steam ovens

dzanerMarch 11, 2011

For the price, how useful are the steam ovens? I'm thinking of the Miele or the Gaggenau. Also, does the gaggenau in counter steamer serve the same function as the steam oven (discounting the convection ability of the oven)?

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Discounting the convection ability of the oven is a big discounting! There are a lot of things that I use my Gaggenau combi-steam for primarily as an oven but with a little steam to keep it moist.

The counter steamer is probably fine for small quantities of vegetables like one does daily. The oven holds a lot more. I bought extra full sized trays so that I can do multilevel when I'm cooking for dozens. Recently, I steam blanched a whole bundle of tiny asparagus in one pan by stacking a second row crosswise, instead of taking out a second pan, because I was really tired, and that worked fine. I don't know if you can do a whole bunch in the in counter unit at once.

I'm guessing it would be the same for steamed buns--mostly a matter of space. Next on my list of things to try is stuffed cabbage. I don't think they'd cook sufficiently on steam only, but the in counter steamer also wouldn't be big enough for a whole recipe, pushing one back to the old fashioned way with the big kettle. I was thinking that after steaming the cabbage rolls I could bake them in the combi-steam in the sauce, instead of putting them on the stove, too. But I haven't done it yet. You can probably poach fish or a chicken fillet in a counter steamer, but again, only a couple of portions at a time.

Obviously, you can't do roasts and breads in a counter steamer, though you might be able to do custards in ramekins.

Cleaning the combi-steam is pretty easy unless you make a big mess. I don't know about the in counter units.

How useful is it? It depends... I hate blanching the old fashioned way. Steam blanching in the combi-steam is dead easy. I hate using a steamer basket. Steaming in the combi-steam is dead easy. I haven't done eggs or rice yet because I forget to think of it.

"Regenerate mode" is super-fantastic. You put in a dinner plate with a meal laid out on it--cold leftovers from the fridge even--and put it on the rack, on the regenerate setting with a little heat, and in ten minutes or less you have a perfectly heated meal--no cold spots--where the veg aren't over cooked or weird, the meat is heated all the way through and tender, and nothing is petrified like happens in a microwave.

Plus, of course, it's a plain old oven. It holds a 2/3 sheet pan (the different nominal combi-steam oven sizes are just trim--the oven cavity only comes this size). They also sell 1/3 sheet pans. You pretty much have to take things out to check on them, if you're just cooking ordinary stuff, because the pans/racks are short end to the opening, but that's the only inconvenience. That, and cleaning the drain when something bubbles over (I've learned the hard way to put a solid pan on the lowest rack to prevent that.)

The combi-steam costs some people's entire appliance budget. It's not for everyone. It does a heck of a lot more than a plain steamer, whether oven shaped or in counter, but one could live really well without it. Since I hate blanching the old fashioned way so much, however, we'd be eating a heck of a lot less asparagus!

If you just want to steam a few portions of vegetables daily without setting up a steaming pot, the in counter steamer should be fine.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 3:31PM
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Thank you for your detailed reply. A few follow up things:
I've found that the best appliances start out replicating what other things do but then take on a life of their own and inspire creativity not possible with the original. Have you found that the steam oven has led you to do things you never would have done by steaming the conventional way or is it just convenient enough that you do things you might not otherwise bother to do?

Second, is the oven big enough to sub as an electric oven for baking things I don't want to bake in a gas oven (my main ovens)? I'm not a big quantity baker, just cakes, pies, sweet breads, cookies stuff.

Third, could I semi justify the purchase by skipping a warming drawer and using the steam oven instead?

