When I use the broiler, should I keep my oven door open or closed?
This question came from a relative who was trying to broil fish in a kitchen not his own. At home he keeps the door open -- there's a "stop" mechanism on the door for this purpose -- but his friends told him that their stove's manual said to keep the door shut. The relative in question was suspicious, though, and kept opening the oven to see how the fish was doing and whether the heating element was on or off. Half an hour later, the fish was thoroughly dried out but not at all browned. Nobody was happy.
I reached out to GE Appliances and was put in touch with Sabrina Hannah, an "advanced systems engineer" specializing in food science at the company's Louisville, Kentucky, headquarters. I was hoping for an easy answer such as "keep the door closed on a gas oven, open on an electric oven," but it was not forthcoming.
Hannah told me that many considerations are at play. There's the location of the knobs: If they are at the front of the range, they may be damaged by heat slipping out of an open door. There's the sensor problem: An oven's temperature sensor turns the heating element off once the oven reaches the desired temperature; unless there's a specific override for the broil function, the heating element will indeed turn off. Keeping the door open solves this problem.
Hannah said that GE makes open-door-broil and closed-door-broil ovens in all price ranges. She conceded that most of the wall ovens and gas ovens were designed to broil with the door closed. Beyond that, she said, you have to consult the manual.
What do you make of Ronzoni Quick Cook pasta?
I just came across Ronzoni "Quick Cook" pasta, introduced in 2011. There are three shapes available -- elbows, rotini and penne rigate -- and the boxes claim that they cook in 31/2 minutes. The Quick Cook pastas have the same ingredients as the regular, but the walls of the macaroni are thinner; that's why they cook quicker.
I did a side-by-side comparison of the Quick Cook penne rigate against Ronzoni's regular penne rigate. The regular penne was al dente after five minutes, the Quick Cook took three minutes. The Quick Cook penne was acceptable, if a little less toothsome and a little more prone to getting overcooked. What I could profitably do with the two minutes I saved is a mystery to me.