From surfaces cleaning to food cooking: steam allows a variety of uses, ensuring hygiene and health. It also brings added value to household appliances, such as ovens and dishwashers, which can thus offer innovative functions.
by Elena Corti
In the kitchen steam has many uses, both in cooking food and in cleaning surfaces and dishes. While the effective sanitizing properties of steam have been known for some time also in the domestic channel, its use for cooking food in a light and healthy way, instead, is more recent. The technologies linked to the use of steam have opened up new possibilities in the sector of cooking appliances, bringing innovation to some types of products already present in domestic kitchens, such as ovens or microwave ovens. Steam has thus created added value, allowing appliances brands to launch new products with advanced features responding to the growing desire of consumers to eat healthy. Steam cooking in fact preserves vitamins and nutrients, enhancing the taste of foods that maintain color, consistence and flavor. Furthermore, recipes can be prepared with very few condiments, satisfying the needs of those who, for health reasons or for diet, need to prepare lightly seasoned foods.
Design of appliances conceived for the domestic market has brought into homes a cooking technique until recently used mainly in catering: the presence of intuitive control panels and the possibility of selecting automatic programs has made it easy to carry out steam cooking even at home because appliances can be easily managed and guide the user in the preparation of dishes. Today there are different types of products among which you can choose for cooking using steam: both large and small appliances. One of the main innovations is the combi steam oven, which, in addition to 100% steam cooking, also allows controlled and precise quantities of humidity to be introduced into the cavity of the appliance, mixing steam and heat in different pre-set levels for obtaining better results cooking with various types of food. These appliances have been designed in such a way as to assist users by automating the setting of parameters and simplifying life even for those who are not particularly expert in the kitchen: with the help of steam it is possible, for example, to cook roasts browned on the outside and juicy inside. To further facilitate the cooking of meat, products are available equipped with the temperature probe to measure the temperature at the heart of the food.
Steam cooking also allows to obtain crunchy and tasty vegetables, fish with the correct consistency without drying out, bakery and pastry products with the right crunchiness, crumbly, and soft inside. In addition, you can also make homemade yogurt. Steam, suitably mixed with hot air, therefore allows not only a healthier but also a quality diet. And it allows to obtain high performances both in cooking raw foods and for heating those already cooked: thanks to the steam “regeneration” function, the user can also heat a cooked food succeeding to maintain flavor and consistency as if the dish had just been prepared. Another innovative possibility offered by different models of steam ovens is the Sous-vide function, allowing to cook food placed in vacuum bags. It is a professionally derived technique that allows you to cook delicately at low temperatures: in this way the fibers of food do not break and aromas and nutrients are not disperse. In addition, vacuum cooking, slowing down the degenerative activity of bacteria (since the air is extracted from the bags), ensures that food is preserved for longer.
The management of these appliances is simple not only as regards the cooking settings but also as regards the systems for the steam generation, allowing the user to easily access the tank to load water. In addition, like other types of ovens, various steam models are also connected, with products that allow voice and remote control and access to numerous recipes. A further novelty in the field of built-in ovens are the models that combine steam and microwave cooking. These are versatile household appliances, ideal for example for users who have limited space available. This type of appliance brings together three products in one, allowing different cooking methods: steam, microwave and combined. By mixing the steam cooking function with the microwaves, the preparation time is shortened and you can cook in a healthy and tasty way without having to spend too much time.
There are also models that allow Sous-vide cooking and automatic menu cooking. In fact, it is possible to combine up to three automatic programs to cook different dishes. Temperature, duration and sequence are automatically determined and the user must simply introduces the ingredients into the oven at the right time and in the right order. Also with regard to free-standing microwave ovens, among the most innovative products there are appliances equipped with a special function for steam cooking. Functioning is simple: simply pour the water into the supplied steamer, set the type of food and its weight and the oven will optimize the cooking time.
If in the field of large appliances there are several options that consumer can choose for steam cooking, there is no shortage of proposals also in the context small domestic appliances. It is in fact possible to choose steam generators that allow to cook even more foods at the same time thanks to the presence of stackable trays. Generally these are products characterized by a base with the water tank and controls, the perforated baskets above and the lid with ventilation holes. Unlike what happens with boiling, it is not necessary to immerse the ingredients in water and this allows food to retain more nutrients and a more intense taste, even without special condiments. In these steamers you can cook different foods: from vegetables to meat, fish, rice, eggs, etc. Among the accessories supplied you can find, for example, the aroma infuser, the container for rice and that for eggs; there are also models that have timers with an audible warning that signals the end of cooking and a special function that speeds up steam production. Finally, remaining in the field of small appliances, even the cooking machines, in the wide range of accessories generally supplied, have the steamer accessory that can be attached to the appliance allowing to cook one or more foods with steam.
Deep cleaning in the kitchen with steam
At a time when hygiene and health are issues to which more and more attention is paid, the use of steam is a solution able to ensure the safety of a deep clean even at home. The power of steam can in fact eliminate viruses, bacteria, mites and allergens, helping to ensure a healthier environment. In addition, it is an ecological solution because it does not require the use of chemical detergents.
Thanks to a wide range of accessories (for example lances, brushes with different types of bristles, caps, cloths, flexible tubes, etc.) it is possible to treat various types of surfaces even in the kitchen, such as gas hob burners, induction hobs, ovens, hoods, kitchen tops, joints, as well as glass and floors. Using the appropriate accessory, with a single appliance you can obtain an effective solution on a variety of surfaces, without damaging them and without having to make too much effort to remove the most stubborn dirt. Generally the heating time to allow the steam generation is short, moreover capacious tanks and continuous refilling systems allow not to have long waiting times. And to get the right amount of steam, you can also easily adjust the intensity. In addition, there are products that can be used in combined vacuum/steam mode to clean in a single pass. Finally, 3 in 1 models are also available on the market including vacuum cleaner, steam mop and portable steam cleaner in one solution.
In addition to cleaners, a further use of steam in the kitchen concerns the self-cleaning function of ovens. Maintaining these appliances is tiring because grease and food splashes can become stubborn dirt, difficult to remove. To facilitate this activity, which is necessary to maintain the efficiency of the oven, some models are equipped with a steam cleaning function. By introducing moisture into the cavity, the encrusted dirt softens, allowing to clean the appliance easily without using harsh chemicals. And the oven isn’t the only appliance that takes advantage of the power of steam for cleaning.
Also in the area of dishwashers there are models that integrate technologies capable of spreading a jet of steam in the tub that removes germs and bacteria from the dishes, guaranteeing a high level of hygiene. In addition, pure steam is used to ensure the brilliance of glasses, cutlery and crockery, because it does not leave streaks and residues.