New shipboard cooking technology healthier, safer – and it makes a mean steak!

Crowsnest - Spring 2017 / April 26, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

How about an oven that can flawlessly cook 64 eight-ounce New York striploin steaks, with perfect grill marks, all at once?

Two of these special, made-for-Canada  combi-steam ovens will be installed in the galleys of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Calgary and Vancouver by the end of this summer. Within three years, all 12 Halifax-class frigates and 12 Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels will have this revolutionary cooking system onboard.

In the Halifax-class vessels, both deep fat fryers, the charbroilers and a griddle are being replaced by two combi-steam ovens. In the Kingston-class ships, the deep fat fryer and grill will be replaced by one combi-steam oven and a portable dual induction cook top.

“These ovens use a combination of steam, hot air technology and an intelligent cooking system that senses, recognizes, thinks ahead and communicates with you. In turn, they deliver a higher quality product in a shorter period of time,” says Lieutenant-Commander Deanna Wilson, a food services officer in charge of the project. “These changes are being made in an effort to modernize the delivery of food services onboard naval platforms and during naval operations. They will deliver food that is healthier and safer than the deep fat fryers and charbroilers. It’s a very exciting project.”

LCdr Wilson explains that these technologically advanced ovens have been in use since 1996 in the German Navy and are currently being used by eight navies around the world. Made by German-based company Rational AG, the model purchased by the Royal Canadian Navy has been specifically designed for its ships.

“The Canadian model has additional safety features including a protective door with embedded stainless steel mesh to avoid glass shattering if struck during high seas, an adjustable door immobilizer, and a protection panel over the computer system to avoid breakage,” she explains.

The combi-steam cooking method is considered more healthy as it eliminates deep fat frying and charbroiling, which is a known carcinogen, according to LCdr Wilson. “The beauty of this technology is that many food items can still be produced and made crispy through the use of heat as an energy source, and combining steam and temperature rather than submersion in high temperature fat to cook. As well, with the elimination of boiling fats, it will eliminate the dangers associated with high temperature liquids and sea state during manoeuvers.”

Navy cooks will be trained in how to program the ovens, and it is hoped that in the near future shore-based units and Naval Reserve Divisions will have the technology and training as well.

LCdr Wilson knows it may be a hard sell for those sailors who enjoy their deep-fried fish and chips. But she wants them to know that this state-of-the-art technology means they can get the same taste, crispiness and juiciness without the harmful fats.

“In testing, the steaks came out perfectly cooked every time, and stale croissants that were re-thermalized in the oven came out as fresh as they day they were made,” she says.

The ovens also result in less food waste and are more energy efficient.