Fourth, I have found the yummiest way to make asparagus is to roast it in the oven. I spray it lightly with a hand pump oil sprayer, toss to spread the oil around and bake on a pan in the oven. When checking for doneness I toss the spears around a little bit. Endless variations are possible such as seasoning the asparagus before cooking or roasting the spears with garlic or shallots.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 2:20PM
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Dzane, your asparagus sounds delicious--if it weren't asparagus. I might do that for company. Thanks! :) I hate cooked asparagus. The teeny weeny ones, blanched rather than cooked, are the exception. ;) In general, for daily use, I'd rather have steamed vegetables that just taste like themselves than add any oil or seasoning. I'll do the roast with a little oil thing for a "dish" rather than just veg for the sake of veg. We have excellent produce, so we eat a lot of raw or steamed veg and enjoy the natural flavors. That's something a steamer really helps with!

1) Yes, of course, one gets inventive. I can't really think of examples right now. Often, I'll come up with something to cook and I think, oh, I should zap some steam to it. I especially use it for things that I want to have cooked but not changed in texture.

Convenience is my primary use, a second oven is the secondary use. I like to keep a lot of finished vegetables around so they can just be grabbed out of the fridge. I also often cook for dozens so capacity is important. Like the gigantabird in the big oven and the meat in the combi-.

2) In my old kitchen, I baked all kinds of things in a dreadful gas oven with no temperature regulation. Unless your gas ovens are for meat and you don't want to kasher them, or if you're baking while dinner is cooking, I don't know why you wouldn't use them. You just have to pay a little attention while you're learning your specific ovens' peculiarities. People overstate the difference between gas and electric.

I haven't baked in the combi-steam. Anything that will bake on convection only should be fine, as long as it's not too big. Plus, there are things that you'd ordinarily need a bain marie for, that you can just turn on the steam for. The manual lists the following as examples with temperature and steam (or not) settings (these examples are for showing the different settings, not a complete list of what can be baked):

Apple tart
Swiss roll
Small flaky pastry cakes
Bread (2 lb)
Bread rolls (4 oz each)
Bread rolls (pre-baked)
Brioche (5 cups of flour)
Ring cake (yeast dough)
Fruit pie made with yeast dough
fruit tart
Sponge cake
Cream puffs
Onion pie

3) I do have a warming drawer (and need both it and the combi- at the same time). The combi-steam doesn't have a warming setting, per se, but it goes down to 85 degrees, which is good for plate warming (and apparently some kind of fish). There's no way a big ol' pizza box is going to fit. My big Pyrex does fit, barely. It's about 17" x 12". The 2/3 sheet pans that come with it are about 14"x12.5". There's about 8.5" of usable height. It's a small cavity. It holds a heck of a lot, given the size, but I think of it as a half size oven. So whether it would work for warming for you depends on the size of what you want to warm.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 4:24PM
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Hi Plllog, how many plates of food will fit in the steam oven at the same time for regeneration?

How long does it usually take you to steam vegetables and how many trays can you fit at once? We did homemade baby food for our first child (steam, puree and freeze large quantities), and it took so long to steam one kind at a time in our stove top steamer. I imagine the steam oven will speed the process (trying to convince DH I really need this extra gadget).

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 12:05PM
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Kaysd, The combi-steam is both oven and steamer, so that might also speed things along.

There are four rack positions in the Gaggenau, but the top one is just about at the top. I think it would be okay for steaming stuff that is shorter than the top of the pan (a lot of stuff is). I mostly use it for storage. I believe Gizmonike or another user said you can use half sheet pans from the restaurant supply, but they're shorter and won't fill the oven completely (only a problem for computing maximum usable space). The Gaggenau pans are really expensive. I planned for buying extras into the cost of the combi-steam (as if it wasn't expensive enough) so that I'd never want more, but only got three levels of each kind (total three racks, two of 2/3 size and two of 1/3 size each of solid and perforated pans (two of the 1/3 size can fit side by side)).

I've never tried four at once, but I imagine it would work. Certainly, if you were using it for sterilizing the containers, and they're short enough, you could do four. My hesitation that keeps me from doing a lot of stacked steaming is the condensed steam dripping from one perforated tray to the next and bringing flavors and juices with it. I don't know that that would happen, but the thought of it has me doing each vegetable separately, and I haven't found myself wishing for a fourth level. It goes so fast that by the time I have the next one prepped the first one is done (if there's a lot of prep, prep takes by far more time).

