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The science of steam: A look at how convection steam ovens work

The power of steam has been harnessed to do everything from power locomotives to cook vegetables. And while steam is certainly a versatile form of heat, it may not be enough to accomplish everything you need to do in your kitchen. A steam oven remains one of the healthiest ways to cook a meal, sure, but the method is limited by its temperature range and lacks the capability to brown meats. A convection steam oven, on the other hand, gives you the same healthy benefits of a steam oven, but brings a little extra heat into your kitchen. Here’s how it works.

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How it works

A convection steam oven combines the unique capabilities of a steam oven with the cooking efficiency of a convection oven. These modes can be used separately or in conjunction with one another.

A steam oven has a reservoir that needs to be filled before you start cooking. On some ovens, this reservoir needs to be filled manually, while others can be hooked up to your home’s plumbing so that you always have water ready for steaming.

“Steam ovens are popular among cooks who have a special interest in preparing healthy meals,” according to Atherton Appliances. “Heat from the oven turns the water into steam. Food cooked in steam retains moisture better than food cooked in a convection oven. Steamed food also tends to retain more vitamins and minerals than food that is boiled.”

A convection oven uses fans to propel the heat around the inside of the oven. This ensures that your meal is cooked quickly and evenly.

“A true convection mode use a cal-rod heating element that is wrapped around a fan… and of course the fan itself,” Chef Nicole Parmenter of Yale Appliance and Lighting told Digital Trends. “The heating element heats up and the fan pushes the hot air around the oven cavity, basically to prevent hot spots.  The reason why convection is more effective is because the forced hot air feels more intense. At higher temperatures, you can get a better oven sear in less time.  The fan helps excess moisture evaporate.”

A convection steam oven uses both of these methods. Steam gives you a healthy cooking option, while the convection mode allows you to hit higher temperatures and brown meats. Some ovens, such as the Wolf Convection Steam Oven, use digital sensors to determine how much steam or dry heat is needed, then seamlessly switches between these two methods to give you a perfect cook.

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