What Is A Steam Oven? – Pros, Cons & Expert Advice
Are you tired of serving up dried-out chicken and overcooked veggies? Say hello to your new kitchen best friend: the steam oven!
With its powerful combination of steam and heat, this appliance is the secret weapon that chefs and home cooks alike swear by for perfectly cooked meals every time. But what exactly is a steam oven, and is it worth the investment?
In this post, I’ll take you on a steamy adventure through the pros and cons of steam ovens, and give you expert advice on whether this kitchen gadget is right for you.
Let’s dive in!
What Is A Steam Oven?
A steam oven is a kitchen appliance that uses the power of steam to cook food. Unlike traditional ovens that rely on dry heat (air), a steam oven uses moist heat (steam) to cook food, which can result in more flavorful and nutritious meals.
One of the main benefits of a steam oven is that it can help to retain the nutrients and vitamins in the food, as the moist heat can prevent the loss of water-soluble nutrients. Additionally, steam cooking can help to preserve the natural flavours and textures of food, which can lead to more delicious meals.
Steam ovens are also a great option for cooking certain types of food. Such as vegetables and fish, as the gentle heat can help to prevent overcooking and maintain the natural colours and textures of the food.
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How Does A Steam Oven Work?
A steam oven works by using a water reservoir to generate steam, which is then circulated throughout the oven chamber to cook food. As the steam hits the food, it transfers heat energy to it, cooking the food.
The water reservoir is typically located at the bottom of the oven or on the side. It is filled with water, which is then heated to generate steam. The amount of water needed will vary depending on the model and the cooking time. However, most steam ovens have a gauge or indicator to show when the water level is low and needs to be refilled.
Some steam ovens also have a built-in filtration system that helps to remove impurities from the water, ensuring that the steam used for cooking is clean and pure. Additionally, some models may offer the ability to connect to a water source directly, eliminating the need to manually refill the reservoir.
Steam ovens typically allow for precise temperature and humidity control, which can result in more consistent and evenly cooked meals. Additionally, some steam ovens also allow for the use of dry heat in combination with steam for more versatile cooking options.
Pros And Cons Of Steam Ovens
Pros Of Steam Ovens
There are several pros to using a steam oven, including:
- Retains nutrients. Steam cooking can help to retain the natural vitamins and nutrients in food, as it cooks food without the need for excess oil or fat.
- Enhances flavours. Steam cooking can help to enhance the natural flavours of food, resulting in more delicious and flavorful meals.
- Versatile. Steam ovens can be used to cook a wide variety of foods, from vegetables and fish to meats and grains.
- Healthier cooking option. Steam cooking is a healthier cooking option as it uses moist heat to cook food, without the need for added fats or oils.
- Preserve texture. Steam cooking can help to preserve the natural textures of food, preventing overcooking and resulting in more tender and juicy meats and vegetables.
- Energy efficient. Steam ovens can be more energy efficient than traditional ovens, as they can cook food more quickly and at lower temperatures, saving both time and energy.
- Easy to clean. Steam ovens are typically easy to clean, as the moist heat can help to loosen and remove food debris and grease from the oven walls and racks.
- Reheating leftovers. Using the steam or steam-combi setting is a fantastic way to reheat food. Bringing food back to life without drying it out.
Cons Of Steam Ovens
While there are several pros to using a steam oven, there are also some cons to consider, including:
- Higher cost. Steam ovens can be more expensive than traditional ovens, which can make them less accessible for some consumers.
- Learning curve. They may require a bit of a learning curve, as cooking times and temperatures may need to be adjusted to accommodate the different cooking methods.
- Water and maintenance. Steam ovens require a water source, which can add to the maintenance and upkeep of the appliance. The presence of water and steam may also require more frequent cleaning and maintenance.
- Limited browning. Steam cooking typically does not allow for the same browning or crisping that can be achieved with hot-air cooking methods, which may be a drawback for some dishes.
- Size. Pure steam or compact steam ovens are usually smaller than your average-size built-in oven. So you may not be able to fit large amounts or multiple trays in to cook at once.
While steam ovens offer many benefits, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons to determine if it’s the right appliance for your cooking needs and lifestyle.
What types of Steam Ovens can I buy?
Here’s where things can get a little bit ‘technical’ and somewhat confusing as there are different types of steam ovens.
Pure Steam Oven
A pure steam oven uses only pure steam to cook food. Unlike other types of steam ovens, pure steam ovens do not use any external heating elements or microwaves to cook food. Instead, they rely solely on high-pressure steam to cook food quickly and efficiently. They are typically a more compact size than regular ovens.
Full Steam Oven
A full steam oven is an appliance that can exclusively use steam to cook food, use steam alongside regular oven cooking or just be used as a standard oven. These ovens have a water reservoir that heats up to create steam, which is then circulated throughout the oven cavity to cook food.
The full-steam setting is ideal for cooking vegetables, fish, and other delicate foods that benefit from gentle, moist heat. While the ability to use other regular multifunction oven cooking makes them very versatile appliances.
A steam assist oven (sometimes called an oven with steam function or a combination steam oven) is an oven that uses a small amount of steam to help cook food more evenly and prevent it from drying out. However, they are not able to use full (pure) steam to cook food.
