Performance under pressure
Of course, the reward for putting up with the added demands of a pressure cooker is the food, and this is where the Puck Oven truly delivers. The oven comes with a recipe book, along with a handy conversion chart comparing the normal cook-times of various dishes with their adjusted cook-times under pressure. We started with a standard recipe for an 8-pound roast chicken, which called for a little over 2 hours in the oven. The Puck Oven claimed it would take 43 minutes.
After cooking an equal-sized control chicken in a standard convection oven for 2 hours to confirm the original recipe, we loaded our test chicken into the pressure oven and sealed it shut. Forty-three minutes later, it was fully-cooked, with crispy skin on the outside and tender, juicy, flavorful meat on the inside. Our taste-testers were in total agreement: the Puck Oven produced the better bird, and it did it in a fraction of the time, just as promised.
We didn't stop there though. Next up was a 5-pound pork roast. The standard recipe called to roast the meat in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 325 degrees. The Puck Oven promised to pressure cook that same cut in just 35 minutes.
Again, the Puck Oven delivered a fully-cooked, fully satisfying cut of meat. This time, however, our taste testers weren't quite as impressed, unanimously finding the control pork I cooked in the convection oven to be a little juicier and more flavorful than what the Puck Oven produced. Still, given that it only took about a half an hour to cook, I was more than pleased.
The Puck Oven was proving to be a very capable pressure cooker, and one with a few intriguing advantages over the kind of standard, stovetop pressure cooker that my mother uses to make top notch pot roast. First, unlike that pressure cooker, the Puck Oven has a window, which means that you won't need to open it up just to see how your food is coming along. Second, the Puck Oven also boasts a bigger capacity, claiming it can fit a turkey as big as 14 pounds.
I just had to test this out, so I picked up the biggest turkey I could find that would still theoretically fit into the Puck Oven. It weighed in at 13.3 pounds, and after a few days defrosting, barely fit into the roasting pan that Chef Puck includes with his pressure cooker. I had my doubts about whether or not I'd be able to fit the bird inside the oven's cavity -- but I was just able to squeeze it in. Of course, fitting that large of a turkey was only the first part of the oven's claim. Now, it had to actually cook the thing.
The Puck Oven claims it'll cook a 13-pound turkey in 55 minutes, as opposed to 3 hours and 45 minutes in a regular oven. So, setting the timer for 55 minutes, I pulled the lever, sealed the valve, and crossed my fingers.
Watching the turkey cook, I could tell that the size was working against me. The top of the bird was nearly smushed directly against the healing element, so it browned up a little faster than the bottom half of the bird. Whereas the oven was able to cook an 8-pound chicken quite evenly, a 13-pound turkey was perhaps proving to be too much of a challenge. At 55 minutes, I pulled it out and found plenty of cold spots on the bird's bottom half, so I put it back in for an extra 15 minutes.
Fortunately, those extra 15 minutes did the trick, as the turkey was fully cooked after spending an hour and 10 minutes in the Puck Oven. While not quite the sixty minutes or less I'd been hoping for, it was still an impressive result (it didn't hurt that it tasted pretty great, as well.)
The Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven can't promise a breathtaking design or a flawless user experience, and it isn't a futuristic, feature-rich countertop multi-cooker like the
What you're paying for here is performance. The Puck Oven cooks fast, and it cooks well. None of the food I prepared in it came out unsatisfying, and all of it came out in a fraction of the time it would have taken if I had used a conventional oven. If you're a busy home chef who enjoys putting slow-roasted meats on the table, but doesn't always have enough time, then it deserves your consideration.