Ever wondered, ‘should I buy a steam oven’? Find out whether you need the current darling of kitchen appliances, and which models to consider.
Pros and cons of buying a combi steam oven
I love combi steam cooking and I’m always happy to show off what steam ovens can do, but they aren’t suited to everyone. As you read through this article, think about whether you’re the sort of cook who’ll really appreciate this method.
Today I’m going to run you through the pros and cons of buying a steam or combi steam oven.
If you aren’t really sure what a steam oven is, take a look at this page for some background.
Steam ovens: fad or kitchen fixture?
Steam ovens make up a small fraction of overall kitchen appliance sales, but they’re enjoying huge sales growth in Australia, the USA and Europe. If you’ve picked up a lifestyle magazine over the past couple of years, you’ll have seen one advertised. And now you’ve found your way here, wondering ‘should I buy a steam oven’?
The year-on-year double digit sales increases in this market are happening for good reason. Steam ovens are here to stay in home kitchens and most major manufacturers have released their own versions in the past 5-10 years.
Despite their current must-have status in appliance circles, steam ovens are still relatively niche in the wider domestic kitchen market, and they take some getting used to when you’ve never cooked in one before.
Who actually buys steam ovens?
There will always be experienced chefs and gourmands happy to buy steam oven because they understand what to do with it.
In my experience, though, most people adding a combi steam oven to their kitchen are families who love to entertain, or empty nesters with frequent family visitors and a love of cooking.
Often people turn to steam oven cooking for health benefits.
The growing trend towards simplified, healthy meals means we see a lot of talk about healthier ways of getting dinner on the table fast. Steaming certainly fits that brief and a steam oven helps make those healthy meals quickly and without fuss.
How much do steam ovens cost?
Premium steam ovens
Combi steam ovens have traditionally been premium appliances for a higher end of the market. That’s still where a lot of brands are positioned. Miele, Gaggenau, Wolf, Thermador, Neff, V-Zug and Asko steam ovens all sit in this space.
At the time of writing, premium brands have price tags ranging anywhere from about $1800 all the way up to $9000 USD.
Mid-range steam ovens
There is a subtle shift happening, though, taking steam ovens from solely a premium offering to something more affordable. Many manufacturers are making less expensive inbuilt ovens for customers who want a steam oven without the huge price tag.
Some of the cheaper inbuilt steam ovens include Bosch, Whirlpool, Artusi, Beko, Baumatic, Westinghouse and Fisher and Paykel. They are less expensive than the premium brands but still have price tags starting at around $1000.
Countertop steam ovens
Cuisinart’s little countertop steam oven (around $299 USD) is a great example of a steam oven appliance for a broader market. It’s also the cheapest combi steam I’ve come across by a long way. In line with the price, it doesn’t boast the features of more expensive models, but it’s great if you’re interested in trying out the method. The major drawback it its small toaster oven size, which doesn’t allow for bakes in tall loaf pans, or large cuts of meat.
The newest countertop steam oven is the Anova Precision Oven. At $599 USD, it sits between the Cuisinart and an inbuilt model in price. Unlike Cuisinart’s offering, though, Anova’s is packed with steam and combi steam oven features. Cooks can select from a range of heating elements and humidity levels. It also boasts precise sous vide temperature control, something which doesn’t exist even in some high end steam ovens. The Anova steam oven is a recent launch but has several years of development and testing behind it. If you don’t mind buying into a first generation model, it’s a fantastic appliance at a great price.
What can you cook in a steam oven?
If you’ve been wondering, ‘should I buy a steam oven?’, you’ll might also wonder what you’d cook in one. There’s no doubt you’ll have some learning to do if you want to make the most of a steam oven.
If you’re old enough, think back to when microwave ovens were new to kitchens. No one knew what to cook in a microwave, so it was a learning experience for everyone who bought one.
It took experimenting, sharing and learning a new cooking language for people to figure out their microwaves. The same is true here, although the health benefits are less questionable!
If you wonder what to cook in a steam oven, grab my Steam Oven Cheat Sheets for a list of recipes which suit the method. Otherwise, feel free to browse the recipe index on this site for some ideas, or check out my Pinterest boards.
Basically, almost anything you cook in a regular oven can benefit from some added moisture. The major exceptions are foods which need to dry out, like meringues and some cookies.
Vegetables, meat, fish, cakes and breads, grains, pulses and eggs all get cooked regularly in my steam oven.
Even if you’re just using the steam function, you’ll be surprised how much you can do. On any given day I’ll steam oatmeal or eggs in the morning and vegetables or leftovers at lunch. Then I might prove bread dough in the afternoon and steam chicken, rice and greens for dinner. A pudding might be on the dessert menu if we’re feeling indulgent.
Are steam ovens hard to maintain?
Maintenance comes up often when I talk people through the pros and cons of steam ovens. I wish I could tell you steam ovens require zero maintenance, but I’d be lying. They aren’t as difficult to maintain as you might imagine, though.
Here’s the great thing about maintaining a steam oven: a lot of your cooking is damp, so the oven won’t get as dirty as a regular oven. Really baked on grime is less of an issue, and the steam cleaning cycles mean you can soften up dirt easily to wipe off.
If you have a steam oven with a removable tank, you’ll need to make sure you empty and clean the tank regularly.
If you roast a lot of meats in your steam oven, you will need to submit to a regular cleaning schedule to keep it looking fresh. That’s true of any working kitchen appliance, though, and it’s no harder to clean a steam oven than any other oven.
One more thing to remember is that appliances which cook using water need regular descaling.
None of this maintenance is difficult, in fact I’d liken it to the routine maintenance of a regular oven or a coffee machine. You just need to allow 15-30 minutes every so often to make sure everything stays in good working order.
Most models will let you know when they require descaling, so you shouldn’t have to guess at whether it’s time to run the cycle.
What’s the verdict? To buy or not to buy?
For me, the benefits of cooking with a combi steam oven far outweigh the cost.
Do you love cooking and are you always striving to make the best version of whatever you’re cooking? Buy a steam oven.
If you’re hesitant to experiment at all in the kitchen or you flat out hate cooking, it might not be worth the expense.
In the end, no one can decide whether you should spend the money on a combi steam oven except you. It’s a luxury purchase rather than an essential appliance, but one which will bring you much pleasure if you love to cook.
I hope this discussion of combi steam oven pros and cons is helpful. For more info about steam ovens, read my Combi Steam 101 post. If you’re ready to buy, try 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Steam, Combi Steam or Convection Steam Oven.
If you take the plunge I look forward to seeing you here again for cooking inspiration when your new oven is installed!
For more combi steam tips, recipes and help, sign up to the Steam and Bake mailing list. You can also follow the Facebook page and join the free Combi Steam Cooking Facebook group. It’s full of people at all stages of learning about combi steam cooking; I’d love you to join us!