Steaming is a time-honored cooking technique for keeping food moist without adding extra fat. But traditional stovetop steamers are now playing second fiddle to steam ovens, a relatively new appliance on the marketplace that uses top-of-the-line technology to inject food with moisture.
Not all steam ovens are created alike: most models on the market today fall into one of two categories: steam-only or combination/convection.
Think of steam-only ovens as stovetop steamers in oven form: they function at a maximum of 212°F and cannot be used to brown foods. These are often the least expensive on the market, but they’re also the least versatile.
Combination/convection ovens, meanwhile, allow users to either steam or bake/roast their food like in a traditional convection oven. They're by far the most versatile on the marketplace, and they're the ones we'll be profiling below.
We did research on a number of ovens, and while there are a few mid-range options on the market, none of them met our standards (yet!)
Before Buying a Steam Oven
Before buying a combination/convection steam oven, there are a few criteria to bear in mind. The first is space: many steam ovens are wall-mounted, taking the place of a traditional oven, though a few countertop models are available on the marketplace (including one we've profiled below).
Another thing to bear in mind is how the oven will be plumbed. Some steam ovens have their own water tanks, which may either be self-cleaning or will need to be cleaned periodically. Other models can be plumbed into your kitchen directly.
Steam ovens may also offer a variety of pre-programmed options, from presets to cleaning functions and more. We'll break these options down (and help you choose the best model for you!) below.
Best in Show: A Tie
Miele Combination Steam Oven
Miele is one of the leaders in steam oven technology, with multiple different models (and price points) on the marketplace today.
Reviewers especially love the reheating function of this model, which doesn’t dry out food the way a microwave or oven can.
- Two sizes: the XL measures 18x24 inches, while the XXL measures 24x24 inches
- Variable steam percentage options (up to 100 percent steam)
- Over 200 pre-programmed options for individual foods, menus, and more
- Easy-to-use touchscreen controls
- Plumbed and non-plumbed models available
Wolf Convection Steam Oven
Wolf steam ovens offer fewer pre-programmed options than Miele, but these easy-to-use models are great for beginners. They also boast a larger interior capacity (1.8 cubic feet to Miele’s 1.7) than most similar products on the market today.
- Compact 17 7/8x23 1/2 inches
- No ability to modify humidity manually (though the oven does adjust the humidity level itself according to the cooking temperature)
- Several gourmet mode pre-programmed options, albeit fewer than Miele
- No plumbed option; 90-minute tank capacity
- Vacuum seal drawer option for sous-vide cooking
High-End, Expert Option: Gaggenau BS484611 Steam Ovens
This premium steam oven brand is one of the most expensive on the marketplace, but it’s tough to beat its precision. Reviewers also love its sleek look and proprietary self-cleaning function.
- Measures 18x30 inches
- Exclusively plumbed models
- Varying humidity levels; sous vide, and broil option
- Fully self-cleaning using a proprietary product and process
- Customizable door hinge and control panel location
- Cooldown feature
- Touch-to-open door
Best Budget Option: Cuisinart Countertop Steam and Convection Oven
This countertop combination steam oven from Cuisinart doesn't require the space (or the funds) of some other models. Nevertheless, it gets the job done and is a great option for folks who want to try steam ovens without making a huge investment.
- Measures 18 x 15.5 inches
- 120-minute tank capacity
- Boasts a broil/grill function that can be combined with steam
- Lack of a fan in this model can sometimes make for uneven cooking as compared to wall-mounted models
- All options are timer-controlled
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