Are Steam Ovens worth it?

HomeCookAustinJanuary 30, 2013

I'm trying to compliment my 36" gas oven with a smaller electric oven in my kitchen remodel. One option is to get a steam oven, which came onto my radar after reading "Modernist Cuisine" and their proclamation that combi steam ovens are the most useful kitchen appliance ever invented, and their expectation that humidity controls will become commonplace on home ovens.

Only they haven't. There are expensive steam ovens from high end vendors like Viking, Gaggenau, and Meile. A couple of countertop versions from Cuisinart and Electrolux. And there isn't really all the much discussion on them, if they are really so useful. A few folks here and elsewhere, mostly talking about bread making.

I understand the value of humidity control, but before I invest several thousand dollars for a built in steam oven, I want to make sure they are really really that good. There are other ovens offering "steam assist" (presumably a less automated or accurate system). Or I can just stick with water pans and spray bottles and get a combination microwave / convection oven instead and get the microwave off my countertop.


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HomeCookAustin: I put in the Gaggenau Combi in 2006. Honestly, I did a good bit of research and my remodel was definitely around where I would put this in the wall, and still have at least a 30" oven. I opted for the 36" wolf DF and the combi. I have no regrets! I use the combi daily (when we are home). It is my go-to oven for almost everything! Because the plumbing is integrated, there is no labor of adding water, etc...just open it up, turn the dials and go. It heats up really quickly. I have cooked turkeys side-by-side in the combi and the Wolf. The only downside is the cleaning. I use Easy Off overnight (cold) a few times per year. I know it is not recommended, but baked on crud comes off with a sponge after the Easy Off. I have used it for baking pastries, like cream puffs and it is perfect! I am attaching, if I can, a picture of the popovers I made at Christmas. They were perfect, but excuse the glass door! I use it for roasting, braising, and it is great for fish (poached and baked). I would buy a new one tomorrow if mine's a workhorse!

1 Like    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 7:39PM
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Just want to say - I love popovers and those look incredible!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 9:02PM
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I was one of the first people I knew to buy a microwave - it was extremely expensive, and it took a while to figure out how to use it - the first time I used it, we filled a glass bowl with water and carrots, and when I opened the door after the suggested time, the carrots were still cold. Only later did I realize I should have just put in the carrots on a plate. I think the same is true now of combi steam ovens - they are very expensive, and there is not much shared knowledge about how they work. One benefit of combi steam is you usually have the option to vary the amount of steam so that the dish comes out with the right amount of moisture. Also, steam conveys heat more quickly than dry heat, so it can be quicker. I have made whole turkey's using steam and heat in about an hour, and it came out really moist. The combi is also the best thing to reheat most foods - it won't get all dried out. Another benefit is the oven cavity is usually between 1 to 2 cubic feet , which is somewhere between 20% of 40% of a regular 30 inch oven, so it heats up much quicker, and you use less electricity to run it. Until the price comes down to a reasonable range, it is unlikely there will be mass acceptance, and until more of them get into people's home, there won't be a ton of info on how to use them. Those of us that have combi's use them as a primary oven, not just for baking bread. Tonight I made a pork roast, tomorrow I will be steaming shrimp and spinach. I can't say they are worth $3,000 or more, but in my opinion, they are easily worth $500 more than a standard sized electric oven. The Thermador combi lists for about $300 more than the standard Thermador - though the combi is 1.4 cubic inch, and the regular is 4.7, to me I would go with the combi assuming I had a range with a full sized oven. Hopefully we will see the regular manufacturers begin to offer them with a similar premium over the standard oven soon.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 9:23PM
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Good points, Barryv. Admittedly, I didn't have a strict budget when we remodeled, and I was intrigued by the unique cooking options I read about here and in my research. The Gag combi is expensive in relation to other wall ovens, but it is by far the best bang for my buck(my personal "consumer best buy"). I just popped it on this morning to keep the french toast hot and moist while kids came down to eat. For almost 7 years it has been integrated into our daily meal prep from tossing a carton of eggs in to steam for HB eggs to a prime rib roast. My recommendation is to ignore the price in "comparison" to other wall ovens, as they are definitely not in the same price range. However, if you do cook a lot, and you can afford it in the remodel, then I strongly recommend putting it on your list! It is worth the splurge.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 7:02AM
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I have the Gaggenau steam oven, and I love it. It wasn't in my initial remodel ideas, but it has been a welcome addition to my kitchen. Like others, I use it as my go-to oven. Instead of getting double ovens, I made my steam oven into my second overn.

