Two Ovens: Combi Steam + Electric OR Gas?

ChristyMcKApril 7, 2014

I am planning to get a 24" combi steam oven and a Lacanche range with one oven. The combi steam ovens I'm looking at (Miele, Wolf) max out temp at 450F. In addition to other feastures, the Miele can be a non-convection oven and a convection oven in addition to having a steam function. It also has a broiler but maxes out at 437F. We bake bread and roast a lot of meat and veggies and make braises but don't do much in the way of pastries or souffles which makes me think gas, but the gas oven on the Lacanche doesn't have a broiler.

So for the Lacanche oven, which will be our 'big' oven, would you go with
Door #1: an electric oven that goes to 500F, has a convection feature and a broiler that goes to about 700F, or
Door #2: A gas oven that goes to 550 with no convection and no broiler?

The appeal of gas is that we don't bake that much and I like the higher temp of 550F. The downside is not having a high heat broiler or convection. The appeal of electric is that it has a broiler and a convection feature so may provide more even heat when used. The downside of electric is that I'm not sure the drier heat is preferred given our cooking style. (Does anyone ever put a bowl of water in electric ovens to mimic gas ovens?) There is no difference in cost.

The steam oven can add moisture but I'm not sure it can mimic a gas oven - it should however function as a simple convection or electric oven. Thoughts? Which would you chose and why?

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I would go with electric in the main oven - for the better broiler and convection. Your steam oven will have a number of steam settings - one may be labeled 30% - which is the Gaggenau setting for closed system, meaning all the moisture generated by the food stays in the oven - that should be about the same moisture as a gas oven.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:24AM
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I keep saying this, but it's true. You can make any electric oven as moist or moreso as a gas oven by putting a ramkin of water inside. Not many people do it, however, because it really isn't that much dryer, especially without the convection fan on (the air movement can be drying to delicate stuff, but I've never noticed it with roasts). But you can also get the moist environment in the combi-. I have the Gaggenau combi-steam and single convection oven. I've heard before what Barryv said about 30% meaning it just doesn't vent the steam from the food, but the steam maker does cycle on and off, so I don't know if that's the whole story or what.

I roast veggies all the time in my big oven, and have made beautiful turkeys, and chickens, lamb roasts and broiled countless lamb chops. I don't have problems with things coming out dry. I've never used a Lacanche oven, but it's really baking where the electric oven is "better", and I've baked souffles and delicate, brioche style breads in the most impossible gas oven with no temperature regulation. Though, come to think of it, my one dry thing I made was a cake from that old gas oven, though that was due to it getting to hot, not the relative moisture inside.

And, of course, if you're braising, you're already putting moisture in the oven. If it evaporates, add more. :)

The decision that you've laid out is 550ð vs. 500ð with the bonus for less heat being broiling and convection.

What are you baking at 550ð? Some people do that for pizza, but I prefer 500ð. The Gaggenau has a different setup, though, and might not be comparable. From my recent experiments, I think pizza is about getting the moisture, yeast and gluten in the dough right and having a really great stone--and being willing to adjust the recipe if it doesn't come out just the way you want it the first time. I've done the same batch of dough on different days at 475ð, 500ð and 525ð, and they all came out fine. I really don't think temperature is nearly as important as the other factors, though that could easily be a difference between my dedicated stone with coil heating element that keeps it so similar, not the oven temperature.

So, what else are you baking that high?

I'd go with the broiler. There's nothing like a good broiler. I also will use a cast iron grill plate under the broiler to make it that much better.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:19PM
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Thanks for your input! Between the 30% comment and Pillog's comment that you can make an electric oven more like a gas oven with a ramekin of water (which I was wondering about!), it sounds like the electric oven gives more versatility.

I guess one thing I'm wondering is what do you use the high heat broiler for? I seem to only use it for pizza and the occasional browning of cheese or bread toppings. And I also have found that pizza without a broiler at 500-550 seems to do very well. I think our lack of broiler use is partly because, although we live in Seattle, we charcoal grill meat a few times a week year around. I guess the thing with having the high heat broiler is that if I ever wanted one, I'd have it!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 8:26PM
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I think while I was lost in the above overlong peroration, I lost track of the fact (which I do know) that the steam oven you're looking at has a broiler. Given that you use the grill for meats, you probably don't need a broiler that goes above 425ð. The main use for broiling at 500ð is shock and awe. Putting intense heat on a piece of meat to make a crust without cooking the inside very much. Or browning the tops of things. Making a crust on creme brulee, browning pizza if you make it so thin/wet that the crust is done long before the top. Etc. I use my broiler a lot, but rarely about 425ð which your other oven will do.

In the end, however, an oven is an oven, and a decent to good oven is an oven you can make anything in. I think you could choose either and be content.

edit: when you typo, it's exacerbated by copy & paste!

