guess what I mean is, what would be easiest for someone who is at level: idiot for ovens and crockpots, while affording more diverse food options?
posted by sacchan to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Any chance you could get a small combi-microwave? The kind that is both an oven and a microwave? That would expand your options by a whole lot.
Microwaves are great for cooking and steaming things. We use ours for vegetables, potatoes and rice. And the oven function opens up a whole range of possibilities.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:52 AM on September 15, 2016

Response by poster: Oh, forgot to mention we do have a microwave, with no oven features (its only feature is: it goes ping! and makes things hotter). But if a combo microwave/oven is easy enough to use for baking in western recipes (can set temp accurately?) I'd be into it.
posted by sacchan at 2:01 AM on September 15, 2016

In my experience: yes. We have one of those and it's a real, full-featured oven. You can set it to preheat at a specific temperature, and then keep that temperature.
So that's what I'd get in your place: it would take up no extra room and still offer new options.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:22 AM on September 15, 2016

I have a convection microwave and usually just use the microwave part, but you can also bake cookies and muffins and so on. It has a fan so the oven heat is more spread out.

Also I don't know where you live, but meat isn't all that expensive if you go to someplace like Hanamasa. Or Costco.
posted by Umami Dearest at 3:08 AM on September 15, 2016

Yeah, my brother (who's lived in and around Tokyo for... dang, ten years??) likes to cook and he loves his convection microwave oven combo thing. He apparently cooked a whole roasted chicken in it! (It was a little chicken, but still.)
posted by Mizu at 3:44 AM on September 15, 2016

Yeah the microwave/oven combo is the best way to go. There are different models and you get what you pay for. They can take up a lot of counterspace, though. I have a slow cooker, which is great for certain kinds of foods, but for others is actually kind of impractical. PM me if you want particulars (I live in Tokyo, too, btw).
posted by zardoz at 4:06 AM on September 15, 2016

Oh yeah nthing microwave/oven combo. They're really nice nowadays, but definitely check reviews online so you have a good idea of what you're getting.
posted by fraula at 4:14 AM on September 15, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you everybody!! Microwave & oven combo it is.
posted by sacchan at 5:35 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

But wait! You didn't give the crockpot (CP) even half a chance! Many things that are done in an oven can be done in CP, including baking a cake, but some things cannot be made in an oven: let me know about how your baked soups and stews and Cincinnati chili turn out. America's Test Kitchen has a highly regarded cookbook for CPs and there's a Yahoo newsgroup focused on CPs. If you join, you can download their tried-and-true (and user-voted favorite) recipes. It's not nearly as active as it once was but the recipes work.
posted by dlwr300 at 6:40 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would say an oven is far more versatile than a crockpot even for soups and stews. You can set it to 200 F to simmer low and slow for hours, especially if you have a heavy pot like a Dutch oven. This is a very common simmering technique that I see all the time in recipes.
posted by permiechickie at 7:26 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not a big slow cooker fan. But I do love pressure cooking, and feel like somebody should at least mention the Instant Pot. It functions as a slow cooker as well as a pressure cooker, so the sort of baking one can do in a slow cooker should be possible in an Instant Pot.

"Instant Pot is a multi-cooker that does the job of a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot." via
posted by kmennie at 7:31 AM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Came in to strongly recommend the Instant Pot. I've barely touched my stove or oven since I got it. I'm usually anti-gadget actually, but I succumbed to the Prime Sale and snagged an Instant Pot, and it has completely changed my life. I used to live in a tiny, kitchen-less space, and if I'd had one of these things, I doubt I even would have noticed that anything was lacking. It rocks.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:34 AM on September 15, 2016

Also came in to recommend the Instant Pot, though on reading the comments, I do think it's possible that an oven will do more for you at this stage. Depends on how much you like cookies, or things being browned/crusty when you bake them.
posted by freezer cake at 9:53 AM on September 15, 2016

I bought a Sharp microwave and oven combo from Costco around 12-13 years ago. I got a lot of use out of it and baked things like cookies, cakes, pizzas and even roasted chickens at Christmas. It took a while to pre-heat but as far as I could tell it did a good job of maintaining oven temperature. When I left Japan I gave it to my in-laws and it still works fine.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well clearly the answer here is replace current microwave with microwave/convection oven combo, and add an Instant Pot. Best of all worlds/counter space! (Especially if you don't already own a rice cooker.)
posted by catatethebird at 2:31 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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