We tried an oven that cooks by 'listening' to your food—and it’s amazing
Forget all the other so-called smart ovens—the Miele Dialog may just be how we cook in the future.
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I was naturally skeptical when I got invited to try out a new oven billed as a “revolutionary” cooking experience. After all, I’ve tried all the smart ovens, souped-up toasters, and kitchen gadgets out there—and they almost universally failed to impress me.
But after spending some time with the all-new Miele Dialog Oven, I now know what it must’ve been like for the first person who cooked dinner in a microwave back in the ‘50s, or who decided to vacuum-seal a breast of chicken and call it sous vide.
Simply put, this thing is amazing.
In addition to traditional baking and convection, the Dialog adds another cooking method: Radio frequency. Much like an ordinary microwave oven, the Dialog uses radio waves to heat up food. But it also monitors how much energy the food absorbs, and responds by adjusting the waves’ frequency, amplitude and phase. Essentially, it both talks and listens to your food—hence the name. As a result, it cooks evenly and quickly.
Sure, the science sounds cool. But the proof is in the food, so I headed to Germany for a dinner demonstration. As luck would have it, I sat next to Dr. Marcus Miele—the third-generation co-owner of the German company that bears his name—and I peppered him with questions that he graciously answered while I chowed down on gourmet food.
Dinner started with what I assumed were steamed buns, colorful and fluffy with warm, liquid centers. As it turned out, they were cooked in the Dialog, which heated them to a uniform temperature throughout without any browning.
That’s because the Dialog’s underlying technology is based on medical devices used to reheat donated organs that are kept cold for transport. Those organs must be warmed evenly before a transplant can take place, and any cold or hot spots can literally be the difference between life and death.
The technology was first brought into the kitchen by Goji, an Israeli company that partnered with Miele to create the Dialog oven.
Despite the oven’s illustrious history, our first course was a bit of a magic trick. A chef put a cod filet inside a block of ice, and then put the ice inside the Dialog. When the door opened eight minutes later, voila! The fish was cooked, but the ice hadn’t melted.
The truth is, it’s actually difficult for any microwave oven to melt ice. That’s because solids tend to transmit, rather than absorb microwaves, and because the hydrogen bonds in ice are stronger than (and harder to induce vibration/heating in) those of liquid water. Still, the fish was delicious, and the Dialog’s radio still managed to penetrate the ice and cook the food.
The second course was a bit more interesting, and spoke to the learning curve inherent in any new technology—one that’s especially important for a product that’s competing with tried-and-true recipes in the kitchen. “It’s like when you come from a conventional oven to a microwave,” Dr. Miele said. “What’s 500 watts, and what’s 1000 watts?”
That’s why the Dialog is loaded with over 100 preprogrammed recipes that automatically mix radio wave cooking, convection, broiling, and conventional baking. Brave users can put that aside and cook food based on a measurement Miele calls “Gourmet Units.” According to Dr. Miele, he’s already been asked to install the Dialog at Chef’s Tables in high-end restaurants.
At our dinner, chefs wrapped half of a piece of salmon in aluminum foil and cooked it for 15 minutes. Because the Dialog’s waves can’t penetrate foil, the resulting salmon was half cooked and half raw—with a perfect delineation between the two.
As a third course, the chefs cooked a thick cut of veal alongside some vegetables. The whole dish went in on the same baking sheet—no special tray required—and took 35 minutes.
“How is it?” Dr. Miele asked me.
Now, I’ve been to a lot of press events where I’ve had to creatively phrase answers to similar questions—the word “interesting” gets used a lot—but I had no hesitation here: While the veggies weren’t quite as crispy as they would’ve been if they had been sautéed or roasted, the veal was exceptionally juicy and tender. The other diners at the table nodded in agreement, their eyes wide and their mouths full.
I wanted one. But would it ever go on sale in the U.S.?
I asked Dr. Miele. It turns out that 50 lucky households in Germany are already testing the Dialog out, and it will officially go on sale in Germany and Austria next year.
It’s also definitely headed to the U.S., which is now the company’s second-largest market after Germany. “The only question is when,” he said.
Great news! But, then, the letdown: Unless you hang out with wealthy early adopters, you shouldn’t expect to see one anytime soon.
“It will be an expensive appliance,” Dr. Miele said. He expects it to come down in price as the technology scales up and components are simplified. Right now, most of its unique circuits and components are made separately, although they could eventually be combined for a smaller, more affordable package. But that could take years.
For now, it only exists as a wall oven. There’s no official estimate on how much it might cost, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sold in the high four figures—or even more.
So I faced facts. Instead of installing one in my own kitchen, I’d have to settle for the next best thing: Dessert. As I’d now come to expect, the Dialog cooked a whole tray of individual berry soufflés—all of which were perfectly warm and fluffy throughout.