Low-temperature cookers heat up marketplace

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A salesperson shows a low-temperature cooker that is used by setting it inside a pot at Bic Camera Inc.’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district.

More and more people are coming to love bringing out the flavor of ingredients by cooking at low temperatures for long periods of time. Various types of low-temperature cookers are now readily available to meet this growing demand.

Low-temperature cooking is a technique where food, vacuum-packed in a zippered storage bag or the like, is placed in a pot or other container with hot water and slowly heated. It is said to be able to make meat or other foods that tend to become dry when cooked at a high temperature softer and tastier.

Low-temperature cookers for home use include devices to be put inside a pot as well as electric pressure cookers and rice cookers equipped with low-temperature cooking functions.

“Food becomes moist and delicious through low-temperature cooking,” said a 68-year-old woman from Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture.

The woman said she has been using a pressure cooker with low-temperature cooking functions for about two years, cooking chicken breast to put on a salad and pork shoulder loin seasoned with salt and pepper.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Automatic cookers with low-temperature cooking functions are seen at Bic Camera Inc.’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district.

“I can make a variety of dishes. It’s fun,” she said.

Low-temperature cookers ranked fourth on a list of popular cooking-related words in the 2021 Torendo Ryori Wado Taisho awards sponsored by Tokyo-based cooking media company Ai-Land Co.

Such cookers have been popular among cooking enthusiasts for two to three years, according to Saori Toyoshima, who is in charge of cooking appliances at Bic Camera Inc.’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. Among them are compact, stick-style low-temperature cookers that can be used with small pots and toasters and automatic cookers with low-temperature cooking functions.

“As more and more people have come to enjoy cooking at home amid the pandemic, the demand for such cookers is only growing,” Toyoshima said.

Easy for beginners

Even novice cooks can try their hand at high-level cooking using low-temperature cooking methods. Chinese-style grilled pork, and onsen tamago soft-boiled eggs can also be easily made with the cooker, according to Rina Takahashi, a spokesperson for Iris Ohyama Inc. in Miyagi Prefecture that sells low-temperature cookers.

“After setting the temperature and heating time for the cooker and putting ingredients in a pot, all you have to do is wait for them to finish cooking. Since there’s no need to control the flame, you can do other household chores in the meantime,” Takahashi said. “It’s especially recommended for busy people, such as child-rearing families.”

Courtesty of Iris Ohyama Inc.
A low-temperature cooker made by Iris Ohyama Inc.

Food-poisoning risk

Food poisoning is something to watch out for in low-temperature cooking. Cooking without following the instructions or in your own fashion can cause food poisoning as food might not be thoroughly cooked.

Meat can be contaminated with bacteria or viruses such as campylobacter and enterohemorrhagic E. coli O-157. For sterilization, meat should be cooked to a minimum core temperature of 75 C for a minute, 70 C for three minutes or 63 C for 30 minutes.

“It is impossible to judge from the appearance whether the food has been safely cooked,” said Midori Kasai, a professor emeritus at Ochanomizu University. “In low-temperature cooking, use relevant official websites or recipe books as a reference, and do not lower the temperature or shorten the cooking time based on your own judgement.”