It's great for re-heating and baking, but I've gotten more skilled at using it for meats and veggies.

One thing I love is that the Gaggenau is plumbed. A friend of mine has a Miele and says she rarely uses it because she says she gets water everywhere when she uses it. Think carefully about your own habits, neatness, and location if you don't do a plumbed unit. I can see how a non-plumbed unit would work out just fine, but it could be messy depending on how you cook. Take a look at several ovens and try to see them in action.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 9:32AM
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I had the Gagg 24 for years and used it for everything from cooking ribs to chicken and from proofing bread to steaming veggies. We did also have a 30 slide in for roasting large amounts of veggies for stock or making pizza. I say had because we recently moved. Lucky for me I am remodeling my new kitchen and the very first thing I am buying is another 24" Gagg plumbed steamer. As "decolisa"mentions, I too know folks who have non plumbed versions and do not use them because they are a pain to clean and can smell. I am doing what "redoing it" did... Putting in the wolf 36.

I suggest that if you want the gagg (or any other appliance) to check the stores to see if they will sell the floor model or if there is a clearence area. We just picked up a brand new gagg 24 combi for 4500 bucks. They also had an 8k 36" gagg oven for sale for 3500. I got the extended 5 year on the steamer.. We also picked up a gagg 24 whole fridge and 24" freezer for 1/4 of the price of new.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 2:48PM
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Five4me - how did you cook the ribs? I am a big fan of baby back pork ribs, I have tried straight steam, and steam with convection, but have not been thrilled with the results yet.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 2:52PM
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I can get an older model cheap. Is there a reason I should pay $7400 for a new one vs

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Steam ovens are great if they also have convection heat and are plumbed. The gagg combi is the appliance I am most looking forward to in my new kitchen. I agree with the PP that the model has not really changed that much and you can find an older model on ebay or craigslist for thousands cheaper. The size also does not matter. Even the 30in gagg is only 24in on the inside.

Read in the appliances forum. I don't know about the wolf oven or Miele. Gagg has had the comni for the longest time.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 4:50PM
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HomeCook, what is the finish on the older Gaggenau? Any warranty?

If you call Gaggenau with the serial number, they can tell you what year it was made. I got an unused floor model (never connected), which turns out was more than 10 years old. No warranty. Fired up fine. It has an aluminum finish -- stainless would have looked better in my kitchen.

If you don't go plumbed, the Wolf seems like a good option. IIRC, it has a bit more room inside than the Gaggenau or Thermador.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 5:14PM
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The Aluminum finish. Which I realize doesn't look exactly the same as the Stainless ones to match other stainless appliances, but that's what's out there.

Apparently these old units have been clearing out for several months. But, frankly, if not that one, then I cannot afford 7.5 -8k for a new one. It would be the Wolf if anything.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 5:33PM
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I bought one of the older models on clearance, and I haven't had problems in the year since my remodel. Before buying, I spoke with Gaggenau about the older models and the customer service reps said they didn't see any reason why there would be a problem. They assured me being in the box a couple of years wouldn't affect the functionality. Besides, Gagg has a great parts and serviceing even for discontinued models.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 6:02PM
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I ordered it. Its in aluminum but then my refrigerator is brushed nickel and I've never minded it, so I don't see any difference in finishes being an issue for me.

It may be an older model but given I could buy several of these for the cost of a new one (which are crazy expensive; I wonder how many they sell), I can afford to try it and not be too badly off if it doesn't work out.

Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Redoing it...please post your popover recipe.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Popover recipe:

Makes about a eight popovers
6 eggs
2 c. whole milk
2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 t. salt
6 T.unsalted butter, softened
2 T. meltedunsalted butter for greasing ramekins or muffin pan
To Make the Popovers: Preheat your oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit/NO steam. Melt two tablespoons of butter and baste a muffin tin with it or eight ramekins. Grease well! Beat your eggs and milk together in a small bowl. In a separate medium sized bowl add your flour and salt.
Work butter into flour until adequately combined. Gradually add flour mixture to milk and egg and blend with a wire whisk.
Scoop the batter into each muffin cup or ramekin, about 3/4 full. The more full, the higher and more puffy your popover will be (I normally fill to about 1/8" below lip. If you are using ramekins, you will want to place them on a cookie sheet and then put the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes for a crispier outer shell, and moist interior, until golden. Open your oven and gently poke each popover with the tines of a fork. Turn the oven off, leaving the popovers inside for 5 more minutes. Take out of the oven and gently release each popover using a butter knife to separate any stuck bits until they pop out.
Serve warm with butter or gravy poured over the top.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:44AM
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Barryv: I do babyback ribs this way: Cook them for about 30 mins at 300 degrees/100% steam. I like wet ribs, so this is when I baste the sauce on tops and bottoms. I cook them tops up, then flip over, then flip back one more time and baste the final time. My cooking time is usually about 75 minutes. I prefer them on the grill outside, but my family loves them in the combi, and the combi makes it a convenient meal for inside year round. I usually cook them in the perforated pan above the solid pan. When we've had company, I put the rack on top with ribs, the perforated unde it with ribs, and the solid pan on the bottom. I typically cut them in sets of 3 ribs prior to cooking.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:57AM
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Redoing it--thanks for the popover recipe.

Do you cook the ribs at 100% steam 300 degrees the whole time or just the first 30 minutes? Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 12:44PM
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Redoing, thanks for the info - same question, do you leave it on full steam the whole time, or just the first 30 minutes. I tried full steam, can't remember the temp but they were cooked in about 45 minutes, but not very tender.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:43PM
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Let me start this reply with the following statement. "I don't like to cook and don't like to clean-up, but I love to eat!" If there is an easier, tastier, way to get to the eating part I am all for it.

Are steam ovens worth it? Yes! Yes! And a thousand times yes! If you are type of person that doesn't want to take the time to embrace this new type of cooking, (trust me; it isn't that difficult to learn) don't waste your money.

On the other hand, it's fantastic for reheating leftovers and restoring them to the original state of deliciousness. The convection steam oven can cook a pizza from frozen to finish in about the same time it would take you to pre-heat a standard oven. Would you be interested in cooking an 18 lb. turkey in 1-hour, 15-minutes. (See the Sub-Zero & Wolf Facebook page for November 2012). This past Easter I cooked raw frozen shrimp (12-minutes) and hard boiled eggs (20-minutes) in the steam oven at the same time. Veggies? stupid easy. Convection steam ovens also do a fantastic job for beef roasts and pork roasts too. How about a nifty dessert? Phyllo wrapped ice cream? Yep, it can do that as well. Really well.

There are two food items that don't do well in the steam oven. Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn, reheating coffee & water for tea. Even with theses exceptions it is still worth it.

