Steam oven buying guide: How to find the best appliance for you
We’ll help choose the perfect steam oven for your cooking style.
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Quick facts about comparing steam ovens:
- Before purchasing a steam oven, you need to consider your cooking preferences.
- Consider how often you steam cook and if you regularly roast, grill and bake.
- Prices range from around $2,000 to over $7,000, depending on the brand, model and range of features.
Types of steam ovens
There are three main types of steam ovens: standalone, combination and multifunction electric ovens with an added moisture function.
|Standalone steam||Can only steam foods|
|Combination steam/convection||Multifunction baking, combi-steam, convection-only and steam-only modes|
|Multifunction electric oven with steam assist||Injects steam into the oven during the normal baking cycle|
How to compare steam ovens
When buying a steam oven, consider the following features:
Compact counter-top (45cm) or full-size (60cm) options are available. Consider how big your available space is, how frequently you steam cook and whether you want a model that offers multi-shelf cooking for large batches.
Water tank volume
A larger water tank is ideal because it causes less disruption during steaming and requires less frequent filling and replacement. Look for one that's easily accessible without having to open the oven door to minimise the loss of heat and steam as well as minimise the risk of scalding. Depending on your water hardness and usage frequency, you'll need to flush and descale the steaming system periodically.
Condensation collection methods
- Condensation tank. Some models have condensation tanks that require filling, emptying and replacing.
- Tube. Others operate by placing a tube into a drain hole with a container below it to collect water.
- Collection cavity. Some have a collection cavity in the base that needs sponging out each time.
- Models without condensation tank/collection cavity. For these models, you just dry the inside after use. This is not ideal because moisture is more likely to remain in the system, which hinders certain baking methods such as making meringue.
- Plumbed-in. Requires high maintenance, such as descaling and routine flushing, and costs more to purchase and install.
- Controls. Intuitive, user-friendly controls and labels will make your cooking more precise and consistent, with less trial and error. This is particularly important for combination models that have many different functions.
- Cooking guidelines. A good model will provide detailed, accurate instructions and even tailored, tested recipes for popular dishes. This is especially helpful for combi-steam ovens that take a while to master.
- Oven door glaze. While most ovens offer a double glaze, look for a triple or quadruple glaze, which is better for retaining heat inside the oven and keeps the outside oven door cool.
- Fan-forced function. Models that include this function will speed up your cooking, producing a more even steaming result.
- Roasting probe. If you regularly make roasts, opt for a model that includes a roasting probe. This metal skewer is fastened to the oven and you can poke it into meat to check if the roast is fully cooked.
Steam ovens vs convection ovens
A steam oven usually includes a water reservoir inside the oven cavity. Some higher-end models can link to a water line. Water feeds into the boiler via a pump and turns into steam from the heat of the oven. A conventional oven, in contrast, utilises inbuilt fans to circulate hot air inside the oven. A convection steam "combi-steam" oven combines these functions by offering both convection and steam modes.
Pros and cons
- Health. Offers lower calorie cooking.
- Flavour. Natural flavours, textures and colours are preserved.
- Fast cooking. Heat-conducting function of steam cooks faster than a standard oven.
- Multifunction. Can grill, bake, roast and brown foods.
- Easier to clean. A wipe down is usually all that's needed.
- Costs. Adds about $800 to standard oven price.
- Higher maintenance. Needs to be filled with water and cleaned more often to prevent mould and bacteria growth.
- Not all-purpose. Standalone versions can't brown/crisp foods.
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