These ovens typically have a water reservoir that releases steam during the cooking process but also use traditional dry heat cooking methods to create a crisp exterior on foods. Steam-assisted ovens are ideal for cooking roast meat, poultry, and baked goods that require a crispy exterior.
Combi Microwave Oven With Steam Function
A combi steam oven combines the features of both a full steam oven and a convection oven. These ovens offer the ability to use steam cooking, dry heat cooking, or a combination of the two, depending on the cooking needs of the user.
In addition, some combi steam ovens also offer the ability to use microwave technology, which can help to speed up cooking times. Combi steam ovens are versatile and can be used for a wide variety of cooking tasks. However, they are typically a compact size and smaller than a steam-assisted oven.
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What can I cook in a Steam Oven?
A steam oven can be used to cook a wide variety of foods, including:
- Vegetables. steaming vegetables is a popular use for steam ovens. You can cook anything from leafy greens to root vegetables. Some popular options include broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and squash.
- Fish. Steam cooking is an excellent method for cooking fish, as it can help to retain natural moisture and delicate flavours. Some popular options include salmon, halibut, and sea bass.
- Meat. While steam cooking may not be the ideal method for cooking some types of meat, such as steak or pork chops, it can work well for cooking tender meats like chicken breasts, turkey, and fish.
- Rice and grains. Steam ovens can be used to cook rice and grains like quinoa, couscous, and bulgur.
- Bread and pastries. Some steam ovens offer the option to use dry heat in combination with steam, which can be ideal for cooking bread and pastries. Steam cooking can help to create a crisp crust and moist interior. Perfect if you love to bake!
- Eggs. Steam ovens can be used to cook eggs in various ways, such as poaching, hard-boiling, or soft-boiling.
Grab yourself a copy of Miele’s Steam Oven Cookbook PDF for some great steam cooking recipes.
Can a steam oven be used as a regular oven?
Yes and No. Whether a steam oven can be used as a regular oven will depend on the type/model you purchase.
Some steam ovens are equipped with a combination cooking mode. This allows the user to use both steam and dry heat to cook food. Which can help to create a crispy exterior on foods. However, it may not offer the same level of browning as a traditional oven.
Pure, steam-only steam ovens are designed to cook food using moist heat. Which can be ideal for cooking certain types of food, such as vegetables, fish, and rice. However, these steam ovens may not be the best option for cooking dishes that require dry heat, such as roasted meats or baked goods.
While a steam oven can be a useful addition to a kitchen, a pure, steam-only oven may not be able to replace a traditional oven for all cooking tasks. If you frequently cook a wide variety of dishes that require different cooking methods, it may be best to have both a steam oven and a conventional oven in your kitchen. Or get one that combines them both!
Are Steam Ovens energy efficient?
Steam ovens can be energy efficient for certain types of cooking, but the specific energy savings will depend on the model and how it is used.
Steam ovens can sometimes be more energy efficient compared to traditional ovens. Because steam ovens use moisture to cook food, they can help to retain moisture and reduce the cooking time for certain types of food. This can result in energy savings, as the oven does not need to be heated for as long as a traditional oven would.
Additionally, steam ovens can help to reduce energy consumption by allowing users to cook multiple dishes at once. Because steam ovens can be used to cook multiple dishes on different levels, users can save time and energy by cooking everything at the same time instead of using multiple appliances.
However, it’s worth noting that steam ovens may use more energy than regular ovens when they are in steam mode. This is because the oven must use energy to heat the water and create steam. Therefore, it’s important to consider specific energy usage before making a purchase.
Are Steam Ovens Worth it?
Whether or not a steam oven is worth it depends on your individual cooking needs and preferences. If you’re thinking about getting one here are some factors to consider:
- Cooking style: If you frequently cook delicate foods like fish, vegetables, and grains, a steam oven may be worth it as it can help retain moisture and preserve nutrients. However, if you primarily cook foods that require dry heat, like roasted meats or baked goods, a steam oven may not be as useful.
- Convenience: Steam ovens can be very convenient, as they often have multiple cooking modes and can cook multiple dishes at once. If you’re looking for an appliance that can help simplify meal preparation, a steam oven may be worth it.
- Budget: Steam ovens can be more expensive than traditional ovens, and the cost may not be worth it if you don’t plan on using the oven frequently. However, if you plan on using the steam function regularly and can afford the higher cost, a steam oven may be a good investment.
- Kitchen space: If you have limited kitchen space, a separate steam oven may not be worth it as it can take up additional cabinet space. However, if you have ample space and are looking for a versatile cooking appliance, it may be a good option.
Really, it depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you frequently cook delicate foods and are looking for a versatile and convenient cooking appliance, a steam oven may be worth the investment.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about steam ovens!
From perfectly cooked vegetables to deliciously moist cakes, steam ovens offer a unique way to prepare a variety of foods. While they may not be for everyone, steam ovens can be a great addition to any kitchen for those looking to experiment with new cooking techniques and flavours.
So why not give it a try? Your taste buds (and your stomach) will thank you!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.