As consumers become more aware of healthy lifestyles and eating, the idea of cooking by steam has come to the forefront. Sales of built-in ovens with steam functions are growing but how do they work and what are the pros and cons.
Here are six facts about steam cooking technology
1. Traditional oven vs steam
Traditional gas and electric ovens produce extremely dry heat, which means you have to add extra fat to the food or you need to baste the food throughout the cooking period. Steam ovens use hot, pressurized steam, which allows the moisture content of food to be maintained without the need to add fats, making it healthier than cooking with a conventional oven. Plus, steam cooking retains food nutrients that are often lost in baking.
2. Faster cooking times
Being able to prepare healthier meals is a key selling point for many consumers, but many are converting to steam ovens because they also save time. Steam heat is a hotter heat than the heat in a conventional gas or electric oven. Steam ovens can reach temperatures of 300° C and higher. So, cooking a chicken in a traditional oven would take about two hours, but in a steam oven at 100° C, it would take about 20 minutes, and a large 14-pound turkey takes about 90 minutes.
3. How does a steam oven work?
By boiling water in an inbuilt reservoir, steam ovens create a cloud of steam inside the oven chamber which circulates around the food and cooks it. The larger the water reservoir, the less often it needs to be refilled. Though higher-end models can be connected to a water pipe, special plumbing isn’t required for most steam ovens. When the oven is turned on, water flows through a pipe into a reservoir in the bottom of the oven where an electric element heats the water. Once the water reaches 100° C, steam is released into the oven.
4. Types of steam oven
As with most kitchen appliances, steam ovens come in different shapes, sizes and finishes. Steam ovens can even have different technologies integrated. Standard steam ovens simply use steam alone to cook the food whereas combi-steam ovens use steam and a fan to circulate air around the oven to avoid hot and cold spots, resulting in quicker cooking times and even a little browning!
5. What can you cook?
Steam cooking isn’t all about healthy eating. Keen amateur chefs and bakers can also benefit from having a steam oven. A combi-steam oven which uses steam and dry heat together, creates a moist environment which is great for browning and caramelising, making meat tender and providing the perfect rise resulting in moist cakes and crisp loaves.
6. Things to consider
Most models have a condensation tank that will need to be removed and emptied after use. Some models come with a tube that is manually inserted into the drain hole each time the condensation requires draining. While most combination ovens have water tanks, not all have a condensation reservoir.
All models require regular cleaning and maintenance, as they must be descaled and regularly have their water pipes flushed out. However, steam ovens are incredibly easy to clean compared to conventional ovens. You simply wipe excess moisture out with a cloth. As food will not burn or bake on in a steam oven there is no need for time consuming oven cleaning and scrubbing!
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