In Finland, they have a saying “there’s more than one way to roast a reindeer.” Although reindeer meat isn’t a common dish away from the northerly-most Arctic communities, it’s an apt little phrase for the modern kitchen, wherever you happen to be.

Take anything you wish to roast, and you are spoilt for choice with regards to how to do it these days. There are so many different cooking appliances out there.

One such example is the steam oven. Most of us will have heard of steamers - those tall contraptions that are designed to help you stop boiling your Sunday vegetables to a grey mush - but a steam oven? How does that work?

Before anyone gets any elaborate visions of cooking machines powered by steam engines, steam ovens do, in fact, work in a very similar way to an old-fashioned steamer, using the heat from steam to do the cooking. The main difference is capacity - steam ovens come in the size and shape of a standard oven, which means you can fit a lot more into them.

More often or not, you will find a steam oven setting as one of several options as part of a multi-function unit, along with conventional and convection functions.

Cooking on steam

But what is the difference between all three, and how does the steam part work? A standard oven cooks by making the air trapped inside the unit hot. This is fine, but conventional ovens do not produce consistent heat throughout. Hot air naturally rises, and the closer you get to the heat source, the hotter it gets. This makes it easy to burn some things while other food in the same oven is still undercooked.

Convection ovens solve this with the addition of a simple fan - hence the term ‘fan-assisted’ - which circulates the hot air more evenly around the unit. Again, this is great, it speeds up cooking times and gives a nice consistent temperature which helps to produce better quality roasts and baked goods. But the downside is that all that hot air circulating can easily dry out your food.

That is where steam comes into its own. By adding a container or reservoir of water to the oven, when it heats up, it fills with steam instead of hot air.

Great, I hear you say - but who needs to steam two or three shelves full of vegetables at a time? Well that is where the word needs to get out about steam cooking. It is far, far more versatile than most people think. Put simply, anything you can cook in a conventional oven, you can also cook using steam. All you are doing is switching the cooking medium from hot air to hot water vapour. And this also has several advantages.

Steam carries heat more efficiently than air, which means a steam oven delivers a more consistent temperature without the need for a fan and also cooks faster. Steam also avoids the risk of your food drying out, which also prevents burning. Another advantage is that it is thought the moisture helps to lock-in more nutrients, making steam cooking healthier - plus, you don’t have to douse food in fat like you do with a traditional roast.

Of course, there are times when we all want a little extra crunch - roast potatoes with the outsides crisped to perfection in hot oil, a roast joint with crackling - which is why it is common to see steam ovens available in combination varieties. Why not pack as many options as possible into a single unit?

Whichever type of oven you opt for, don’t forget to guard against any mishaps with’s fantastic value appliance insurance, starting at just £1.49 a month!

*The information in this blog is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. Please seek a professional for expert advice as we can not be held responsible for any damages or negative consequences upon following this information.

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