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Updated: 28 Feb 2022

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 oven is likely to cook your favourite meal more quickly. But despite only having one main function, they're often more expensive than a standard built-in oven. 

Keep scrolling to find out more on the different types of steam oven. 

Not sure what kind of oven you want? Head to best ovens guide for advice and recommendations.

How steam ovens work 

The vast majority of steam ovens have an internal water tank that needs to be filled with water before you start cooking. Depending on the model, this is either done manually or automatically through your kitchen's 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 than a regular oven.

Types of steam oven

Oven and a joint of meat

There are three main types of steam oven, with each variation having 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 standard built-in oven does. They tend to be smaller, too.
  • 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 standard ovens that let you add some steam at any time – you can pick between steam-only or convection-only settings.
  • Combination steam ovens often 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 includes an added moisture function. This may be referred to by the manufacturer as 'steam assist' or similar.

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, then it will have a detachable reservoir for the water that needs to be filled manually.

Most major steam oven brands sell spare water tank parts in case the old one develops a crack and starts leaking.

Automatic cooking programmes

Steam oven controls
To save you from frequently 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 cooking. If it's fish or meat, for example, you can try sous-vide cooking, working with low temperatures over a long period of time.

Large oven compartments

Steam oven compartment
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

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 a range of cooking inserts for its steam ovens.

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. Prices range widely from less than £300 to around £3,000.

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. 

Read more about your consumer rights in our guide to shopping online.

Where can you buy a steam oven?

Popular retailers that stock steam ovens include:

  • AO.com – sells a small selection of built-in ovens, with prices starting at around £520 and rising to £3,299. Featured brands include Hoover, Miele, Rangemaster and Smeg.
  • Appliancesdirect – just six steam ovens to choose from at the time of writing. The cheapest of the bunch is a 36-litre built-in oven from CDA, which costs around £362. Other featured brands include AEG, Hotpoint and Neff. Prices go up to £1,179.
  • John Lewis – stocks 10 built-in oven models from brands including AEG, Bosch, Siemens and Smeg. Expect to pay upwards of £400. John Lewis also features a Rangmaster range cooker than has steam capability. 
  • Currys PC World – has a selection of steam ovens, featuring many AEG models. You may also find ovens from Beko, Candy and Neff. Prices start at £270 and go up to £1,429.

Prices correct as of August 2021.

Find out which shops customers recommend in our guide to the best and worst shops.

Do you need a steam oven?

Vegetables cooking in 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 also need to think about how your food is prepared. 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 might consider 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.

Discover which ovens aced our tests - see our shortlist of best built-in ovens.