Part of what makes cooking so fun is that it’s basically applied chemistry. As such, we’re constantly discovering new methods and techniques to improve the way we eat. That includes improving the tools and kitchen gadgets we use. Enter steam ovens, which started in restaurants and are now available for home cooks who like to experiment in the kitchen.
The steam ovens available for home use are combination ovens, to be more precise. These combi-ovens are essentially a steam oven and a convection oven that have been frankesteined together to give you all kinds of delicious morsels. Working in tandem, these ovens produce moist and juicy food that is browned and crispy on the outside, making you look like a downright pro. It’s no wonder these devices caught the eye of tech pundits and food geniuses alike, including J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. We first wrote about this technology when the popular Japanese Balmuda steam toaster debuted in the United States; we just had to know why people were obsessed with this $400 toaster.
Why Are Steam Ovens So Special?
Steaming your food delivers two pretty big results: the method keeps moisture locked in while maximizing food’s nutrient potential. Steamed food retains more of its nutrients because it’s being basted in vaporized water (and not oil!) the entire time it cooks. That steam also provides a consistent temperature throughout the oven that’s easier to control. This not only cooks your food more evenly, but it makes it easier to get your food up to (and hold it at) the exact temperature you need. In other words, the best steam ovens will help you get the same results you would achieve with a sous vide immersion circulator.
Once you have your food at the temperature you want, you can brown and crisp it with the convection elements in your combi-oven, which intensifies flavors and adds a pleasing texture. While most of the best steam ovens are combi-ovens, some aren’t.
With all of that in mind, we’ve rounded up eight of the best countertop steam ovens you can buy in 2022.
1. Tovala Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven
We’ve tested this oven and it’s one of our favorites, especially considering the price and comprehensive features. Our testers also found it super easy to use right out of the box. While you can use this countertop steam oven to cook whatever you want, it’s really designed to go with Tovala’s meal service. Tovala delivers frozen, chef-prepared meals to your doorstep every week, with each serving working out to about $12. When it comes time to heat those meals, the Tovala will pull a specially-designed program/recipe from the oven, which tells it what temperatures and settings to cook it at (and for how long). If everything goes to plan, you should have a meal for 1-4 people that will blow any TV dinner out of the water.
2. Anova Precision Oven
BEST OVERALL FUNCTIONS
Name a kitchen task, and this combi-oven can do it. The Anova oven thoroughly impressed SPY with its ability to steam, convection bake, air fry, proof, toast, roast, bake, sous vide, broil, dehydrate and more. It even has the ability to conduct controlled steam injections to help with bread bakes. We also like how it connects to the internet so you can download guided recipes and automatically monitor your food for the perfect meal. Given its size and price, this is not a casual appliance to purchase, but you get a lot of performance for what you pay. If you were considering adding a second oven to your kitchen or want an upgrade without replacing your existing range, this is a great option.
3. Cuisinart Convection Steam Oven
Those searching for a true combi-oven alternative to the Anova that’s also cheaper and smaller should look no further than the Cuisinart. Roughly half the size (and price), this steam oven surrounds your breads, vegetables and leftovers in an even bath of heat that will ensure they’re flavorful and moist but still browned and crisped. That said, you won’t find high-end features like sous vide mode and guided cooking here. Plus, it lacks the sexy design of Anova or Balmuda ovens. Still, it’s a great introduction to steam cooking if you’re hesitant to spend $600 on the best countertop steam oven.
4. Balmuda The Toaster
BEST STEAM TOASTER OVEN
While the Anova Precision Oven is designed to do everything a normal oven can do, Balmuda’s The Toaster is a bit less ambitious: it sees itself as a replacement for your toaster and people are obsessed. So obviously, we wanted to know why. This steam oven is primarily designed to reheat and toast various types of bread and pastries. By using steam in its toasting process, it keeps these foods moist and chewy in the middle, but crispy on the outside. And thanks to five different presets, it’s easy to get the right time and temperature for everything from a frozen round of bread to leftover pizza to a day-old English muffin. The result: delicious, texture-filled foods.
5. Fotile Chefcubii 4-in-1 Countertop Convection Steam Oven
AIR FRYER OPTION
Why have an air fryer and a steam oven when you can have a machine that does both? In addition to steaming your food to its juiciest best, the Fotile can also bake, air fry and dehydrate your food right from the counter. The steam-bake mode comes with precise moisture control for optimal juice and flavor, plus there are more than 40 pre-set menus for common dishes that save your brain power for other kitchen tasks. It comes with a grill rack, bake tray and steam tray, plus a humidity-controlled chip for the best dehydrated meats, veggies and fruit possible. We also like that it has a full one-year warranty for that extra peace of mind.
