Steam ovens are a great choice for people looking to prepare quick and healthy meals and side dishes. Besides offering time saving benefits, today's steam ovens are also a great alternative to microwave cooking. In this article we'll talk about the benefits of cooking with steam and give you our tops brands to consider in 2019.
If you are planning to renovate your kitchen or replace a pre-existing oven, steam ovens are a great option. You can achieve nutritious and delicious results that are moist and tender on the inside, crisp and flaky on the outside, all with minimal effect.
While steam ovens have only recently gained popularity in residential kitchens, the concept has been around for centuries. Steam cooking dates back to ancient China. Steam cooking techniques were also used in Europe in the 18th century, with steam ovens found in bakeries, restaurants, and home kitchens. Increasing popularity of steam ovens in the US can be attributed to our shared desire to cook healthier. Many popular appliance brands now offer steam cooking appliances.
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What are steam ovens and how do they work?
How does a steam oven work?
A steam oven looks like a typical oven you'll see in many homes. However, instead of using a heating element for cooking, a steam oven brings water to a boiling hot 212 degrees (the point at which water turns to steam), injecting a moist heat into the oven cavity. While 212 degrees might not seem that hot, especially when you are used to cooking at 400 degrees using a traditional style oven, water is a much better conductor of heat than air. As an example, I'm sure you've reached your hand into a 400 degree oven to pull out a baking sheet without injury. However I highly recommend you don't stick your hand in a 212 degree pot of boiling water even for half a second.
Where does the water supply come from? (Reservoir vs. plumbed)
There are two different ways to provide water to the steam oven, either with a refillable water reservoir, like a Keurig coffee machine, or a plumbed water line directly to the unit. If you are designing a new kitchen we highly recommend the plumbed option as this will help you avoid the hassle of having to refill the water tank.
Will my food come out browned and crispy?
You may be thinking, will my food come out soggy cooking with steam? One of the drawbacks of steam cooking is you will not be able to get crispy, browned results. Browning typically happens at temperatures over 300 degrees and steam ovens only heat up to 212. While this may be fine for some dishes, like vegetables or delicate fish, items like chicken may be lacking in flavor and texture.
Enter, convection steam ovens
To combat this, many manufacturers now offer combination convection steam ovens. These ovens combine a traditional heating element and steam oven into one unit. The end result is the best of both worlds, quickly cooked moist foods with a crispy exterior. These ovens have programs that automatically switch from steam to convection heat, or you can cook exclusively with steam or exclusively with convection.
Steam ovens vs. steam assist or steam boost
Don't be confused by manufacturers that offer a steam assist feature on their ovens. For example, Samsung offers a wall oven with a steam assist. This is not cooking with steam. Steam assist is a feature that helps with the browning process during a normal cooking program. This is not the same thing as cooking with steam.
What types of food can I cook in a convection steam oven?
People often think that steam cooking is reserved for cooking vegetables, but in fact, you can prepare a variety of foods in a fast, healthy, and nutritious way. Each steam oven comes with a number of settings such as steam only, convection mode, gourmet mode i.e. pre-made recipes (each manufacturer tends to name this based on their jargon such as Master Chef by Miele and so forth), and slow roast mode, which you can use to prepare just about any dish you want. Some of the things you can cook are:
- Meats: Beef tenderloin, roast chicken, beef jerky, slow-cooked pork ribs, bacon, poached fish
- Baking: Pizza, sandwich bread, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, pita bread, granola, dinner rolls
- Desert: Chocolate souffle, bread pudding, cheesecake, apple pie
- Vegetables: Scalloped potatoes, potato salad, steamed veggies (you can also blanch and shock vegetables)
- Defrost/reheat: Bread, pizza, casseroles
Steam ovens are useful for making several of your favorite dishes. In the past, they had limitations with steam only setting but now with convection baking added along with a top broiler (as in the case of Miele and Bertazzoni) you can even brown your meat dishes. If you have a strictly steam oven, you will need to do a range-top sear after steaming.
What are the benefits of cooking with steam?
There are many reasons you may want to consider a steam oven, here are a few.
- Healthier, more nutrient dense food - Cooking with high temperatures in a traditional oven can destroy heat sensitive nutrients, such as vitamin c and folate. Steam helps retain these valuable nutrients.
- No need to use fatty oils - Since steam provides a naturally moist cooking environment, you won't need to incorporate oils into your cooking, keeping calorie count lower.
- Better reheating results than microwaves - Steam can reheat your leftovers evenly and without drying out your food and ruining the texture
- Save time on preheating and cooking - Since the oven cavity is smaller than a traditional oven, preheat time is much quicker. Also, as we mentioned, steam is a much better conductor of temperature than air and therefore cooks much faster. For example, a serving of Salmon that would typically take 20 minutes to cook in an oven at 400 only takes 5-8 minutes using steam.
Top steam oven picks for 2019
For most people, Miele steam ovens are our top pick for overall ease of use and wide array of features
As the significant innovator with 19 combination steam ovens to their name, Miele makes steam food preparation a breeze with a model to suit all homes and cooking requirements. While they do offer one steam only model DG6500 / DG6600 at $2,600, it makes more sense to install a combination oven if you’re going to make space for one due to their versatility.
