stainless steel steam oven with door open in a home with a chicken cooking inside

Why Steam Ovens Are More Than Hot Air

Steam ovens are the latest hot item in cooking appliances. If you’re wondering what exactly a steam oven is, and what makes it so popular, you’ve come to the right place. In this post we’ll look at:

How a Steam Oven Works

Obviously enough, a steam oven employs steam (i.e., water vapor) to cook food. A regular oven, by contrast, uses heated air for cooking. Otherwise, a steam oven looks the same as a traditional wall oven. Note that there are also countertop steam ovens.

There’s a small tank in the oven that you fill with water. When you turn the steam oven on, a boiler heats the water to boiling (a temperature of 212℉), creating steam that is dispersed throughout the oven to cook your food. Because you need to continually fill the tank with water, there’s a little extra work with using a steam oven. However, some models allow you to hook a water line directly into the tank, much like your refrigerator ice maker, eliminating the need to constantly refill a tank with water. 

The Advantages of a Steam Oven

Steam oven cooking keeps food moist. Which means you don’t need to use a lot of oils you’d use in a traditional oven. Consequently, the food you cook in a steam oven is healthier and better for you. An additional health benefit is that steam cooked food retains more nutrients than food heated with hot air, which can completely destroy vitamin C and folate, among other nourishing substances. And steam oven food in general is more flavorful due to the added moisture.

Unlike a microwave, a steam oven reheats food evenly, which avoids food drying out or losing texture. Also compared to defrosting food in a microwave, a steam oven doesn’t partially cook the food, although a microwave does defrost faster. Compared to defrosting in a conventional oven, however, the steam oven is faster. In general, steam oven cooking is 30 percent faster than a conventional oven.

Steam oven cooking is particularly well-suited for “wet” foods, such as breads and other baked goods, and vegetables. You can tell the difference between a cheesecake cooked in a steam oven and one in a conventional oven—the steam oven cheesecake doesn’t have any cracks in its texture.

The feature that is perhaps of most interest is that steam ovens cook more quickly, for two reasons. One is because the oven cavity is smaller than a typical oven, so preheating is much faster. Secondly, water conducts heat more efficiently than air. The difference is actually quite dramatic. A serving of salmon takes about 20 minutes to cook in a conventional oven at a temperature of 400℉. In a steam oven, cooking time for the same piece of salmon is less than 10 minutes!

That said, a steam oven is not ideal for roasting and cooking that requires higher temperatures. But you don’t need an extra oven. A steam oven/convection combination gets you the best of both worlds. The advantage of a combo unit, as we’ve pointed out, is that it eliminates kitchen clutter and, in many cases, is a less expensive option than buying separate appliances.

Steam Oven Maintenance

Cleaning a steam oven isn’t particularly difficult or arduous, though compared to a traditional oven, it’s a little more of a hassle. Because the steam oven is a wetter environment, you have to clean out the mineral deposits left by the water. You also need to regularly descale the steam oven’s water reservoir, every so often, just as you do to remove the build-up of minerals in your coffeemaker. 

Wipe out the steam oven and dry it after every use. That way you avoid condensation and water sitting in the oven that might cultivate bacteria and lead to unpleasant odors. 

Steam Oven Cost

Depending on features, steam ovens can run anywhere from around $500 for countertop models and wall models to anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 and up for top-of-the-line steam ovens. As with any appliance purchase, whether the cost is worth it depends on your personal needs and budget, as well as your level of cooking expertise.

Steam Oven Features to Consider

Full steam ovens lack additional heating elements and only cook with steam. It’s a good option if you are looking to add to a conventional oven or a microwave/convection oven combination. If you have space limitations, a full steam oven is also a good replacement for a microwave oven altogether.

If you only have the space or the budget for a single oven, then the combination steam/convection oven provides the best of both worlds using the same amount of space. Look for models that give you complete flexibility to cook with hot air only, 100% steam, or a steam-and-air cooking combination. 

For further details, take a look at our overview of Miele steam ovens.

Do You Need a Steam Oven?

Whether you need a steam oven depends on how much you cook, how much you like to cook, and what level of cooking expertise you have or aspire to have. In many respects, steam ovens make cooking easier. Prep time is reduced and there’s less time spent in a hot kitchen because there’s less cooking time required. Like with any new appliance, there’s always an adjustment period. Some steam oven manufacturers, such as Miele and Wolf, offer customer classes and guided recipes for the use of their products. 

Your Smart Oven Experts

BSC Culinary offers a variety of steam ovens from leading manufacturers. Interested in a Miele steam oven and an additional appliance from the same manufacturer? You can save up to $1800 on a qualifying Miele appliance purchase.

Every steam oven we sell comes with installation and delivery by qualified and insured technicians. Before your purchase is complete, our team performs an on-site, no-touch inspection to ensure a perfect fit for your kitchen. A dedicated Enjoy Life Counselor ensures error-free delivery and installation. You can even track delivery on the day of the appointment. If you prefer, BSC can provide contactless delivery, a trend that started with the pandemic and that we are happy to continue to offer. 

Contact us to discuss steam oven options and what best fits your needs and budget.