Cuisine Technology
Close-up shot of woman's hand taking a tray full of vegetables out of a steam oven.

The 7 Best Steam Ovens for 2020

This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Someday, we may all look back on 2020 as the year that everybody started learning to bake bread. If you’re among the many who ended up with a new sourdough hobby, you’ve probably started to understand the value of steam in baking. Imagine the possibilities if your oven produced steam, so you didn’t need to try to lock moisture inside a dutch oven!

In case you’ve resisted the siren call of homemade sourdough, though, let’s go into more depth. Basically, using steam while you’re baking can lead to a better finished product in many cases (not just bread!). You’ll find that your food retains its color and flavor better. This method can also lead to more healthful food, because you don’t need to add as much oil or fat. The steam will keep it moist for you!

While both built-in and countertop options are available, we’ve chosen to focus on countertop steam ovens. These are a more practical and realistic upgrade for the average home cook! (Of course, if you happen to be remodeling your kitchen anyway, we absolutely recommend looking into the option of a built-in steam oven too.)


Best Steam Ovens at a Glance

Best for: All-round quality and functionality
Best for: High-quality build, modern controls, and versatility
Best for: Spacious oven with lots of functions at a lower cost
Best for: A solid oven with all the little details for practicality
Best for: Ultra budget buyers looking to learn without a big monetary commitment
Best for: The toast aficionado
Best for: High-tech users who love smart technology


The Top 8 Steam Ovens


#1. Cuisinart Steam & Convection Oven

Best for: All-round quality and functionality

We’re consistently impressed with Cuisinart’s products, and their steam and convection oven is no exception. While it’s not the least expensive on our list, we think that the price is fantastic given the quality of the product.

One of the main reasons that we love this particular product so much is that it’s one of the few options out there that really focuses on steam cooking. Many others have steam cooking as a side feature or afterthought, but the Cuisinart Steam & Convection Oven puts it front and center. With that said, it also has traditional bake and broil functions, so you won’t be forced to steam foods that should stay dry.

We also appreciate the self-cleaning function! Steam ovens in general tend to be more straightforward to clean than traditional ovens, thanks to their use of steam. But the designated steam clean function on the Cuisinart makes things even easier. And less time cleaning your oven means more time enjoying your delicious food!

Our biggest problem with this oven is that the cooking time is strictly tied to the timer. If you set the timer for 45 minutes and realize that your food needs 5 more minutes, you can’t just keep it going; you’ll need to reprogram it to keep cooking.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: 100°F – 450°F (500°F on broil)
  • Dimensions: 18.00 x 15.50 x 10.80 inches
  • Controls: digital
Pros
  • Self-cleaning function
  • One of the few ovens in our list that focuses on steam instead of having it as a side feature
Cons
  • Works on timer only – you can’t leave items for longer without having to reset the timer.
  • Relatively loud beep that can’t be turned off

#2. F. Blümlein Steam Convection Oven

Best for: High-quality build, modern controls, and versatility

As something of a mad scientist in the kitchen (don’t even ask how many things I have pickling, fermenting, sous vide cooking, or dehydrating at any given time), the F. Blümlein Steam Convection Oven is my personal favorite. It missed out on the #1 spot on our list because it’s not as specifically all about steam as the Cuisinart, but that’s what I love about it.

While this one has a bigger countertop footprint than some other options, it more than makes up for it with its incredible versatility. In addition to its obvious steam oven function, you can use it to easily ferment foods, sterilize jars for canning, make yogurt, proof dough, and so much more. This isn’t just a steam oven; it’s an all-in-one machine that lets you explore new culinary horizons.

