How Does a Steam Oven Work ... and Other Steam Oven Questions
Steam ovens have been used in commercial kitchens by high-profile chefs for decades. In recent years, steam ovens have started catching the eye of home cooks, too. So how does a steam oven work? And, more importantly, should you get one? At Reno's Appliance, we’re oven experts and wanted to give you the answers to these questions and more.
How does a steam oven work?
Steam ovens need water to create steam, so most models come equipped with a small water tank—usually 1 to 2 quarts in size. Though higher-end models can be connected to a water line, special plumbing isn't required for most steam ovens. When the oven is turned on, water flows through a water line into a reservoir in the bottom of the oven where an electric element heats the water. The water turns into steam, which in turn cooks the food.
What are the advantages of steam ovens?
Cooking with steam can result in tastier and healthier food than you may get with a conventional oven. The moisture inside the oven helps retain the natural textures, colors, and flavors so less salt and fats (e.g., oil, butter) are needed to enhance the flavor of your food. In addition, more of the vitamins and nutrients of vegetables are retained when they are steamed instead of boiled, fried, or baked.
Steam ovens can also significantly reduce cooking time, especially when preparing large quantities of food. For example, a 14 lb. turkey will cook in 90 minutes. A standard-sized chicken will take only 30 minutes.
Steam ovens are also perfect for safely defrosting meats and reheating leftovers. If you've got an infant at home, you can even disinfect baby bottles with a steam oven. The steam will kill the germs, but won't melt the plastic.
What are the disadvantages of steam ovens?
While steam ovens are gaining in popularity, they can be a bit pricey. Prices range from $2,000 to $4,000 for basic models, to well over $7,000 to $8,000 for higher-end models. Many cooking enthusiasts who want the benefits of steam without the hefty price tag of a full-sized oven opt for less-expensive countertop models. Countertop models are about the size of a microwave, and cost less than $1,000.
Steam ovens also require more maintenance than a regular oven. The water canister must be cleaned and refilled often. The walls of the oven must be descaled every 1 to 2 months as well. Most models have a "descaling" setting and there are tablets available for that specific purpose.
Finally, while steam ovens cook most foods beautifully, they cannot "brown" foods or create a crispy texture that you might want with certain recipes.
What types of steam ovens are available?
In general, there are three types of steam ovens:
- Steam-only ovens: These only provide steam-cooking functionality, which makes them ideal for preparing ideal for fish, vegetables, breads, and desserts.
- Combination steam ovens: These ovens offer dedicated steam or dedicated convection cooking, or a combination of the two. Different dishes can be cooked at the same time since there are no flavor or aroma transfers. This option is ideal for those who like to steam regularly, but still want the ability to achieve crispy browning when roasting and baking.
- Standard ovens with a "puff" function: These models are basically conventional ovens with a moisture function that releases a puff of steam into the oven at regular intervals to speed up cooking time and enhance flavor.
Still curious about how a steam oven works? Interested in seeing one in person? Stop by Reno's Appliance and talk to a member of our friendly and knowledgeable sales team. They'll tell you all you need to know about steam ovens and show you our wide variety of conventional ovens as well.