As a Seattle native with relatives in the fishing industry, I’m kind of a snob about salmon. I honestly don’t even bother ordering it at restaurants anymore because I’ve all-too-frequently been served tough, tasteless, over cooked, over seasoned, sadly bland-beige colored salmon; even at the posh places. If you want good salmon in Seattle, you have go to the Pike Place Market and ask the Fish Throwers for the good stuff. Most of us have a specific way that we like to cook it, (and if you want, you can always ask the Fish Thrower!). But Chef Greig has convinced me that there is a new, even better way to cook salmon – with steam convection cooking. I recently had the chance to witness this live at the Bradlee Distributors Seattle showroom. Bradlee is the regional distributor for Wolf Appliances. Enter the Wolf Steam Convection Oven.
On this visit, Chef Greig prepared and cooked Salmon with a Miso Saki Glaze. While she was talking to us and as she spoke of other matters, (her steam-baked artisan bread and the delicious thyme roasted red grapes), I began to worry about the Salmon. I thought that it was in the Steam Convection Oven for FAR too long. When the chef finally took it out she said, “I could have taken this out earlier, but it is still perfect”. And she was right! It was like butter; so tender and mouth watering as only perfectly cooked Salmon can be. Plus it had that beautifully rich salmon color intact. She explained that because of the steam she knew the salmon would not be dried out if she left it in a little longer.
Personally, all I could think about is how much stress this could reduce in avoiding future over-cooked Salmon situations. I practically have a breakdown every time I’m doing my Copper River Salmon dinner. First of all, everybody better be sitting at the table while I’m cooking it because I know it takes exactly 6.5 minutes. Also, I’m too busy working on seconds to sit down with them. But with this new method, the steam convection oven would allow me to happily sit down with my family (and maybe there would be less Chef Ramsey-type yelling from the kitchen).
What is a Convection Steam Oven
While steam ovens are new to most consumers, they are far from new to the restaurant industry. If you ever wonder how a restaurant can get you a perfectly cooked meal in just a few minutes, it is because they have a steam convection oven in the back. There are two forces at play, Convection and Steam. The Convection oven is already widely used in Europe. This cooks evenly and fast and is super energy efficient, and the Steam, which has been used for centuries in cooking. Together they make a dynamic pairing to make a perfect dish from anything!
What Convection Does
Convection cooking has been very popular in Europe for years. A convection oven will not only have traditional elements providing heat from the top and bottom of the oven cavity but it will also have a heating element in the back of the oven with a fan in close proximity that circulates the hot air throughout the oven cavity. Convection ovens will cook very quickly, because they evenly circulate heat around what you are baking and additionally do not require a lot of time to pre-heat. Have you ever had to taken cookies out of a traditional oven and they were burnt in the back, where the oven is hottest, and raw in the front, where the oven is coolest? This just won’t happen in a convection oven, the cookies don’t need to be turned around mid cycle.
What Steam Does
Steam penetrates food and ensures tenderness. This works great when cooking any foods that were once frozen as the freezing process tends to dry those foods out.. Frozen foods get their moisture back when cooked in steam.
When coupled with Convection, Steam perfectly replicates the natural, healthy, age-old process of steaming food in a wooden or bamboo steam basket, but in a more spacious and much easier-to-use oven.
A little science:
Steam cooking only goes up to 210 degrees because water boils at 212 degrees. After the steam does it’s thing, the convection cooks. In practice, if you were to engage the Steam Convection mode on Wolf’s CSO30 oven, your food would be exposed to 7 minutes of 210 degree steam and then the convection oven finishes cooking by taking the temperature up to whatever temperature you specify.
Not just restaurants, but bakeries have been using steam for years. Although a baguette can be hand-made by the most experienced French chef, it can only get its perfect light & fluffy texture, its golden crunchy crust, through being steamed. No amount of time in a regular oven could replicate the unique process and results of steam cooking.
The Wolf Steam Convection oven comes with documentation on how to cook a wide variety of foods. You can see for yourself exactly how easy it is to cook like a chef at the Bradlee cooking demo (INSERT PDF DEMO TO STEAM OVEN PDF HERE). I simply marinate the salmon, press a few buttons on my steam convection oven, and Voila! It’s that simple! There’s no “culinary science” involved.
You have free access to over 200 recipes just from the Wolf Steam Convection oven database. There are other steam oven recipes too, using both Wolf’s AUTO STEAM BAKE option and CONVECTION STEAM options, among others. And there is always the “Gourmet Mode”, select among the presets, Chicken Fish, Potatoes, etc, and there is no need to enter a cook time or temperature.
BUT WHAT CAN I COOK IN A STEAM OVEN?