6. Sharp Superheated Steam Countertop Oven
Much like the Balmuda, you won’t be using the Sharp Superheated Steam Countertop Oven to cook multi-course meals from scratch. But for toasting, reheating and baking/broiling/roasting small portions, this is a solid, no-nonsense option. Unlike the Balmuda, the Sharp steam oven has a greater capacity, and is able to bake a 12-inch pizza or toast nine slices of bread. (The Balmuda, in comparison, can toast two slices at a time.) This, of course, makes the Sharp Steam Oven bigger than some of the best steam ovens on this list. It’s also a touch pricey for what it does. But it may fit your needs at a lower price.
7. Whynter Grande Countertop Convection Steam Oven
Whether you have a large family or you just enjoy cooking for a crowd, steaming food is a lot easier with this large-capacity countertop steam oven. The 40-qt model is big enough for an entire turkey, which may be a game-changer come the holidays. It can also do a plethora of other tricks like air frying, dehydrating and roasting, plus it even makes yogurt. This steam oven also comes with handy functions like a preset timer of up to 24 hours and a child lock for extra safety. Meanwhile, reviewers dig how easy it is to clean — once you get the hang of how to use its many, many features, that is.
8. Panasonic HomeChef 7-in-1 Compact Oven
If you’re low on space and looking for something a little more compact, Panasonic’s HomeChef is a small machine with a large function. The interior is big enough to fit a 10-inch pizza but has two racks to maximize all available space. It’s also meant to replace many other gadgets thanks to the seven modes: steam, convection, bake, air fry, slow cook, ferment and sanitize. It also lets you double up with its steam-bake combo, allowing you many options the next time you’re whipping up a meal or a snack. As far as the steaming function goes, we like how it comes with two levels of “smart steam” to lock in nutrients, and overall this machine gets extra points for its large LED display and ease of use.
Frequently Asked Questions About Steam Ovens…
Steam ovens are relatively new to American kitchen culture, and while they’re becoming a trendy microwave alternative in some foodie households, you might still have some questions about these appliances.
Can a Steam Oven Replace A Regular Oven?
The short answer is no, at least not if you purchase a straight-up steam oven. If you rarely use your actual oven, though, or want to experiment without investing in an entirely new kitchen setup, some of the combi-ovens on the list below may be your new best friend. Meanwhile, more and more kitchen oven companies are offering steam oven add-ons, which are more permanent fixtures in your space.
Essentially, steam ovens steam food at just over 200 degrees, while most ovens more than double that temperature. Steam cooks food faster because of the way it distributes heat, but relying solely on steam will never crisp up food or deliver baked goods the way a traditional oven can. That’s why you need some combination of both.
What is the Difference Between Countertop and Inbuilt Steam Ovens?
Inbuilt or built-in steam ovens, like the Miele steam oven or the Wolf steam oven, are units that can be built into your actual kitchen. They cost thousands of dollars and require special installation, which doesn’t make them practical for everyone. Countertop models, however, are much smaller, less expensive and they fit onto your countertop, where you simply plug them in and go.
How Do I Clean a Countertop Steam Oven?
If you’re concerned about how you will keep your steam oven clean, don’t stock up on oven cleaner. It’s important to follow manufacturer recommendations, but many steam ovens can be cleaned with the steam function itself. Use it immediately following any spills, so they don’t have time to set in, or if you need an extra boost, try steaming a vinegar-water concoction or even lemon slices instead.
Pros and Cons of A Countertop Steam Oven
On the fence about adding another cooking appliance to your countertop? Here are the top steam oven benefits to consider:
- They’re less expensive than a built-in steam oven
- They deliver many of the same functions as built-in steam ovens
- Many models also come with other coveted cooking features, like air-frying or convection oven modes
- The best steam ovens have a sleek and modern design
- Steam ovens like Tovola come with smart features
- They have a smaller capacity than a built-in steam oven
- They take up counter space, which can be a nuisance in a small kitchen
- They also take up storage space when you’re not using them
- Contrary to popular belief, microwaves don’t kill all the nutrients in your food, a myth that some proponents of steam ovens believe