What Is a Steam Oven and Why Do You Need One?

hand moving trays of vegetables out of oven
  • Beginner
  • 400-1,600

Things are getting steamy in the kitchen! Steam ovens put a new twist on a classic kitchen appliance. They're considered to be a healthier alternative to a basic convection oven. Whether you're renovating your kitchen or you're just in the market for new appliances, you might want to give them a look.

How Do Steam Ovens Work?

Steam ovens differ from traditional convection ovens in several ways. First, conventional ovens use two heating sources to heat your food, usually one on top and one on the bottom. Most ovens have more heat coming from the top than they do from the bottom. You can cook your food on different settings to get a more even temperature in your oven or to broil your food, but traditional ovens may dry your food out as it cooks—hence the need for more oils and fats or foil over the top of your food to keep the moisture in.

Steam ovens work a little differently. These ovens work by drawing water into a built-in boiler. The water comes in from a tank and gets boiled to a very high temperature before the steam flows into the oven.

The steam in the oven is kept at the perfect level so that your food cooks quickly and takes less time than traditional oven baking. The moisture in the oven also keeps your food from drying out, which reduces the need for butter, oils, and other fats in your foods. Steam ovens are also great for reheating food, delivering better textual outcomes than microwaves.

Steam ovens, unlike traditional ovens, do not come with a self-cleaning feature. So if you're going to go steam, you'll probably need to hand clean.

steam oven cooking a rack of vegetables

The Price Tag

Steam ovens are a great, healthy addition to any kitchen, but they can come with a hefty price tag. Full-size steam ovens add up to a thousand dollars to the cost of a traditional oven. If you're looking for one with a sleek, modern design, you're looking at an oven that costs well over fifteen hundred dollars.

If you're comfortable cooking with a more compact device, though, you can get a countertop model for around $400 as of this writing.

How to Clean a Steam Oven

If you're wondering how to clean a steam oven, we've got you covered. While a few very high-end steam ovens come with a steam clean feature, many don't. You don't want to use traditional oven cleaners in your steam oven. Instead, you'll want to use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Spray the solution around the oven and wipe it down with a rag. If you have any burn spots or watermarks, you can use an oven razor to scrape the stains away gently.

Some steam ovens have a steam cycle that you can run. Simply pour a cup or two of your vinegar and water solution on the bottom of the oven and start the cycle. Check your owner's manual before you do. There will be a list of specific dos and don'ts that pertain to your oven.

clean oven with fan at the back

What Can I Cook in my Steam Oven?

You can cook pretty much anything in your steam oven. Steam ovens have a great reputation for retaining texture, flavor, and nutrients—so your food comes out perfectly cooked and tasting great. For things like artisan bread, many baking recipes require that you add steam to your traditional oven. With a steam oven, you can skip the extra step and cook the bread the right way.

A quick Pinterest search will pull up tons of steam oven-specific recipes for you to try and experiment with. When transitioning your old recipes over to a steam oven, it may take a little bit of adjusting to get your old recipes right for the steam oven. Don't give up, though. It's a learning curve for sure, but eventually you'll figure it out!

Ready to unleash your inner gourmet cook with your steam oven? Check out a few fun recipes here.