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Is a steam oven THE must-have appliance? I'll stick to my stock pot with a steamer insert.

Thu, 11 August, 2016

Last week I went to a cookery demonstration and tasting, organised by an appliances manufacturer. Really good event - there was plenty to eat and drink. Joking aside, it was quite educational as well as enjoyable, featuring a chef employed by said manufacturer cooking in front of the audience. Can I have his job? There was also a lovely and knowledgeable lady assistant chef/sales person answering questions.

The point was of course to showcase various hi-tech ovens and hobs: microwave with grill, combi oven, induction hob and the pièce de résistance - steam oven. The chef steamed fishspinach to put on the fish and chicken breast fillets. Both he and the assistant gushed over the spinach, pointing out how leaves were cooked yet separate, unlike the clumped clusters that come out in any other form of cooking. They marvelled at the fish and waxed lyrical over the chicken. The steam oven, they claimed, is THE one appliance you want.

Not so, I wasn’t quite sold. The spinach was nice but can you beat buttered spinach? The fish can be done with cling film and boiling water in a pot; and the chicken was dry, bland and devoid of flavour in spite of being soused in a rather wonderful girolle sauce. Quite like, well - like boiled chicken.

Roast chicken
Steam the chicken to death, it won't look or taste like this...


I’ll admit - if I had five hundred quid (or more) spare and an idea how to configure all those ovens in my kitchen-to-be, I might be tempted. After all, never too much of a good thing - or is there? And is it a good thing? Never mind - I’d have been happy to experiment, research and play with it. As it is, I think I’ll stick to my stock pot with a steamer insert.
Steamer
A quick Google scan of pros and cons - sieving off manufacturers’ sites no mean feat - reveals that they are ‘really good at cooking large volumes quickly, i.e. 50 portions of salmon for a wedding etc.’ (I don’t); ‘steaming whole fish and it steams veg in 15 minutes’ (what?); ‘good for baking bread’. Well yes. But a/ they are too small for the kind of bread that REALLY needs moisture, e.g. baguettes, and b/ the regular oven I have the hots for has steam injection feature.

That’s the thing as well - the pundits and users generally recommend buying a combi convection and steam appliance - thus saying ‘oh it’s genius, the only oven you will ever need, but you know, just in case, here’s the old-fashioned one as well’. Except it’s SMALL because the water container has to sit somewhere, so you’re paying two grand for a miniature oven that produces boiled chicken.

I could try it out myself actually - friends of mine have one, installed two years ago in their then new apartment. Except it’s still got the packaging and instructions inside. Its appeal must be so strong that they’ve never even yet used it…

 

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