The picture that you see is my first attempt to make a Raspberry Sour Cream Sweet Bread. And yes, it was yummy. When an appliance instills confidence in the user there are no limitations as to what you can create. I am a huge convection steam oven fan convert. Good luck with your decision.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 10:58PM
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Barryv and red lover: yes, I keep the same 300/100 settings the entire time. I have tried upping the temp and turning off the steam for about 10 minutes in an effort to copy what I might get on the edges if on the grill, but it was not too noticable. It takes longer than 45 mins to make them tender. I don't like my ribs to be falling off the bone, but I like them to slide off when eaten and 75 mins usually does the trick. I have tried basting them only once, so I didn't have to tend to them, but I like the sauce a bit thicker, so I apply again.
GLB Guy: that's a nice sweet bread you made! I feel the same way you do about the oven. It has opened the door to easy indoor possibilities. I buy the large raw Atlantic prawns at Trader Joes and steam for 8 minutes. I get rave reviews due to the nice fresh flavor and crunchy texture. Never will I buy them precooked again!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:23AM
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I've had the Gaggenau combi oven since 2006 - bought it off ebay for $2200 and have not regretted it (2002 model in anthracite). My husband and I agree that we could live with this one oven only. I have ribs cooking as I write this. Besides everyday cooking, I use the oven for canning. Great for sterilizing jars and the hot water bath. Makes fabulous bread. My only issue was having to experiment so much - not much info out on how to use it. Keep getting trial and error is the best teacher. Besides the Gagg cookbook, anyone find a cookbook they like?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 3:35PM
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Your popovers look tremedous. Reading the recipe it appears you do not use any steam during cooking - is that correct?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:22AM
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    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 3:37PM
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Has anyone made redoing it's popover recipe? If so, did you steam?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 8:20AM
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I've had a steam oven for about a year (Thermador). I would say for serious foodies, gourmet cooks and adventurous epicureans, they're probably worth it. For more pedestrian, everyday cooks looking for convenience, speed and simplicity, maybe not. You need to take the time to learn how to use it, figure out what works well and what doesn't, and consciously plan meals around getting its benefits. For my purposes, I can get good enough results with a basic oven and microwave and it's easier for me. I think the biggest downsides are the cost, maybe reliability (we don't know yet) and the cleaning, it's a pain.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 9:31AM
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question 1. For the poster that does "eggs in the carton." Do you mean, literally putting the whole thing of eggs in the carton to "hard cook" them?

question 2. Has anyone tried the Cuisinart 300 combo-oven?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:29PM
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I am remodeling a kitchen in a house we have purchased and get to redesign a new kitchen, yeah! I currently have a wolf 36" cooktop and 2 wolf ovens....the new kitchen will have the 36" cooktop (worth every penny) but not the wolf ovens.....I wanted a steam oven but wasn't, I bought the Cuisinart table top version for $299.00 on sale at William Sonoma for a trial run to see if I liked it......we love it. Both of us cook and the steam oven is the go to oven....interesting when I have $8000 in wolf ovens sitting next to the Cusinart....I am going to wait on buying the more permanent steam oven to see what happens with the technology in the next year..but there will definately be a space for a steam oven.So, if you are not sure try the Cusinart and you can use it as a spare small oven or instead of a microwave.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 10:53PM
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My sister gifted me with the cuinsart comb-oven and we also love it!!! Thanks for the feedback.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 11:34PM
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Pubdog - did you not like your Wolf ovens?

1 Like    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Does it really heat a hamburger almost as good as a freshly prepared one?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:52AM
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Our Wolf steam oven reheats things a million times better than a microwave ever did. The steam injected to the oven by the Wolf during the "Reheat" mode helps to evenly reheat everything. We love it for reheating, and it is our go-to oven in the kitchen, even over our Wolf L-series.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:56AM
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A hamburger must be the hardest thing ever to heat as if fresh. If you mean heat up because it cooled down a bit before you could eat it, then yes, I think my Gaggenau combi-steam oven could do it, but I'm not so sure if it has gone cold. Weird stuff happens to a hamburger when it cools. When the juices have had a chance to run out, or just settle, it's never going to be just like fresh again.

Having said that, I've seasoned, seared off and partially cooked hamburger patties that I knew were going to be used later, and then steam heated them when it was time to use them, and I've been pleased enough with the results. Drier than freshly prepared for the reasons I stated, but still in the range of good to eat.

If you want to reheat a refrigerated hamburger sandwich, complete with bun, condiments, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, the only way I'd think it would even be possible is on the regenerate cycle in the combi-steam, or the equivalent on another model steam oven. Barely above keep warm temperature and intermittent steam to freshen but not soak the whole. It might heat better if it were opened up. I haven't tried this, but it would probably work okay. I can't imagine it would be just like fresh, though. The wet would have soaked into the bun and out of the burger, for a start. A steam oven is great, but there are certain miracles you need a deus in the machina to effect.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Does anyone have a review for the Miele combo steam oven DGC 6800XL. I have ordered one here in Australia, but there seems little to find for independent reviews apart from the Miele websites.
Regards and Thanks

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 12:46AM
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mjocean....sorry for the DELAY! No steam at all on the popovers. You can use any oven, but mine always cook better than my sister's in her wall oven for some reason, same recipe also. I even purchased pans like mine for her, not the same!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2014 at 12:18PM
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