Although this revolutionary product from Sharp has been available for two years in Japan, it's worth taking a look at because it's still not well known or widely used in many countries. The Healsio* (ヘルシオ) is a device that looks like a microwave oven, but is actually more akin to a convection cooker—except that it uses super-heated (300 C) steam to cook, instead of air. That in itself is cool enough, but what really makes it neat it is that it still allows you to grill, bake, defrost and re-heat despite its use of steam. Moreover, the ultra-heated water vapor melts away fats and reduces salts in foods while maintaining vitamins that are lost through other cooking methods. Shown above is one of the latest Healsio consumer models that goes for about ¥98,000 in Japan. The previous model made news at the end of October after being chosen as one of the "Japanesque Modern 100" by a special Japanese government committee charged with identifying the top 100 products that best represent the fusion of modern and traditional Japanese design values.
The Healsio is available in the US for about $1,400. This relatively high price, combined with the fact that it cooks more slowly than a microwave, means that it will be some time before this kind of technology can displace one of the world's most ubiquitous kitchen appliances. However, as concerns about healthy eating continue to grow, more and more consumers will be looking for new ways to prepare food. Perhaps a future incarnation of the Healsio that's faster and cheaper will be just the thing a lot of us have been waiting for.
* The official spelling of the Japanese brand name used by Sharp is "Healsio," but this rendering confuses native English speakers who don't understand that the name is clearly derived from the words "healthy" and "oven"— thus, a better name might have been "Healthy-O."
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