What Is a Steam Oven—and Do I Need One?

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What is a steam oven? It's a regular oven with a small compartment that you fill with water to create steam.

If you happen to visit someone’s house after a kitchen remodel or rent an Airbnb, look closely at the oven. You might find a small compartment to pop open in the top corner. Not all ovens have this compartment—it’s a rare find. It means you’re looking at a steam oven!

What Is a Steam Oven?

It looks like a standard oven, but cooks food with steam, not hot air. You can pair it with a convection oven for the ultimate appliance artillery, because there’s nothing that you can’t do when you have both options on hand. But some loyal fans completely replace the standard oven with a steam oven for several reasons. Because it cooks with steam, a steam oven keeps all foods moist, locking in nutrients and flavor while canceling out the need for extra fats and oils. (It’s kind of like cooking sous vide, but in an oven, not in a water bath.)

A steam oven cut down cooking time while still having all of the baking and roasting functions that a convection oven does. Some people also find a steam oven more efficient when it comes to reheating leftovers and use it in place of a microwave.

What Is That Compartment on the Oven?

Most steam ovens have a refillable tank that you fill with water, which is a small compartment that pops out near the top of the oven. It heats up in a boiler, and then gets dispersed as steam to cook your dinner. Some high-end models can be directly hooked to a water line, negating the need for refills.

If you stick with the refillable model, all you’re required to do is add some water every now and then. Otherwise, the steam does all the work!

Do I Need a Steam Oven?

This all comes down to personal preference. If you don’t use your current oven much anyway, it might not be worth an appliance upgrade, since steam ovens are not cheap. Most models start at over $2,000.

If you love to spend time in the kitchen and are ready to make the investment, then why not? You’ll save time when it comes to cooking, cut calories and end up with moist, flavorful meals—all because your oven let off a little steam.

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.