Combi Steam Ovens – the best of both worlds
Combi Steam Ovens (or combination steam ovens), along with Steam Ovens, have caused a revolution in domestic kitchens over the past 5-10 years. They have become one of the must-have appliances for cooks who are serious about healthy cooking and preparing quality delicious food.
We looked at the benefits of Steam Ovens here in our previous feature, yet combi steam ovens have notable benefits over standard steam ovens, depending on your circumstances.
What are Combi Steam Ovens?
“Combi” is short for combination, as these ovens combine electric fan assisted (convection) and steam cooking. What are the advantages of the two? There are numerous advantages, actually, coming from each feature. Convection ovens cook faster than traditional ovens, which means faster food preparation (and lower energy use). They also tend to keep moisture in better than traditional ovens and cook more evenly. Steam ovens keep more nutrients in your food, keep its colour better, and eliminate the need for oil. Steaming also prevents cross-flavouring, so you can cook a salmon and a chocolate torte at the same time without getting a fishy dessert.
Combi steam ovens therefore bring together the benefits of steam ovens and traditional electric fan assisted ovens. Steam ovens are limited by the temperature of the cooking cavity – limiting their use for roasting and other high temperature cooking programmes. Combi steam ovens, on the other hand, allow cooking at high temperatures and combine this with the merits of steam cooking.
In other words, combi steam ovens enable chefs to cook food with high heat and moisture control efficiency. At 100% relative humidity, you will be able to cook with high heat without burning or excessively drying out food products. The true benefit of a combi oven is it controls the humidity inside its chamber. Thus, maintaining exactly the desired atmosphere, reducing shrinkage and weight loss while also improving cook times and results.
So How Do Combi Steam Ovens Work?
Simply put, it is a combination of dry electric heat countered by humidity introduced into the cooking cavity to create a hot humid cavity for better cooking results.
Electric heat is a dry form of heat, which traditionally causes the moisture on the surface of food to evaporate. This in turn causes juices in the food to migrate to the surface and dry. The cooking process results in shrinkage of foods as well as depletion of the nutrients in the food.
A combi steam oven, on the other hand, effectively counters this phenomenon by injecting pre-heated steam into the cooking cavity. This way, it saturates the hot air in the cavity and eliminates shrinkage of food whilst retaining nutrients in the food.
But Wait! There’s More…
Another issue with a traditional roast that uses electric heat is the retention of fats and oily deposits on the food’s surface. With combi steam ovens, the elimination of these added fats provides additional health benefits.
A combi steam oven can also be used as a full-fledged steam oven, in addition to a regular electric oven, making this a true multi-functional appliance.
So What Can You Cook In Combi Steam Ovens?
Typically steam ovens were considered suitable only for steaming vegetables. However, this is no longer necessarily the case. A good quality one allows chicken and fish to be cooked at temperatures of 100 degrees C. Our suppliers have even experimented and successfully cooked Victoria sponges in steam ovens. They can also be used for a variety of other functions including:
- Reheating food
- Dough proving
- Hard boiling eggs
- Sterilising bottles
- Skinning tomatoes
- and even sous vide cooking.
The possibilities are endless.
Basically, almost anything you cook in a regular oven, with the exception of maybe cookies, is likely to benefit from some added moisture. Some things work better than others but vegetables, most meats, fish, cakes and breads, grains, pulses and eggs are all things which regularly get cooked in combi steam ovens. And even if you’re just using the steam function, you’ll be surprised at how much you can do.
Here are some of the real benefits you will see:
- Roasts: more appetising dish, that is moist, tender and flavoursome.
- BBQ Chickens: retain their size so you finish with a larger, more appealing looking product with no pink meat around the bone.
- Cakes: rise more during the cooking process, and your cakes will have more moisture.
- Pastries: become lighter crispier fluffier
- Steaming: produce all your steam vegetables without any product degradation, no more overcooked product with the loss of nutrients or wastage.
- Poaching: cooking perfectly poached fish or delicate desserts every time.
If you’re thinking of remodeling your kitchen, consider a combi steam oven instead of a microwave. (You don’t need both.) You won’t need to run a water line to it either. Many models have a water reservoir that generates the steam without extra plumbing. That can save you money on your remodel, and give you flexibility in its placement. There are plumbed models, too, if you want that convenience. This eliminates the need to top up the water container constantly to generate steam, whilst at the same time building in drainage to take away waste water.
A quality combination steam oven will allow precise control of the level of humidity in the cooking cavity. This allows the cook to precisely control humidity levels to suit the type of food being cooked. And equally vary this depending on the desired effect you want for your food. An example of this would be a very low humidity to achieve a crackling or browning of meat.
Temperature probes allow precise control of the core temperature. Thus allowing the cook to stop the cooking process at the precise point when the food has reached the desired level of finishing. This provides for perfectly cooked food every time and eliminating guesswork on cooking time.
Are steam ovens harder to maintain? I wish I could tell you steam ovens require zero maintenance but I’d be lying (although Gaggenau’s plumbed, fully automatic cleaning model comes close).
The great thing about maintaining a combi steam oven is that a lot of your cooking will be ‘wet’. This means the oven won’t get as dirty as a regular oven. Baked-on grime just doesn’t happen that much, and the steam cleaning cycles mean you can soften up dirt easily to wipe off.
On the other hand, as with all appliances which use water, steam ovens need regular descaling. And if you have a tank model you’ll need to make sure you empty and clean the tank regularly. None of it is difficult, however. You just need to allow 15-30 minutes every so often to make sure everything stays in good working order. Most models will let you know when they require descaling. So you shouldn’t have to guess at whether it’s time to run the cycle.
Ultimately, combi steam ovens are a very useful and highly versatile kitchen appliance. They can provide tangible health benefits to your nutrition, whilst increasing the taste and finish of your food drastically. Here at Kitchens & More, we are authorised premium partners of Gaggenau and Miele, who offer top-of-the-range combi steam ovens.
To enquire more about the combi steam ovens you can buy and how they can fit within your new dream kitchen, come and pay us a visit or browse our inspiring gallery of kitchens in our website.