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12 July 2021

Steam oven buying guide

The best steam ovens will cook your dinner in record time, locking in important nutrients and delicious flavours
Tom Morgan

Steam ovens have become increasingly popular over the years, catching the attention of keen cooks who want to create healthy, everyday meals. Our expert steam oven buying guide explains which features you should look out for.

In a head to head against a traditional oven, a steam version is likely to cook your favourite meal far quicker. As they only have a single function, you should also expect to pay far less than you would for a full combination model.

Keep scrolling to find out more on the different types of steam oven. You'll also find links to our full range of expert steam oven reviews, which cover the latest models from big-name brands.

How steam ovens work 

The vast majority of steam ovens have an internal water canister. This crucial component will need to be filled with water before you start cooking. Depending on the model, this is either done manually or automatically through your plumbing system.

Once the water canister is full, you're ready to start cooking. As the temperature in the oven rises, the water heats up to create steam. Steam creates moisture inside the oven, which means you don't necessarily have to use oil on your food.

Although they're great at ensuring your food doesn't dry up while it's cooking, steam ovens do require more maintenance compared with a regular oven.

Types of steam oven

There are three main types of steam oven, with each variation offering up its own pros and cons.

Steam-only oven

  • Also known as pure steam oven.
  • The name says it all – these ovens will steam your food without a fuss, but don't offer the same features that a convection oven would.
  • Steam-only ovens are generally the most affordable option if you're set on buying this type for your kitchen. 
  • They're a good option if you usually cook lots of fish and vegetables, but you won't be able to draw on other typical oven features.

Combination steam oven

  • Also known as combi steam oven.
  • Invest in a combination steam oven and you'll have plenty of options when it comes to dinner time. These are essentially regular ovens that let you add some steam at any time – you can pick between steam only or convection only settings.
  • Popular combination steam ovens will allow you to tweak the amount of steam used. 
  • Consider buying a combination steam oven if you're after flexibility when it comes to preparing food.

Added moisture steam oven

  • Also known as added humidity steam oven.
  • A standard oven that comes with an added moisture function. This may also be referred to by the manufacturer as 'steam assist'.

Key steam oven features

Water tank

A steam oven can't produce steam without water. If your steam oven isn't connected to a water supply through the wall, then it will have a detachable reservoir for the water that needs to be filled manually.

The water tank can be found by opening the front door of the oven. Most major steam oven brands sell spare water tank parts in case the old one develops a crack and starts leaking.

Automatic cooking programmes

To save you from constantly having to peer through the window to check on your food, most steam ovens have a selection of automatic cooking programmes.

By selecting a programme, you won't need to adjust cooking time or temperature as the appliance will take care of that for you.

You can pick the best option based on the type of food you're working with. If you're cooking fish or meat, for example, you can try sous-vide cooking, working with low temperatures over a long period of time.

Large oven compartments

When deciding between a couple of different steam oven models, make sure you pay attention to the capacity. If you'll be cooking for a family, you'll need to make sure you have enough space.

Steam oven accessories

You might benefit from having a couple of extra steam oven cooking trays, especially if you'll be steaming food on a regular basis.

Miele, for example, sells a variety of steam oven accessories on its website. The full list includes steam cooking containers, stainless-steel lids and handles (for removing fully loaded trays). Neff also sells its own range of cooking inserts for its steam oven models.

How much does a steam oven cost?

You have plenty of choice when picking a brand. AEG, Bosch, Miele, Neff and Siemens all sell a range of steam ovens. In fact, we've tested some of them in the Which? lab.

When buying a steam oven, make sure you're shopping with a reputable, well-known seller.

It's good to get into the habit of researching any retailer before making a big purchase. Make sure you consider the retailer's returns policy, and set aside some time to read customer feedback and reviews. 

Our guide to shopping online has more details on how to check your rights when browsing websites.

Popular retailers that stock steam ovens include:

  • AO.com sells a small selection of built-in ovens, with prices starting at around £679 and rising to £3,299. Featured brands include Hoover, Miele, Rangemaster and Smeg.
  • Appliancesdirect – just five steam ovens to choose from at the time of writing. The cheapest of the bunch is a 34-litre built-in oven from electriQ, which costs around £350. Featured brands include CDA, electriQ, Miele and Neff. Prices rise as high as £2,179.
  • John Lewis – stocks more than 20 built-in oven models from brands including AEG, Bosch, Panasonic and Rangemaster. Expect to pay anywhere between £400 and £3,999.
  • Currys PC World – has a selection of steam ovens, the vast majority of which are from AEG. You may also find models from Candy and Neff. Prices start at £400 and rise to £1,199.

You can find out which shops shoppers recommend with our expert guide on the best and worst online shops.

Prices listed above correct as of August 2020.

Do you need a steam oven?

Perhaps. Your decision will depend on the type of food you like to cook and how health conscious you are.

A good diet is about more than just nutritious ingredients – you need to think about how your food is prepared as well. Using a steam oven is healthier than baking or frying, and you'll be preserving natural textures and flavours.

Taste aside, food cooked in a steam oven is more likely to retain its natural colour. If you're cooking with a variety of different vegetables, for example, you'll be treated to some delightfully vibrant colours when it comes to serving.

If you've got the space and the budget, you may find you want to buy a steam oven as an additional appliance, ultimately saving space in your main oven so that you can cook other foods at the same time.

Top-scoring steam ovens

By consulting the results of our rigorous lab tests, you can buy a steam oven that scores top marks for the features that matter – preheating speed, accuracy of oven controls and oven heat distribution. Below, we've rounded up three high-scoring ovens.

If you're not yet a member? Join Which? to access all of our expert steam oven reviews.

  • 87%

    This high-scoring, but pricey, Best Buy oven has plenty going for it and sailed through every one of our tests. Not only does it bake, cook and grill brilliantly, but it's jam-packed with useful features and is easy to clean when you've finished.

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  • 83%

    We were hugely impressed by this oven and it scored very highly in our cooking tests, easily making it a Which? Best Buy recommendation. A handy timer lets you set the oven in advance and the menu offers a wide range of auto-cook programs.

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  • 80%

    An excellent all-rounder, although pricey. It has a quick and accurate oven, and a great grill. Some people might find the smart function useful.

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For more details on which models have soared through our tests, discover the full range of Best Buy built-in ovens.