Miele has both the PureLine and ContourLine design groups, each with their unique style so you can find the right look for your new kitchen or match in with your other appliances. You have either plumbed or "non-plumbed water tank models" to choose from. Miele offers many color options such as white, black, stainless steel, or graphite gray.
Key Features of Miele Combination Steam Ovens
Miele has five exclusive, innovative, and user-friendly features that you’ll find in most of their combi steam ovens:
- MasterChef programming: This function comes pre-programmed with 200 recipes, so you don’t need to worry about setting the time or temperature before cooking.
- M-Touch Controls: The best interface we have seen in the industry with frustration-free touchscreen controls. Reserved for the higher-end Miele models.
- MultiSteam Technology: With this technology, steam is generated fast and distributed via 8 jets to ensure uniform cooking results.
- Remote Vision Control: Should anything go wrong with your steam oven, this revolutionary feature enables Miele’s customer service to maintain it remotely.
- Broiler element: This feature certifies Miele as a full fledge convection oven and takes combination steam oven to a new level.
- Sous-Vide cooking: Miele combi-steam ovens are great for Sous-vide cooking which requires low and even temperatures for an extended duration. Along with the EVS6114 24" vacuum seal drawer, you can be the sought after Chef for your family.
Model DGC65001XL - ContourLine Design with Classic Miele Swivel Handle:
Starting the Miele range of combi ovens is a base model priced at $3799, Here are some of the features of DGC65001XL.
- Cook Roast Bake: This full oven function allows you to cook foods such as roasts and baked goods just like you can in your regular oven.
- PerfectClean: Cleaning is a breeze as there is less food residue sticking to the oven surfaces.
- No odor transfer: You won’t need to worry about cooking fish with other dishes since there is no odor transfer.
- SensorTronic Touch Controls: High-quality TFT display
- XL Cavity & Sabbath Mode: Offers 48 liters of usable capacity, giving you room to cook larger items of food or dishes for 8-10 people.
- Temperature probe: Informs you when food has been cooked to perfection. No need to open and reopen the door. You can take the guesswork out.
Also available: PureLine DGC66001XL with straight handle is the sister product for this unit.
Next level up at $4199 Miele introduces the M-Touch controls we explained above. Plumbed units start at $4499.
If you are looking for a taller, full-sized oven, the XXL models are ideal for larger families. Again, you can find both PureLine and ContourLine designs as well as the choice between water reservoir or plumbed options.
Model DGC6760XXL features the XXL cutout which gives you extra interior volume with 2.51 cubic feet compared to 1.84 cubic feet in the XL models. You also get an extra 4th rack which provides you with the ability to cook more dishes in one go.
For the largest capacity and the only option for replacing a traditional 30" oven, check out Thermador
Thermador made major changes in the design and performance of steam ovens as of September 2018. The new Professional and Masterpiece steam ovens are perfect for culinary enthusiasts with a large 2.8 cu. ft. cavity (in single ovens).
If you’re looking for easy installation, you won’t need specialized plumbing for these models since they use a water reservoir versus other steam ovens. Design wise, you can install them fully flush with your cabinets giving you a seamless kitchen design. This was a main sticking point for many designers as the previous version of the product was not meant for flush installations.
Thermador also incorporated steam ovens in their double convection oven configurations to address the needs of customers who would like to maintain healthy cooking habits.
Two styles to choose from - Masterpiece and Professional
These Thermador steam ovens are available in stainless steel and in two styles, the professional which has a more commercial look with control knobs and a beefly pro-style handle and the Masterpiece which has a sleek tubular handle and minimalistic digital control panel.
For ease of use and the most style options, consider Wolf
Wolf is synonymous for their iconic lineup of ranges featuring red knobs. Their distinctively designed appliances are a staple in high-end kitchens around the world. In addition to ranges, Wolf also manufacturers some of the best wall ovens and cooktops including a wide array of convection steam ovens.
2018 was a big year for Wolf as they revamped the entire steam line-up with enhanced cooking technologies.
Most design style options to choose from
Wolf features 7 models including 24” and 30” width units. Wolf steam ovens do not require plumbing and use only their water reservoir, making installation convenient. Besides, Wolf convection steam ovens can be installed flush with your cabinetery.
Gourmet Mode - The easiest way to cook with steam
Gourmet Mode operates like Miele's MasterChef, albeit considerably fewer recipes in Wolf. Simply select the food type, and the oven will automatically detect the volume, shape, and consistency of your food with a climate sensor that adjusts time, temperature, and humidity for guesswork-free delicious results, every time. Wolf realizing that you aren't buying just an appliance... you are buying into a lifestyle, and they continually publish new recipes to help you make the most of your appliance.
Sous Vide Cooking
All Wolf steam ovens are cooking using the Sous Vide method. Wolf recently introduced a vacuum seal drawer VS24 to simply the Sous-Vide cooking process. This drawer can be installed either as 24 inch width or as 30 inches to match with other ovens.
We here at Designer Appliances love using convection steam ovens and are excited for your family to enjoy this natural way of cooking nutritious and tasty meals. It’s important to take some time to browse the ranges available and choose a model that blends in well with your kitchen and offers features that you can utilize. If you’re having trouble deciding which brand for you, feel free to give us a call or come and visit us in store, and we’ll happily go through the options with you.
Once you get the hang of your steam oven and understand the right cooking techniques (there can be a bit of a learning curve if you want to get adventurous), you’ll wonder what you ever did without one.