Buyer's guide to steam ovens

Create healthier, professional-standard dishes in your kitchen with a little help from a steam oven – here's what you need to know before you buy

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Researching the best kitchen appliances? You might like to consider a steam oven, which cooks a huge range of foods, including poultry and fish, using hot, pressurised steam. But why would you choose a steam oven over a conventional oven – or perhaps alongside one? Find out what you need to know about steam ovens in this buying guide.

What are the benefits of a steam oven?

Flavoursome, healthy food

‘Once a niche product, steam is now a must-have “accessory” for cooking delicious food that retains flavours brilliantly,’ says Martin Wilson, product manager of built-in hot appliances at Electrolux. ‘Using steam is a healthy way to cook, too, since fat doesn’t have to be added to keep the food moist and because steam’s lower temperature helps preserve nutrients.’

Food loses fewer vitamins and nutrients, too, compared to any other method of cooking, and holds just the right amount of moisture without becoming saturated.

Precise cooking techniques

Steam can also help you control surface textures. By alternating moist and dry air, you can precisely control browning to get the perfect colour and crust on the outside, whilst the natural vitamins, minerals and flavours remain intact. Breads and gratins, for instance, stay moist and fluffy on the inside, while joints of meat stay crispy on the outside but succulent in the middle. Vegetables retain more colour, better flavour and a much better texture, too.

Fast food

Cooking with steam is significantly faster than traditional methods of baking or roasting.

Moist, reheated food

Steam ovens will reheat food without drying it out.

Easy cleaning

Cleaning the oven not the top of your list of favourite jobs? Steam cookers and ovens are easier to clean than conventional ovens. You simply need to wipe away condensation after cooking.

What are the downsides of steam ovens?

Poor results with browning or crisping

Steam ovens are not good at browning or crisping, food, so your roast chicken won't get that golden crispy skin, and home made bread will be pale and soft. The solution? Opting for a combination steam oven.

The price

Combination steam ovens in particular are expensive – although budget options are available (see below).

What is a combination steam oven?

A combination steam oven cooks with both steam and conventional heat, so you can combine all the benefits of both cooking methods. AEG's SteamBake BPS352020M electric steam oven from Curry's is an affordable option.

What to consider when buying a steam oven

  • Size: both steam ovens and combination steam ovens range in capacity from around 20ltrs to 50ltrs, the latter being a good choice for large families or cooks who love to entertain.
  • The space available: particularly relevant if your steam oven is an addition to your conventional oven. Usually, they are around W60cm.
  • The temperature range: steam ovens generally have a temperature range of 100°C to 300°C.
  • Topping up the oven: cold, fresh drinking water will need to be added before you use the oven; a water tank indicator is a handy feature to tell you when to refill.
  • The glazing: most have double-glazed doors; others have triple or even quadruple glazing. The better the glazing, the more heat stays inside the oven, the more efficient the appliance. It will also keep the oven door cool – a useful safety feature if you have small children.

Buying a steam oven on a budget

If your budget is low or you rent your home but still want the benefits of a steam oven, consider a countertop steam oven – choosing a multi-functional model makes sense, particularly if you have a small kitchen. Panasonic's NN-CS894SBPQ combination steam microwave oven from John Lewis, for example, although pricey, is a family-sized microwave with convection, grill and steam functions, and is neat enough to sit on the worktop.

Making the most out of your steam oven

For those who want to take full advantage of their steam oven, Hotpoint's steam built-in single oven with added steam function has a generous 71-litre capacity, the perfect size to cook a family roast. The three dedicated steam programmes offer you a helping hand, making cooking with steam effortless and effective. Its meat, fish and bread programmes ensure that everything is cooked to perfection. 

Multi-flow heat distribution is a handy feature when it comes to getting even cooking results, and its cooking functions – conventional, convection bake and eco forced air – can all be used to your advantage to produce perfectly cooked dinners. 

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