We also appreciate the front-cooling exhaust, which helps to make sure the oven doesn’t overheat or damage your walls, cabinets, or ceiling with steam. And we love the larger-than-average water tank, which lets you cook for longer! Of course, nothing’s perfect; we wish that this one also had a true broil setting.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: 85°F – 450°F
  • Dimensions: 21.9 x 15.9 x 17.9 inches
  • Controls: touch-screen
Pros
  • Front-cooling exhaust makes it safe to touch the front of the oven while in use, and protects your countertop from steam damage
  • Big interior means large capacity
  • Over 25 preset recipes come already programmed into the oven
  • Large water tank provides up to 180 minutes of uninterrupted steaming
Cons
  • It’s big and uses a lot of counter space
  • On the expensive side
  • No broil function

#3. Vestaware Steam Toaster Oven

Best for: Spacious oven with lots of functions at a lower cost

If you tend to cook in large quantities and want an affordable countertop steam oven that can accommodate that, the Vestaware Steam Toaster Oven may be the one for you! With a 32 quart capacity, it’s barely smaller than the F. Blümlein, but comes at a lower price too.

We appreciate the wide variety of features that this one offers, too! From defrosting and yogurt-making to roasting and baking, you can do so much more than just steam. And with around 30 different presets, you aren’t left to fend for yourself and try to figure out the correct times and temperatures. (To be fair, some of these presets are definitely more useful than others. I don’t see myself choosing the “steam papaya” or “roast saury” options too frequently.)

If you can afford the slight extra cost, we would go for the F. Blümlein Steam Convection Oven instead. But if your budget is too tight to quite justify that, this one makes a good second choice for anyone who needs a large capacity and multiple functions.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: 85°F – 450°F
  • Dimensions: 22.13 x 17 x 17.32 inches
  • Controls: digital
Pros
  • Built-in space for water tank and water level detection feature
  • Child safety lock
  • Inner lamp
  • Large interior
Cons
  • On the expensive side
  • Requires frequent emptying of accumulated water
  • Controls are not very straightforward and there have been reports of poorly translated instruction manual

#4. AUG Countertop Steam Oven

Best for: A solid oven with all the little details for practicality

With 12 cooking modes, the AUG Countertop Steam Oven is another versatile option for anyone who wants to add a multipurpose device to their kitchen. You can ferment, dehydrate, toast, defrost, and bake, in addition to the steam baking option that earns the AUG its place on our list.

We appreciate this product’s attention to detail. For example, it has a front exhaust vent to protect your cabinets and walls. It also notifies you when you’re running low on water so you can refill as necessary, and includes a door lock for safety. Plus it feels sturdy and well-built, giving a definite impression of quality.

We wish that some of the thought that clearly went into other details was also put into the instructions. This oven can be a bit tricky to figure out, and the manual isn’t always as helpful as one might hope. With that said, once you’ve got it working, we think you’ll love this oven and its various options.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: 100°F – 450°F
  • Dimensions: 9.9 x 18.9 x 13.8 inches
  • Controls: touch-screen
Pros
  • Water shortage reminder will beep and blink when running out of water
  • Oven lamp
  • Front exhaustor prevents cabinets and walls from getting wet
  • Door with safety-lock
Cons
  • It can be difficult to learn how to operate

#5. NutriChef Convection Countertop Toaster Oven

Best for: Ultra budget buyers looking to learn without a big monetary commitment

One of the problems with culinary innovations is that they can take years to make their way into designs that are affordable enough to be accessible to everyone. And unfortunately, true steam ovens aren’t there just yet.

For now, the NutriChef Convection Countertop Toaster Oven is a great option for getting a taste of steam baking until real steam ovens become more affordable. But let’s be clear: this isn’t primarily a steam oven. As you can gather from the name, it’s more of a toaster oven that also offers other functions (including air frying!). Steam broiling is just one of these various functions. This means that you can’t expect the same versatility with steam baking as you would with other devices.

In short, if you’re a curious home chef on a budget who really wants to try out a multifunctional device that includes steam broiling, this NutriChef option is a great pick in a lower price range.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: Max 480°F
  • Dimensions: 13.4 x 15.8 x 13.8 inches
  • Controls: analog
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • Questionable built quality
  • No designated container for steaming—you’ll need to just add water to the bottom of the glass container

#6. BALMUDA The Toaster

Best for: The toast aficionado

Does steaming your toast sound counterintuitive? We thought so too, but that’s exactly what this machine does with great success. Here’s the logic: steam gently coats the outside of your slice of bread. The water then transmits heat more effectively than dry air (this is the same theory behind sous vide cooking!), and toasts the outside of the bread quickly. This means the inside doesn’t have a chance to dry out, so you end up with a perfectly and evenly crisp outer layer surrounding a fluffy, soft interior.

