Convection Steam Cooking is a super hero: it brings together two powerful cooking techniques: Convection Cooking and Steam Cooking. Let’s take a look at each, and how they work together:
Convection Ovens circulate the heat with a fan to produce a more even heat in the oven cavity. It keeps the temperature inside the oven steady, thus eliminating hot spots. The circulation of the air also transfers heat faster to the food (when cooking or baking in the oven).
Steam Ovens cook with the vapor from heated water. These ovens have a reservoir that must be filled with water at all times. The water is pulled from the reservoir and heated by a built-in heating element. Just enough water is pulled from the reservoir, turned into steam, and then vented into the oven cavity. Cooking food with steam is the fastest cooking method other than pressure cookers (which is when the container is pressurized to get the steam and contents very hot, thus cooking very fast). Steam is also the most economical way to cook because it uses minimal water and less energy with less cooking time.
One of the main benefits of preparing a meal with steam is retaining the nutrients in the food. Many people who buy a steam oven base their decision solely on the health benefits from cooking with steam. Nutrients are retained in the food because the moisture content is retained. The moisture in the oven cavity helps hold the moisture in the food where as in a conventional oven, the whole idea is to remove moisture, thus losing a great deal of vitamins and other nutrients.
Convection Steam Ovens bring the two together to create a super hero! Steam ovens on their own cannot brown foods. Convection ovens cannot retain the moisture. Combine the two modes and you have moist, browned food to perfection. Imagine a crusty bread with soft airy center, and browned succulent chicken, and fast-roasted crispy home fries, and warm soft gooey yet toasted garlic bread. Breads, bagels, and pastries can be proofed, baked and crisped. Extra oil and fat aren’t needed to keep food juicy.
There are several Convection Steam Ovens (CSO) on the market, at different price points and cooking options:
- some CSO ovens have only convection and steam
- few CSOs have convection and steam and a broiler
- few CSOs have convection and steam and a microwave
The Pros and Cons of steam cooking
Here are excerpts from Harold McGee’s book “On Food and Cooking,” a trusted source for cooking science:
PRO: “Steam is by far the fastest method for pouring heat into food, thanks to the large amount of energy that water vapor releases when it condenses into droplets on the food surface.”
CON: “Though it heats meat by means of moisture, steaming does not guarantee moist meat.”
Source: On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee; Scribner; 2004; page 164.
PRO: “Steaming is a good method for cooking vegetables at the boiling point, but without the necessity of hearing a whole pot of water, exposing the food directly to turbulent water, and leaching out flavor or color or nutrients.”
CON: “It [steaming] doesn’t allow the cook to control saltiness, calcium cross-linking or acidity (steam itself is slightly acid pH 6, and plant cells and vacuoles are also more acid than is ideal for chlorophyll)….
…and evenness of cooking requires that the pieces be arranged in a single layer, or that the pile be very loose to allow the steam access to all food surfaces. Steaming leaves the food tasting exclusively of its cooked self, though the steam can also be aromatized by the inclusion of herbs and spices.”
Source: On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee; Scribner; 2004; page 286.