Convection steam ovens promise speedy cooking

Versatile models from Wolf, Thermador, and Cuisinart

Published: January 07, 2014 04:45 PM

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Wolf CSO24 built-in oven

Why reheat day-old food in the microwave when you can rejuvenate leftovers to just-made freshness. That's one of the promises Wolf makes with its $3,800 built-in convection steam oven. We scoured the market for the latest in timesaving cooking appliances, and convection steam ovens, which boast speed, versatility, and healthy food prep, grabbed our attention. Here's a look at three we have in our cooking labs now.
The combination of convection and steam is meant to reduce cooking time, with the convection circulating hot air for better browning while the steam adds moisture to help keep food moist and juicy with little or no added fat. Wolf claims that its built-in CS024 Convection Steam Oven is several appliances in one, allowing you to sauté, simmer, boil, bake, roast, and yes, rejuvenate leftovers. Our testing continues, but so far the Wolf has cooked a nicely browned 4-pound chicken in about 40 minutes using its 425°F convection steam mode. We're also testing another built-in convection steam oven, the Thermador PS0301M, $4,000. It's been easier to operate, but so far the temperature and cooking time were similar to a conventional oven when we cooked a chicken using the easy cook mode.

Cuisinart CSO-300

Much more affordable is the $300 countertop steam and convection oven from Cuisinart. That's $50 more than our top-rated toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL. The Cuisinart CSO-300 looks like a regular toaster oven, which means its size limits you to cooking one dish at a time, but it has a removable reservoir that you fill with tap water. The results were impressive in our tests. When set to 450°F steam-bake mode, the Cuisinart cooked a fairly evenly browned 4-pound chicken in around 40 minutes—half the time needed for a conventional electric wall oven set to 350°F. The yams were tasty and done in two-thirds the time. But we didn't save any time cooking rice or broccoli, compared to when we prepared them on a cooktop and in a microwave. And our steam-baked loaf of bread was slightly crispier than the bread turned out by a conventional oven.

We'll continue our tests of the Wolf and Thermador and report back on whether we saved time and how the food turned out. Until then, here's some advice from our experts on ways to save time in the kitchen as well as our reviews of other kitchen appliances that help you save time.

—Kimberly Janeway

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