This toaster has options for foods other than toast, including pizza and pastries. However, toast is clearly its main function and realm of expertise. If you’re looking for a steam oven because you and your family eat toast every morning and you want to take it to a new level of perfection, look no further. But if you want more versatility in your steam oven, you may prefer a different option.

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: n/a
  • Dimensions: 14.10 x 12.60 x 8.20 inches
  • Controls: analog
Pros
  • Several options for toast, pastries, pizza, and more
  • High-end toaster
  • Quick to heat
  • Compact
Cons
  • Very small interior
  • Limited functions and uses

#7. Tovala Smart Steam Oven

Best for: High-tech users who love smart technology

Your appliances should make your life easier instead of harder, and that’s exactly what the Tovala Smart Steam Oven does. This innovative machine starts off like many others, with the ability to steam, bake, and broil. But from there, it takes a whole extra step: it has a barcode scanner that lets the oven figure out exactly what settings to use to prepare your meal to perfection.

Of course, this comes with some limitations. The scanning feature is currently only compatible with Trader Joe’s frozen foods and Tovala’s own meals from its meal service. 

That’s right: Tovala has an entire food delivery service designed to work specifically with this machine. If you’ve been looking for a meal delivery option that takes away as much effort as possible, you may love this combination! Just get your meals, scan the barcodes with your new steam oven, wait for them to cook to perfection, and enjoy.

We love the concept, but only for specific purposes. If you aren’t planning to use Tovala’s meal service and don’t shop at Trader Joe’s, you’ll miss out on what makes this oven so special, and should look elsewhere. And if you’re not tech-savvy, you may prefer a steam oven that doesn’t rely on WiFi

Specs and Features

  • Temperature: n/a
  • Dimensions: 17.00 x 19.75 x 14.00 inches
  • Controls: analog
Pros
  • On selected foods, you can scan the barcode on the package and the oven will automatically decide the best settings to cook it
  • You can use your phone as a remote control
  • Tovala provides a meal delivery subscription that offers meals ready to be cooked in this oven
Cons
  • Controls on Gen 1 are very limited
  • Gen 2 isn’t available on Amazon at the time of writing
  • Very dependant on WiFi, which is potentially problematic if no connection is available

What Is a Steam Oven? And Why You Need One

As its name suggests, a steam oven is simply an oven that produces steam while it cooks your food. While this sounds simple and straightforward, it actually opens up a whole realm of new possibilities.

Imagine if you could keep your bread moist while baking it without needing to fuss with trying to figure out how to create a steamy oven. Or if you could pop your veggies on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to steam perfectly without adding fat or oil. Or even roast meat that stays deliciously juicy without drying out.

A steam oven brings all of this, and more, within reach. And the countertop options (which are what we discuss in this post) let you do it without even remodeling your kitchen!


The Different Types of Steam Oven

The more you dig into steam ovens, the more you realize that there are a wide variety of different types. They’re divided into two primary categories, with several types within each:

Countertop steam ovens

This is what we talk about in this article, as these are more realistic for home cooks who aren’t doing a full kitchen remodel. We see these as being in two basic categories that let you choose between excellence and versatility:

  • Purpose-built steam ovens. While they may or may not have other functions as well, these devices are primarily designed as steam ovens. They tend to excel in this technique, since it’s their main function.
  • Multi-function ovens with a steam option. These devices are more versatile, because they tend to have a much wider range of functions. However, since they’re not specifically built for steam baking, they may not be as proficient in that technique.

