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Simulating the effect of a steam oven


I've seen that steam ovens allow to keep meat moist while cooking. I would like to know if it is possible to simulate this effect by simply putting some water at the bottom of the oven or in a small pyrex container.

Has anyone tried a similar technique ? Can it reduce the lifetime of the oven ?

Thank you.

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  1. not only could you use a dish of water (I use a cake pan with a little water in it) -- but you could also roast vegetables in the oven with the meat (if you put the veg under the meat, you add the flavor of the drippings to the vegetables, which makes for amazingly tasty veg)

    I can't imagine why or how it would damage the oven.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      Hello sunshine,

      I thought about that too, and in fact, I often do that. But I wonder if this works as well as a highly expensive steam oven. I mean what is the advantage of such ovens if you can do the same with a simple cake pan ?
      As for damage, I don't know, but I've read that some ovens with electronics may be a bit sensitive to a lot of steam (fmine doesn't have complex electronics). Also, if the water is added after the oven is hot, one must be careful not to drop any cold water on the hot glass door else it may break spontaneously. I've seen a video where they advise to cover the glass door with a cloth to protect it. in this event.

      1. re: KissesFromParis

        No, it doesn't work as well as a true steam oven. But it doesn't cost thousands of dollars, either. A true steam oven actually sprays jets of steam into the oven, so some people also just open the door a tiny bit and spray water into the oven with a spray bottle set on mist.

        If you've got enough steam going to fry your electronics, chances are you've got too much steam...and yes, cold water dropped on the hot door will fracture it -- but so will anything else that's cold -- even dropping a piece of cold chicken on a hot door could fracture it, so that particular issue isn't tied to any particular food, but the temperature differentials.

    2. KissesFromParis,

      Have you tried braising in a Dutch Oven? A tight fitting lid Braiser or Dutch Oven would provide a similar effect wouldn't it with a humid environment? While it probably won't work for bread, with meat and vegetables it should work well without the hassles or potential problems you mentioned. Assuming you are in or near France, find a friend with a Staub Oven and give it a try!

      Best Regards the other side of the Atlantic!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sid Post

        Yes, I thought about that too.
        Actually, I believe using a cast iron oven is one of the methods in use for baking bread at home.

        > Best Regards the other side of the Atlantic!

        Thanks !

        1. re: KissesFromParis

          We bake our bread in a Le Cruset with both pot and lid preheated to 500 along with the oven. Fairly wet bread dough goes in with lid on for 25 mins, then 35 mins lid off. Perfect crunchy crust and great crumb every time.

      2. This will horrify CI devotees, but when I bake bread I put a small CI fry pan on the floor of the oven to get nice and hot. Right before the bread goes in I put ice cubes in the pan.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tim irvine

          I like this idea...and will try it next time I bake bread. Thanks!

        2. If you have a pan with a domed lid, why not try steaming on the stove with a rack in the pan?

          If you need to steam bigger things, well, I have been thinking about getting a covered roaster that looks like this for a while.

          I usually have the opportunity to steam a whole fish once or twice a year that is too big for any of the pans I have, and I regret not having one of those in hand.

          1. Yes, I do it all the time, but I don't use a pyrex container. I would suggest you use a metal container. I don't believe it will reduce lifetime of an oven. Yes, this is use to keep the meat less dry.

            1 Reply
            1. In the process of making Montreal smoked meat, I have to steam the brisket for several hours. I used to use a steam warmer like this:
              with a hotel pan and lid. But it always seemed like a pain in the ass to clean afterwards (the warmer, the pan, the lid).
              Instead, I put the meat on a rack in a deep pan, add water, wrap tight in foil and into the oven. The water evaporates into the pan and creates a humid cooking environment.

              1. Julia Child wrote about this problem in My Life in France.

                5 Replies
                1. re: GH1618

                  That is only because there are many problems in France.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    Do you remember what she said ?

                    @Chemicalkinetics Indeed. We seem to be very good at creating problems, not so much at solving them. ;-)

                    1. re: KissesFromParis


                      It was a joke. I thought I was quiet clever, ya know?

                      1. re: KissesFromParis

                        She tried several things, and ended up putting a pan of cold water in the bottom of the oven and dropping a very hot brick or stone or piece of metal into it. She doesn't elaborate, such as on whether this is done only once, or periodically. It's a memoir, not a cookbook.

                        It sounds like a cumbersome method to me, but then I think most baking is too much trouble.

                    2. hi-- you can accomplish this best by putting a pan on the bottom of the oven and adding *boiling* water at the same time as you add food to be cooked in the oven. this has long been the DIY fix (in both commercial and home ovens) for simulating parisian steam ovens used in baking traditional baguettes. a flatter pan with a large surface area for evaporation is best. some people just use an older or throwaway pan for the purpose and leave it on the floor of the oven at all times, filling it up when they add the foods to be cooked (caveat: *don't* use your favorite pan for this purpose, as it will discolor and not be possible/worth it to clean... a disposable alum pan is fine!).. depending on desired result and the depth of the water in the pan, you may wish to replenish the water as it evaporates. assuming all the water has evaporated at the end of the cooking time, your oven will be fine, otherwise remove the pan and discard the water, or leave the oven open a crack until the water dries completely, to avoid any mustiness problems (never experienced this but it would seem to be possible, in theory).

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Thank you for your detailed answer. I'll remember your advice.

                        1. re: KissesFromParis

                          Although a pan of hot water in the oven is one solution to obtain a better bread baking crust, it has it's drawbacks in steam cooking. One is fractured oven glass if the water is accidentally spilled on the inside of the oven door. ( I now use a spray bottle for the weekly bread ).

                          Sid makes a very good observation above, regarding a Dutch Oven. No need for an expensive new oven. Having done this successfullly with meat, fish, and poultry many times, I agree with his comment. Pictured are the stainless + alu core pans we use, and one of the steaming tray with handles. The lids you will see are heavy, and very well fitted to keep moisture in the pan. Meat finishes moist, tender, and well cooked, yet never tough.

                          Either of the pans can be used on the cooktop, or inside the oven for many hours: The choice is yours.