This post was edited by plllog on Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 3:36

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 9:24PM
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This may be a a hijack, but in my opinion, once you get above 600 degrees, the temperature for a pizza matters a lot, especially for whole wheat pizza. If you need that temp, or higher, you can get an inexpensive pizza oven , like a Blackstone Pizza Oven, and make truly incredible pizza. When I say inexpensive, I mean compared to a high end range. I agree that if you bake pizza at 425 to 525, or even 550 if you are using a stone, there is little to no difference at those temps. I have read that at 550 with a baking steel, just a sheet of thick steel you can get pretty god results, but I have not been able to try that in my oven.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 10:26PM
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"I think you could choose either and be content." Perhaps this is what make's it so hard to decide! :)

Never heard of a Blackstone Pizza Oven - per amazon, it looks very enticing for us pizza obsessed individuals. No better reason to hijack a thread than to discuss pizza. Haven't tried whole wheat - another reason to cook pizza. :0)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:51AM
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Gas ovens do produce water as a product of combustion, but most gas ovens are ventilated much more than electric ovens so the water is vented out along with heat(into the kitchen) making the oven "dry" heat. The dry heat promotes the Maillard reaction and therefore browning, and crispiness, so it is great for roasting. If you read some of the baking forums like Fresh Loaf, they have a hard time keeping the needed moisture in a gas oven for the first part of the baking time due to this increased ventilation. Some use a cast iron skillet with lava rocks in it, a cloche over the bread or even bring the oven to temperature, turn it off and plug the vent for the first part of the baking time to keep moisture in the oven.

Electric ovens are more of a closed system so they tend to hold onto the moisture from what you are cooking as well as added moisture. This increased moisture is beneficial for baking things that need to rise because it promotes starch gelatinization. For the last phase of baking bread and other things that rise, you are back to wanting dry heat so that what you are baking will brown. I read somewhere but can't remember where that one baker recommended briefly opening the oven door of an electric oven to let some humidity out and turning on the fan to help a cake to brown after it finishes rising. Now that is attention to detail! To me the electric oven with a convection fan is more versatile than gas because you can use the more humid environment for baking when beneficial, or the fan for its drying effect when roasting and some baking. They often tell you to turn down the heat when using the convection setting so maybe the 500F with the convection on is not too far off from 550F in the gas oven.

Of course you can use either one and they both will bake or roast, but for some people those differences will be important. I think the biggest one for me would be the heat and moisture coming into the kitchen in the summer. I think your steam oven will be great for bread because the humidity is controlled to be optimum for each part of the baking cycle.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:56AM
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Wow! I just learned a lot from Wekick! So the reality is actually flipped on its head from what we've always been told.

I haven't used a recent residential gas oven enough to know, but I do know my Gaggenau regular oven does retain a lot of moisture even though it vents a lot of air from the oven. That is, I can see the steam on the door, and when I open it, and I know that it's oven air and not just the instrumentation air that's being vented from things like cooking smells, and smoke by products that escaped the filters when I tried smoking in the oven (never again indoors!).

What I can say is that I've cooked in all kinds of ovens except that newfangled gas, and even baked in a commercial convection oven, and, while I haven't necessarily analyzed what I was doing, I have been able to adjust and make everything come out right. The difference, in buying a really fine appliance and using something jury rigged out of discarded parts is convenience and control. As long as you have that, you can make everything work out.

So, there are other pros to choosing gas: Lacanche is all valves, rather than circuit boards, right? Or I'm I mixing that up with La Cornue? Because the tech for the temperature sensor is really old and simple. Cuircuit boards can get fried. If the gas oven doesn't require electricity to work, if you can light it with a match if the electricity is out, that could be useful. (Some with electronic ignition allow manual lighting, some don't.) Assuming, that is, that you had what to cook without ruining the food in the fridge by opening it. An all gas range is usually a much simpler build, and therefore there's less interference between the burner system and oven, though I kind of doubt that's an issue with Lacanche. Um... I had some other good points but I started sneezing and they all flew out of my head.

Devil's advocate aside, I agree with Wekick's points about the versitility of electric, but you already have another fine electric oven going in, and you said you don't bake much and I can see you enjoying gas just for its primal nature.

Oh, crap! I just reread your opening yet again. I keep losing bits. The broiler goes to 700ð. I've read it four times before and it didn't register right. As a pizza maniac, how can you pass that up? Pizzeria ovens can go up to 900ð, but still... Even if you just used the gonzo broiler to heat up your stone to blazing and didn't actually broil the pizza, though a lot of folks are having success with a steel and a broiler...

I've been working on perfecting a whole wheat pizza recipe, and even though it's not quite there yet, it's all been better than restaurant pizza. :)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 4:02AM
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Wekick and Pillog: Thank you so much - this is all incredibly helpful. The explanation for the different experiences with the different types of ovens is really great. I agree that a convection adds versatility (as does the 700F broiler). And I like the idea that if I do want to 'mimic' a gas oven I can put a ramekin of water in it. Wekick, you were also so helpful when I was figuring out whether to go with a Lacanche or a Bluestar, re: heat conduction of pots/pans.

I haven't had luck making pizza at the highest temps with the broiler in our current electric oven which does get very, very hot (much hotter than all the gas ovens I've used in the past, though I'm comparing lots of cheap gas ranges in rentals to a 58-year old electric range so not sure how informative that is). But I love the idea of tinkering with using the broiler to heat the stone - haven't tried that.

Pillog, I don't think I can pass up the 700F broiler for that reason and because although I don't broil much I really like to keep my options open since I tend to be an adventurous cook. This dialogue has been useful in giving me the rationale for choosing the electric over gas. Neither electric or gas oven on the Lacanche will work in the case of an electrical outage but the burners would work. Between the burners and our ER home kit that includes bags of charcoal, we'd be set to survive.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:13PM
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Just thought I'd report back that we have decided on the electric oven - I just couldn't pass up the high heat broiler or convection. This is a done deal - we just placed our order for our Lacanche range. Very excited. Thanks again for your help with the decision making process! Now I just have to decide on the steam oven....

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:54PM
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So, now you don't have to consider which of the steam ovens has the better broiler. :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:04PM
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