Once the purvey of commercial kitchens and professional chefs, the benefit of cooking with steam is perhaps one of the finest trade secrets for aspiring home cooks to discover.
By Mark Eglington
The good news: Thanks to the latest, most advanced design and technology, it’s now much easier for even beginners to up their gourmet game in the kitchen. With the simple addition of good-quality steam from a well-designed and engineered European steam oven, everything will look and taste better.
After all, food cooked in a steam oven holds its moisture content, which means it retains more nutrients, vitamins and minerals while at the same time keeping its natural colour to look fresher and tastier. Far more satisfying than boiling your food, using a steam oven is simply a healthier cooking option for day-to-day family meals, and provides a wow factor when entertaining.
The science of steam
Steam ovens have a reservoir that you need to fill with water before you start cooking. Depending on the model you purchase, this reservoir may need to be filled manually, or it can be hooked up to your home’s plumbing so that there is always water ready for steaming. Special heating functions in the oven turn the water into steam.
Some convection ovens offer the versatility of an added steam feature for nutritious cooking. Convection ovens use fans to propel the heat around the inside of the oven and digital sensors to seamlessly determine how much steam or dry heat is needed. This ensures that your meal is cooked quickly and evenly.
Dried out no more
Home cooks now have access to the same high-performance and reliable combinations that the pros have had for years. Steam offers a healthy cooking option, while the convection mode allows for higher temperatures, even cooking throughout the oven cavity and browning to perfection for the best-quality cuts of meats.
Roasted vegetables, meat and fish will all retain their moisture, nutrients and colour while cooking more evenly in a steam oven. And biscuits, cakes and pastries will bake better in a steam oven because the added moisture will prevent crusts from cracking.
Better with steam
Another plus: Steam ovens are easy to clean because the moisture prevents foods from baking onto the sides of the oven walls.
Reheating leftovers is again better with steam, as they are warmed up evenly and prevented from drying out, often giving the same
flavour, texture and colour as if just cooked. This provides far superior results versus standard microwave reheating. Frozen foods can be defrosted quickly and safely using a steam oven as well. Thawing is faster than in the fridge, safer than on the countertop and more even than in the microwave.
Canning and bottling are easier and safer in a steam oven, since there is no dangerous boiling water to contend with. And steam is actually hotter than boiling water, so jars and bottles are sterilized in one step in the oven.
Recipes that require blanching are a specialty feature and work even better in a steam oven. Blanching softens cell walls before freezing, which helps to preserve both the colour and nutrients of fruits and vegetables. Steam blanching is faster and more convenient than using boiled water, because three large sheet trays can hold more than boiling in batches on the stovetop.
Finally, professional cooks often steam foods before juicing to release more juice.
Engineered to integrate seamlessly into your kitchen environment, steam ovens allow home chefs to choose from a wide variety of dishes and cook them in the healthiest way.
AEG, Porter & Charles and SMEG all have a variety of steam oven options, and you can find a collection of tips and recipes in the AEG Taste Hub.
Visit aeg-appliances.ca for more information.
Mark Eglington is the son of a South African who taught him how to sell the very best European appliances to Canadians. He grew up in Oakville, got his MBA in Australia and, along the way, interned at the Liebherr factory in Germany.