One for (almost) all
Steaming, blanching, stewing, heating, defrosting, baking, regenerating, keeping warm, sterilising, sous-vide cooking – the steam oven’s display with all its functions reads like a cookery textbook. We explain what a steam oven can do and what each function is used for.
A steam oven can be used like a steamer. It allows food to be cooked at low temperatures in steam, or steamed for a short time. Be it vegetables, fish or meat – the food is prepared in a healthy and tasty way, retaining its flavour and nutrients. The benefit: You don’t need any fat or salt as a flavour carrier, or at least much less, compared to cooking in a pot. Because there is no flavour transfer during steaming, it is also easy to cook several courses at once on different levels of the steam oven.
A professional usually blanches vegetables before freezing them. This means that they put the vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes and then immediately rinse them in ice-cold water. Blanching prevents colour and flavour changes caused by freezing. This also means that the food retains more vitamins. The blanching programme of the steam oven makes the whole process even faster. Everything is usually done in two minutes. Simply place the vegetables in a perforated cooking container in the steam oven, press the blanching function, remove from the oven after one to two minutes and allow to cool quickly in ice water.
In stewing, the food is gently cooked in its own juice. A little liquid such as water can be added in very small quantities. The food itself loses water in the process: A stock is formed which can serve as an aromatic basis for sauces. Stewing vegetables, fish, meat, fruit or even risotto rice is particularly easy in the steam oven. Important: Place the food to be stewed in the steam oven in a cooking container without holes.
A steam oven can be used like a “normal” oven. It has the usual baking functions such as hot air, top and bottom heat, top heat only or bottom heat only. Sometimes a grilling function is also included. The appropriate programme can be set depending on the food to be baked. Pizzas, biscuits or choux pastry, for example, turn out nice and crispy with hot air. For more delicate baked foods that can only tolerate a mild heat such as a soufflé, it is better to bake with top and bottom heat.
Climate cooking: Furthermore, a steam oven can also bake with a burst of steam or the addition of moisture. This is also known as climate cooking. Depending on which dish you have previously programmed, the appliance automatically sprays steam into the cooking chamber at predefined intervals. This makes many things turn out better than in a conventional oven without steam, because the food does not dry out. Bread, for example, acquires a much crispier crust, puff pastry becomes more airy and meat juicier.
Reheating or regenerating
Reheating food in a steam oven is often referred to as regenerating. Anyone who has ever reheated leftovers from the previous day using a steam oven or steamer knows why. This is because the steam, which is about 90 to 95 degrees, gently heats up the food and it tastes as if it has been freshly cooked. This is even the case with pasta or couscous: Heating up in the microwave doesn’t compare!
What applies to reheating also applies to defrosting frozen food. It defrosts gently, quickly and evenly under steam. A high-quality steam oven has a special defrosting programme that warms up the frozen food at around 60 degrees. Discolouration or even cooking of the food is a thing of the past. If you want to cook the food immediately, you can steam it straight from the freezer, fridge or cool box.
Disinfecting or sterilising
A steam oven is also very well suited for disinfecting baby bottles and dummies. To do this, the bottles are disassembled into their individual parts, placed in a perforated cooking container and simply sterilised with hot steam in the steam oven using the appropriate programme. This function is also ideal for frequently used kitchen utensils such as cutting boards or preserving jars. As a result, time-consuming boiling is no longer necessary.
Keeping the finished food warm without overcooking it – a steam oven can also do that, and there are special programmes that automatically set the right temperature. Because of the steam, there is no danger of the food drying out.
The sous-vide preparation method, which used to be reserved mainly for professional kitchens, is now also being introduced in private kitchens thanks to steam ovens. If the appliance has a corresponding sous-vide function, the amateur chef can “dabble” at home like they do in star-rated gastronomy. Simply place the food in a vacuum bag or plastic bag, seal it airtight and place it in the steam oven. Because the flavour cannot escape from the bag, sous-vide cooked meat, fish and vegetables have a more intense taste than those prepared using other cooking methods. In addition, the food absorbs the flavour of added spices more effectively.
Most steam ovens have a special automatic cleaning programme that softens food splatter and grease inside the appliance via the steam function. Even stubborn residues are softened in this way. The dirt can then be removed easily with a cloth. The appliances also have to be descaled from time to time. But most steam ovens have their own descaling programme for this, too, which should be used when the appliance signals that descaling is required.