A woman in a green skirt and white top, with a bright pink scarf, holds a pot mitt in front of an open oven door, showing the food she is cooking with steam.

Cooking with Steam: Steaming and Combi Steam Ovens

In recent years, cooking with steam has become increasingly popular. Not just the domain of a bamboo steamer or saucepan, steaming is now big business for kitchen appliance manufacturers.

A combination steam oven (or convection steam oven) is the must-have appliance for new-build and remodeled kitchens, and any designer worth their salt will add one to a line-up of appliance recommendations. 

The cooking technique certainly has its benefits, from time saving to a nutrient-dense, moist result for many different foods. Today I want to help you decide if cooking with steam everyday is worthwhile, and how you can integrate steam functionality into your kitchen in different ways. 

The idea of a bamboo steamer or basket in a saucepan isn’t new, and these methods work perfectly. But there’s now a huge array of combi-steam oven options to take the cooking process to a new level. A combi steam oven offers a blend of moist steam and dry heat for exceptional food quality.

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What is steam cooking?

Steam cooking, or steaming, harnesses the power of wet heat (steam) to gently cook food. Placing food in an environment where steam, or vapor, created by boiling water is contained, means this energy (heat) transfers to the food and cooks it. Steam cooking is not a new technique; it’s been used in cooking all over the world for thousands of years. 

Steaming is a faster cooking method than conventional or convection oven heating. This is because the water vapor or steam transfers heat more readily to your food than dry heat.  

Cooking with steam is beloved for its ability to preserve nutrients, enhance flavors and maintain moisture. Unlike a conventional oven that relies on dry heat, steam offers a moist cooking environment for juicy and succulent results. 

kitchen counter with food and ovens in background

Benefits of cooking with steam

  • Faster cooking. Steam reduces cooking time, making it perfect for busy home cooks and professional kitchens alike.
  • Preserved nutrients. The gentle cooking process of steam retains more vitamins and minerals in food compared to dry heat methods.
  • Enhanced flavor. Because it’s faster and more gentle, steam cooking enhances natural flavors, resulting in delicious and aromatic dishes.
  • Moisture retention. Steam ovens maintain moisture levels, which helps prevent food from drying out during the cooking process.
  • Versatility. Steam ovens offer a wide range of cooking functions, including baking, roasting, and even sous vide cooking.
The inside of a stainless steel oven, where a warm yellow light casts a glow onto a tray full of roasted summer vegetables.

The power of combination steam ovens

The point where dry and wet heat merge in a combi steam oven is where steam cooking gets really interesting.

Imagine cooking vegetables and a golden brown chicken in the same oven, in 30 minutes flat. And getting perfect juicy meat, and tender, bright vegetables that are steamed on the inside and roasted on the outside. That’s just one example of the kinds of foods which sing in these combination ovens, and which can change your everyday cooking for good. There are so many more: cooking fish, meat, bread, cakes and pastries all becomes a breeze once you harness combi steam.

Combination steam ovens, also known as convection steam ovens, combine the speed, moisture, flavor and nutrition benefits of steam cooking with the versatility of convection heat. This unique combination allows precise control over the cooking process, resulting in evenly cooked dishes with delicious flavors and textures.

top view of Parmesan Crusted Chicken

How steam ovens work

Steam ovens utilize a water tank and boiler to generate steam, which is then circulated into the oven cavity. Adding steam during the cooking process means food is cooked faster and more evenly compared to conventional ovens. 

Full steam ovens have the capability of regular steam cooking as well as combi steam, where an added steam function can improve the speed and food quality of things you cook in a standard oven. 

More information on combi steam ovens

I’ve written extensively about steam and combi steam ovens over more than a decade. My steam oven cooking knowledge is right up there! If you’re new to the idea of a steam oven, I have more articles you’ll find helpful. You’ll also find more resources and info on cooking with steam, as well as hundreds of free steam oven recipes on my site index. 

For more general beginner details, read should I buy a steam oven, and the 7 questions to ask before buying a steam oven. You’ll get an overview of the different types of steam ovens, and steam oven models to look out for. 

A lot of people ask about microwaves vs steam ovens. If you’re wondering, have a read of this piece which asks, can a steam oven replace your microwave oven

A woman stands in front of an open oven, in which she is cooking with steam. She is wearing a pink shirt and glasses.

Choosing the right oven for cooking with steam

When selecting a steam oven, consider factors such as size, cooking functions, and ease of use. Built-in steam ovens are great for seamless integration into your home kitchen, while countertop models offer flexibility and convenience.

If you already know you want a steam oven, I’d recommend reading about designing a kitchen with a steam oven, and also the best cookware to use in a steam oven.

If you love the idea of steam oven cooking but don’t want to remodel your whole kitchen, here are my picks for the best countertop steam ovens. They’re less expensive and more portable than wall-mounted ovens!

​Cooking with steam ovens

Got a steam oven and now you’re all about the food?

different cooking wares for use in a steam oven

Understanding how things differ from using straight up hot air, and knowing what to do with the steam mode, amount of steam, cook time and oven settings can be daunting when you start! I promise it gets easier very quickly if you jump in and start using your appliance.

For some easy starting recipes, visit my recipe index or look through the best types of food to cook in a combi steam oven. You can also sign up to my free email list or find out about Steam Oven Insiders, my membership community. Helping people navigate their combi steam ovens is my superpower, and one I’m always happy to use.

While steam cooking with a combi steam oven does have a learning curve, the results are worth the effort. If you decide to invest, you’ll find with practice and experimentation you’ll soon be impressing family and friends (and yourself!) with restaurant-quality, delicious recipes every day. Cooking with steam is a great way to elevate your skills in the kitchen, and I hope you’ll give it a go. 

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