A better question is what can you not cook in a Convection Steam Oven. From what I can see, the answer is meringue and beef jerky. Because you wouldn’t want to put a lot of moisture in something you are trying to dry out. (But honestly, you would be able to shut off the steam part of the oven and cook them anyway.)
Not only did the Chef cook the wonderful Salmon, while we ate, she also prepared a delicious Mediterranean Prawns Scampi with a bag of frozen prawns from Costco! She was able to both defrost and cook in the same Steam Convection Oven. She reminded us how frozen foods have ice that gathers on them, this ice is actual moisture that has been sucked out from the food. When she steam cooks, she renews this stolen moisture.
Most professional bakeries have a Steam cycle on their ovens. Even your local Safeway Bakery has this.
A little science
The steam caramelizes the enzymes in the protein creating that wonderfully crisp, shiny crust on the bread. This is why Julia Child used to recommend when you bake bread you throw a couple ice cubes when you first put the bread in the oven. That little steam at the beginning, when the enzymes first rise to the surface, will ensure a nice bread crust. (But throwing ice cubes into your oven is not going to work nearly as well as a professional steam convection oven.)
If you make Stuffed Manicotti, you won’t have to boil it before you stuff it and bake it. After all, steam is water, and it will turn hard pasta into cooked pasta just like water. Once again, this is a stress reliever in the kitchen. It is a whole lot easier and faster to stuff a hollow hard manicotti than a boiled soft manicotti. I for one have burned my fingers trying to do that!
You can actually steam rice, without a lid, in a steam oven! Chef Greig steamed rice for us in the convection steam oven and then mixed it with mushrooms and winter vegetables and created a “faux fried rice”, which was delicious and didn’t have all the oil overload a regular fried rice would have.
Many other countries in the world ALWAYS cook vegetables by steaming them. Steam cooking retains vitamins.
Tasting the steamed mushrooms in the Chef Greig’s faux fried rice was an eye-opening experience. I always sauté my mushrooms in butter, (never mind my arteries) because they taste so darn good that way. She was able to cook a very delicious, healthy alternative by drizzling a little oil over the mushrooms and pre-steamed rice. Once again, almost impossible to overcook. Think of your steam convection oven as your path to stress-free cooking (in addition to producing restaurant quality meals).
Steam Convection is perfect for defrosting. It takes about 9 minutes to defrost a chicken and this is about 2 minutes longer than a microwave. If you have ever defrosted a chicken in a microwave you will notice that you have a dried out partially cooked chicken. That same chicken defrosted in a steam oven is injected with steam which consequently restores all the moisture that was taken out during freezing! One of my customers said she could get rid of her microwave now because she only used it for reheating her coffee.
Steam penetrates even an egg shell. You could put a raw egg in it’s own shell, and the steam would penetrate and cook a hard boiled egg. Chef Greig also demonstrated by steaming an egg cooked in its own shell and serving. You would think baking an egg would make it crack, but in a steam oven it makes for a very moist hard boiled egg. Think of it this way, anything you can boil in a pot of water, you could cook in your steam oven. Also. Poached Eggs or Eggs Benedict are perfect for steam convection ovens.
(Thyme roasted red grapes, Wisconsin Blue Cheese, Charcuterie, Homemade Artisan Bread, hard steamed eggs with truffle salt)
In conclusion, Steam Convection cooks FASTER, HEALTHIER and with more MOISTURE. The Convection part cooks faster so it uses less energy and dinner gets on the table quicker without sacrificing quality. The Steam part preserves the flavor, color and nutrients, and ensures tenderness and renews the moisture of frozen foods. With Steam Convection cooking you can opt to use less fat and oil, so you are cooking healthier. If you are thinking of buying a steam oven and not sure how you would use it, you can have access to Wolfs 200 Steam Convection recipes, and in addition you can always request to take the wonderful cooking class at Bradlee.
Personally, after the great four course meal at Bradlee, I decided I’m actually going to buy a Steam Convection Oven myself. With a Steam Convection oven, I couldn’t make a mistake even if I tried. Instead of yelling in the kitchen, I could just chat at the table until the wonderful meal is ready. Plus, it’s hard to explain, but around the third course, I began to realize I could taste the healthiness of what I was eating. I think by the fourth course my whole body was beginning to feel renewed. I’m still feeling a little bit happy about that meal. This is the feeling I want people to feel when they eat at my home.
When getting an appliance, the most important thing is knowing if it’s perfect for your kitchen. Come to one of our cooking demonstrations, and see, smell, feel, and taste the food yourself. People who are considering getting a Wolf Steam Convection Oven can take part in a free Steam Cooking Class at Bradlee Seattle Showroom in lower Queen Anne. It ends up being more of a wonderful four course meal than a class.