• Steam Oven Cooking

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    By Dave Murray

    Steam ovens long have been a staple appliance in restaurants and bakeries because they enhance food quality and significantly reduce cooking times and energy use.

    Now, they are gaining popularity in home kitchens. Built-in models resemble conventional wall ovens. Smaller models look like a large microwave. They cook meats, fish, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, breads and desserts.

    Most of us long have used small electric countertop steamers for vegetables and rice, so we understand how fast we can cook with them and how well they retain foods’ natural flavors and nutrients, more so than other cooking methods.

    Traditional ovens use hot air that is generated by heating elements, while a fan distributes that air evenly around the food. Steam ovens boil water from an inbuilt reservoir. That creates a cloud of steam inside the oven.

    Not only is flavor enhanced by steam oven cooking, but foods’ textures and colors are retained more than with dry-heat cooking. The nutrient value is further improved because you probably won’t need to add as much salt or oil to your dishes, and it is far less likely that different foods sharing the oven will transfer their flavors to each other.

    Other advantages: food doesn’t dry out, especially when you are warming up left-overs; the ovens are relatively easy to keep clean; there is less spillage than with conventional ovens; they easily accommodate family-size portions; and they let you cook with metal dishes and cutlery.

    There are some cooking limitations to consider. Because of the use of steam, you cannot brown the outer skins of meats. As a result, manufacturers now are offering combination steam and dry-heat ovens. Cook with steam, brown with dry heat and then serve.

    You also must be particularly careful because steam can scald, and you do have to carefully wipe out all the condensation after you have finished cooking.

    How does a steam oven work?

    Typically, you will need to fill a small water reservoir with about 1.25 quarts of water before you use the oven. Foods cook much faster because steam has a higher heat content and transfer rate than hot air. Speed applies not only to the actual cooking, but also to pre-heating the oven.

    You can roast a large chicken in as little as 20 minutes in a steam oven, compared with up to two hours in a conventional oven. Because steam heats meat fat more rapidly, the outside surface is not seared. This liquefies fat almost instantly, with most of it dripping off and resulting in lower-fat meals.

    All this also means you are using less energy, which is one way to justify the higher price of steam ovens compared with dry-heat ones.

    Manufacturers are promoting the lifestyle advantages of steam ovens, including the ability to prepare full meals for large numbers of people with one appliance in a very short amount of time. A typical steam oven will feature four trays of varied shapes to accommodate appetitzers to desserts, all in about a half hour.

    At other times, the family cannot all eat at the same time. Warming trays can keep a meal warm and moist for latecomers.

    You can view the many models of steam ovens offered by KAM Appliances by clicking here.

     Also, please enjoy some excellent recipes enhanced by steam oven cooking. Here are some of our favorites:

    Chicken with Herbes de Provence 
    Chickpea and Spinach Stew
    Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms
    Salmon and Vegetable Couscous
    Steamed Salmon with Shallot-Tomato Salsa

     

    May 10, 2014