Built-in steam ovens

These are full-size or nearly full-size appliances that can replace your traditional oven. They come in several basic types (thanks to Steam & Bake for explaining the three categories so clearly!):

  • Steam only. These ovens, as the name suggests, only cook with steam. We don’t generally recommend these as a main or only oven, because you’ll have some limitations. Of course, if you have a real luxury of space and have room for a second oven, and you’re someone who steams a lot, this may be a great fit for you.
  • Combi-steam. With “combi” standing for “combination,” this is our recommendation for most people who are interested in a built-in steam oven, because you get the best of both worlds. You have the option of a true steam bake, as you would get in a steam-only oven. But you also have a convection oven that can function without steam. This category can be divided even further, as you’ll need to choose your heat source:
    • Electric combi oven.
    • Gas combi oven.
  • Steam-assist. A steam-assisted option lets you add moisture to your baking, but doesn’t offer a true steam-only baking function. If you want to have the option of baking with extra humidity but don’t care about being able to fully steam foods, this may be the right pick for you.

4 Benefits of Using a Countertop Steam Oven

1. Eliminate or reduce flavor transfer.

Thanks to the use of steam, these ovens reduce or even eliminate flavor transfer as long as you’re using the steam bake setting. This means that you could theoretically cook garlic and chocolate cake in the oven at the same time successfully. No chocolate-scented garlic, and no garlic-flavored cake! This opens up a lot of room for creativity if you tend to want to cook multiple things at the same time, but struggle with flavor transfer.

2. Reduce the need for added fats and oils.

Because steam ovens cook with steam, you can cut back on the amount of fat you add to your dishes. Some foods don’t need extra oil at all!

3. Leave your foods moist and juicy.

Since they don’t bake with dry air, steam ovens don’t pull the moisture out of your food the way that normal ovens can. This means you won’t need to worry about basting your turkey to keep it from drying out, for example.

4. Great for reheating food.

Have you ever noticed that your microwaved leftovers tend to come out dry, tough, and unpleasant? A steam oven solves that problem. By reheating your food with the power of steam, it leaves your leftovers deliciously juicy instead of dry and disappointing.


Does a Steam Oven Need a Water Supply?

Steam ovens definitely need water to create steam, but most of them (and all of the countertop options on this list) don’t require a piped-in water supply. Instead, they’ll typically have a water chamber that you can refill as necessary. You’ll only need to worry about piping in a continuous water supply for certain models of built-in steam ovens.


Can You Reheat Food in a Steam Oven?

Yes! In fact, this is one of their greatest strengths. When you reheat food in a steam oven, it keeps its moisture (and even gets some moisture replenished if the food dried out during storage). This means your reheated pizza, for example, will have a nice soft crust with gooey cheese instead of turning out dry and chewy.


Does Food Retain More Nutrients When Cooked in a Steam Oven?

People commonly claim that steamed food retains nutrients better than baked or fried food. But according to research from the USDA, this isn’t anywhere near as true as you might think. 

Their results indicate that steamed and baked root vegetables retain almost identical nutritional values, except for a handful of cases. In every one of these cases, baked root vegetables slightly outperformed steamed root vegetables. Baked root vegetables actually retain more vitamin A, carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein than steamed root vegetables.

For other vegetables, the results were similar. Most nutrient levels were the same between baked and steamed options, but baked vegetables had slightly more vitamin B6.

When we get to seafood, things get just a little more complicated. Steamed seafood without shells and broiled seafood without shells each win and lose to each other on specific nutrients. Overall, though, broiled seafood retains more of its nutrients than steamed seafood.

In short, steaming isn’t the magic answer to preserving nutrients. It definitely wins out over boiling your food in many cases, so if you tend to boil things, steaming may help you eat more nutrients. If you bake or roast instead, though, you may not end up with any extra nutritional value from steaming instead.


Conclusion 

A countertop steam oven is a great way to add extra options to your home cooking technique arsenal. You’ll be able to easily steam-bake foods, which lets you cut back on added oils and fats (and therefore calories!). Many options also have other settings, so you might find that your new steam oven can replace your toaster, toaster oven, yogurt maker, and more.

Which steam oven you pick depends on your preferences, and we don’t have a one-size-fits-all absolute best pick. With that said, we recommend the Cuisinart Steam & Convection Oven for a purpose-built steam oven, and the F. Blümlein Steam Convection Oven if you want extra versatility.