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What Is a Steam Oven?

Steam ovens use steam to cook food.
Steam cooking is the preferred method of cooking some meats, like seafoods.
Some steam ovens use fans to circulate steam, which helps to cook food through convection.
Vegetables are often cooked using steam.
When cooked with steam, food retains more vitamins than when it is cooked using other methods, which makes it healthier.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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Cooking with steam has long been a preferred method for certain vegetables and meat selections. There are a number of products that allow one to steam nearly anything. Until recently though, no one has considered cooking virtually everything by steam. Recently, however, Miele, Sharp and other manufacturers have each launched several varieties of the steam oven.

The steam oven can be either a countertop stove, sized about the same as a mid-size microwave, or it can be installed in a kitchen. The price is prohibitive for some. These ovens range in price from about $1,500 to over $5,000 US dollars (USD). The device comes equipped with a reservoir that is filled with water to begin the baking process. Even installed ovens do not need to be hooked up to a water supply, like an ice-making refrigerator, because in most cases the reservoir is detachable or easily accessible.

Temperatures of steam ovens vary. Different systems can cook food at temperatures of 212° to more than 572° F (100° to more than 300° C). Cooking a chicken in a steam oven set to 212° F (100° C) would take about 20 minutes to cook rather than the two hours it'd take in a traditional oven.

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Steam oven manufacturers claim that their ovens not only reduce cooking time, but also lower the fat content of food. Dry heat cooking tends to rely on added fat to keep meats from drying out. With steam, meat needs no supplementary fat, and will definitely not be dry because of the constant injections of steam. Steam cooking also retains more vitamins than other cooking methods and is therefore touted as a far healthier way of preparing foods.

A steam oven cannot brown items, and this may be one drawback for people considering the purchase of one. Most meat needs to be grilled or browned prior to cooking in the oven, or the result is a rather pallid-appearing meat, much like meat cooked in the microwave. Breads or pies cooked by steam will also appear quite pale, and may need to be browned in a conventional oven. This drawback results in an extra step and extra time added to the cooking process.

Some oven suppliers have combined steam with convection. The convection process employs a fan to circulate the steam around items being cooked. This increases the speed of cooking time but does not aid in browning foods.

Though the term "oven" suggests that one can only bake with a steam oven, manufacturers also recommend using this type of oven for quickly preparing pasta or soup, or even for sterilizing baby bottles. A new product based on an ancient theme in cooking, the steam oven may well be poised to become the next great kitchen appliance.

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anon302927
Post 16

@Giulia: I have at home a Unox XVC 305 combi steamer and couldn't be happier. It is industrial and holds 5 GN trays (Gastronorm standard). If you get a combi steamer, make sure you get an automatic washing system. It makes cleaning and your life a LOT easier. I also have a steam condenser unit and a second thinner sous-vide probe.

The XVC 305 is on the smaller side for a commercial unit, but it still is bulky and may need a kitchen makeover. You need both cold water and plumbing for the unit. I renovated the whole kitchen when putting the unit in and had to make a 200 mm deep niche behind the unit which is standing on a 700 mm deep countertop in order to fit the plumbing etc.

As for the oven, I couldn't be happier. Poultry turns out succulent and juicy and this unit will fit any turkey.

anon171188
Post 14

Oh, boy. The latest fad in cooking. If you can afford it. Stupid.

anon158466
Post 13

I was looking for different brands of freestanding steam ovens producers. Any help would be very much appreciated.

Thanks, Giulia

anon49477
Post 12

The steam keeps the crust of the bread soft early in the baking, while it is still rising. If the crust becomes hard early it will not allow full rising of the dough. Only the first five minutes is needed for the bread.

jreloj
Post 11

I don't know how to benefit from my new steam oven. Can anyone tell me where to find good recipes and tips?

anon22176
Post 9

Not sure about the vegetables, but for bread, steam in the oven makes a fantastic crust. The steam is in the oven only for the first part (3 to 5 min.) of the baking process. The remainder of the bake time is dry.

anon17774
Post 8

I have been using a quality steam oven for five years. The product is a valuable and excellent tool in my kitchen. I use it every day and it does so much more than just the vegetables!

anon10993
Post 5

How could steam ovens yield a good crust on bread if the food is damp the whole time it is cooking and does not brown?

anon8868
Post 4

Is it bad for you like microwave? What's good about it? Does it take the vitamins out of your food? Does it melt plastic?

anon3834
Post 3

What is a good alternative to a microwave since it really isn't good for you. Is an infrared oven good to replace it or maybe a steam oven.

What is the good benefits of the Avanta oven? What does it do different than a microwave if it is different?

fisherma
Post 2

How does a steam oven differ from a stove-top pressure cooker?

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