Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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“Making the oven your ally” is our theme this week. Just setting the temperature and time for the dish youre cooking in the oven should free you up to do other things and let you get more done in the kitchen.

Don't worry if you dont own a full-scale fitted oven. The recipe this week works just as well with a combination microwave and gas or electric oven known in Japan as an “obun-renji.”

Chicken thighs are often cooked in the frying pan, but while the pan transfers heat to the food from the bottom surface, ovens heat the food all over.

“The food turns out fluffy since it is warmed evenly,” says Kuniaki Arima, who oversaw the cooking aspect of this week’s recipe.

On the other hand, since the process of searing the food on the iron plate is missing, you need to learn a few tricks to get a crisp finish.

One is to marinade the meat well in advance. The sugar content of the honey in the marinade reacts with the meat to create an aroma and give it a pleasing brown color.

Another key is to make sure the vegetables do not lie on the meat so that the heat is transferred thoroughly.

“If you are worried about the meat burning, cover it with aluminum foil midway,” Arima says.

Canned food can be heated with steam setting

Recently, some combination microwave and gas or electric ovens offer a “steam” setting. They come with a container for water used for steam heating.

Chinese-style steamed buns and cold rice turn out fluffy when the steam setting is used, according to Panasonic Corp.

It even allows you to heat canned food that can't be heated in a microwave oven. The setting can be used with a regular oven or the microwave. By adjusting the amount and temperature of the steam, you can also ferment bread dough and thaw frozen meat.

The steam setting is also said to reduce excess fat and salt content of grilled fish and chicken dishes.


(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Hidemi Sato in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients (Serves two)

1 chicken thigh (250 grams), 100 grams daikon radish, 1/2 onion, 30 grams cheese (to melt)

For the marinade: 2 Tbsp each of white wine, soy sauce, olive oil, 2 tsp honey, grated 1/2 clove garlic, bit of coarsely ground black pepper and chili pepper powder

About 500 kcal and 3.1 grams salt per portion

1. Mix ingredients for marinade well in bowl. Finely slice onion. Cut daikon radish in 1-cm-thick round slices.

2. Place chicken in marinade skin-side down and coat thoroughly with marinade. Add vegetables, mix entire contents and marinate for 20 to 30 minutes (PHOTO A). Preheat oven to 220 degrees.

3. Remove chicken. If shape is uneven, cut off ends and slice open thick part. Peel back skin and insert kitchen knife horizontally near skin to make pocket-like incision (PHOTO B). Fill incision with cheese.

4. Pour marinade into heat-resistant dish and place chicken skin-side up in center. Lay vegetables around chicken (PHOTO C). To achieve aroma and brown color, make sure skin is coated with marinade.

5. Cook in heated oven for 20 minutes. If chicken is not brown enough, heat further for appropriate length of time.

Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Passo a Passo, an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s Fukagawa district.

Hidemi Sato is a visiting professor at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University.


Chicken breast cooked with tomato and cheese

Cook chicken breast in oven the same way as above. Pour 150 grams canned tomatoes on cooked chicken. Top with rosemary if available and cook in oven heated to 220 degrees for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, cover with 2 or 3 slices of cheese (to melt) and heat for another minute. The chicken thigh will also turn out tasty if arranged this way.


In an oven, heat is transferred mainly in two ways: a radiant method where infrared rays hit directly and a method where heated air is circulated by a fan.

Some products combine the two methods. Since heating can be uneven depending on how the infrared rays hit or how the air circulates, where the food is placed should be adjusted if you find it is unevenly cooked.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column