While steam cooking in some form has been in practiced by people all over the world for thousands of years, steam ovens are a relatively new concept to home cooks.
Steam ovens have been on the scene of restaurants and bakeries for decades, but a rising interest in healthier cooking methods and advancements in technology have given way to manufacturers coming out with a variety of steam cooking appliances for home use.
In this article, we’ll detail how steam ovens work and what they work best for.
How Steam Ovens Work
Convection steam ovens are the most popular and versatile type you can buy, and this is because they combine the best of a traditional convection oven with the ability to steam cook. They allow you to do more than any other type of oven, since you can use them to roast, brown, broil, bake, or steam.
Some convection steam ovens even monitor the cooking process using sensors that allow it to automatically adjust the heat and steam output for a perfectly cooked meal.
Many steam ovens use a water tank or reservoir with a pump connection that siphons water into a boiler where it’s heated up to 212 F degrees. This produces the steam that cooks the food. For the tank style, you’ll have to refill the tank each time you want to cook, but the process is simple.
Some high-end steam ovens like those by Miele and Gaggenau have built-in water line hookups, so there’s no tank to refill, and you never have to worry about running out of water in the middle of the cooking process.
You can also find convection ovens with a steam assist feature that injects short bursts of steam at shorter intervals to help speed up the cooking process and add moisture, but they’re not true steam ovens.
Benefits of Cooking with a Steam Oven
Steam cooking is one of the most natural and healthy ways to prepare food. It allows the food to retain its natural flavors, moisture, and construction, so it’s great for delicate foods. And because they heat evenly, there won’t be any hotspots that can burn or otherwise ruin your meal.
A steam oven’s ability to preheat quickly and reheat foods while retaining their texture makes them a great alternative to using a microwave. And what’s more, new parents can even use them to sterilize baby bottles.
Another benefit is that when you steam cook two completely different foods at the same time, you won’t get cross-flavoring like you would in a regular oven. This means you can prepare dinner and dessert at the same time.
What Types of Food Can You Cook in a Steam Oven?
You can cook just about anything in a steam oven, especially if you choose a convection type that allows you to combine various functions for your desired results.
The moist cooking environment of a steam oven is great for preparing things like custard, bread, eggs, pastries, and pudding cakes. Meats and fish become fall-off-the-bone tender, and vegetables retain their natural color and more nutrients than when they’re cooked with other methods.
Rice and other grains also turn out excellent in a steam oven, as do foods that require a water bath.
Potential Drawbacks of Using a Steam Oven
Steam ovens are very expensive compared to regular conventional or convection ovens that don’t have a steaming ability, so if you’re not willing to spend $2,000 or more, you might be better off with a basic oven.
There’s also a learning curve for steam oven beginners since they cook a lot faster than regular ovens, so if you’re not willing to experiment to get the results you want, this might not be the best type of oven for you considering the high price.
Another thing is that steam ovens require descaling on a regular basis, similar to coffee makers. This extra step in upkeep isn’t really a big deal to most owners, but it is something to consider.
Steam ovens are a great option if you’re looking for a healthier, more versatile cooking method and don’t mind spending more for it. Only you will know whether or not a steam oven is the right choice and which brand is best, so it’s worth it be completely informed before making a purchase.
Writer and Product Researcher
Spending the last 10 years researching and writing about various home, garden and electronics topics, Shelley is more than qualified to write for Meccano Home. Her work has been featured on eBay, Pottery Barn, SFGate, TheKnot, Williams-Sonoma and various other blogs and websites.