For regeneration, it would depend on the size of your plate and how tall your food is. You could probably achieve the same effect for more people by putting the various components flat in trays, regenerating, then dishing up when it's hot, saving you the room that the plates take up. Normal food on a normal dinner plate (slice or two of meat, or piece of chicken or fish, veg not in heap, starch not tall enough to hit next rack up), if you've bought extra racks, you could theoretically fit three in. You might be able to double that for salad sized plates. I've only done one. I don't know how having more in would affect the quality of the rewarm, if it got damp, etc.

For the baby food, if you really only need steam, you might also look at some of the other, less expensive, steam only ovens. Surely bigger than the countertop steamer. Just make sure you have enough grown-up uses to make a permanent fixture of it. I also don't know how something much less expensive, and portable, like the Sharp microwave steam oven might perform for you. It might be a good option.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 3:30PM
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I have just bought a gaggenau combi steam oven but since I haven't started my kitchen, it will be awhile before I can play with it. I have been wondering about defrosting in it. Do you use it to defrost? What kinds of things? Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:52AM
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I just had my Kitchenaid steam oven installed, and it is nothing short of fantastic. I know about all the past problems with the self destruct button, but short of that the oven is great for steaming, temperature is spot on. No complaints yet.

I will tell you this, regardless of brand, I am sold hook, line & sinker on the steam oven idea.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 7:36AM
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Carol, I haven't used the combi- to defrost very often, and it's been awhile. When I did, I thought it worked fine, but I don't remember any details. That was cooked chicken, and enchiladas frozen in the baking dish. I often remember to defrost things soon enough to do it in the fridge. Most of what I freeze are cooked foods, and bulk things like soup and spaghetti sauce. I think the combi- might work well on a turkey, but I always need the gigantabird that won't fit.

Pricepal, I'm glad to hear your experience with the KA. We had a member quite some time ago who loved hers, which was old.

The difference between the Gaggenau combi-steam and the KA, if I understand correctly, is that the KA is a full oven with "steam assist" (i.e., doesn't do steam only), whereas other steam ovens, like the Miele, are steam only with no ovening. The Gagg is oven or steam or both. Or something like that. I've always thought that the KA sounded like a great unit, especially for the price. Glad to hear someone else is enjoying it.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:50PM
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Oh, right. The other difference is that the Gaggenau lets you choose 0, 30, 60 or 100% steam, and the others are all on or all off.

I do use 30% often. Not so much 60%. But I think if I couldn't have the Gaggenau, I'd choose the KA and be very happy with it.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:52PM
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Thanks Plllog. I'm kind of a last minute "what will we have for dinner?" person. No doubt I'll figure it out once the kitchen is done. Now, I'm trying to decide on whether or not I can live with out a microwave. Or whether I should buy a speed oven which is multi functional. How many ovens does one need!!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 8:38PM
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We use our Gagg combi-steam just about every day -- it's one of the most useful appliances in our kitchen & one I would truly miss. We roast veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or brussels sprouts in it a lot: drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, 380-400 degrees & 30% steam for about 20 minutes. We steam veggies a lot, and it makes a nice large pan of fluffy rice. The combi has timers and timed-controls, making it more convenient & controlled than cooking on a stovetop. We use the combi whenever we have a small baking job that we don't want to heat up the regular oven for, but it can hold a 9x12 casserole dish, baked with zero steam. It has a temperature probe, great for roasting meats to the perfect interior temperature, and a bit of steam keeps it moist. We steam baby back ribs as a prelude to finishing them off on the outside grill. I too purchased extra full & half pans, which were expensive but dramatically increased the useful load of the Combi. Our Combi is 4 years old & we've had no service issues. I don't use the Combi for defrosting, but love the reheating feature that Plllog described.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:13PM
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Sounds wonderful gizmonike! Having mine sit in the garage while I dither about my floor plan is killing me. Hopefully, it will be the inspiration to get this kitchen on the go.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 10:34PM
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