Steaming food is a very old method of cooking- perfect for many cuisines and styles, from bread making to dumplings, ideal for seafood and any dish where you want moisture preserved. But few Americans use steam widely in their kitchens, beyond the occasional vegetable or using their rice cooker. It’s healthier than frying, avoiding oils and fats, but can be a bit difficult to master, as it’s harder to monitor and oversteaming leads quickly to mushy, watery results.
But if you are in need of a small countertop convection oven- and who isn’t?- then you should definitely consider the Cuisinart Steam and Convection Combo Oven. It looks and acts for the most part like your basic countertop oven, a replacement for your toaster, but one able to fit a small chicken or other poultry and cook it at a high temperature without taking up too much space. However, there is an added water tank to the side, and some additional options that make it superior to most other models, though a little pricier than many.
Let’s start with the basics: the CSO-300 looks and feels like a Cuisinart appliance, with it’s sleek modern appearance, blue-lit display panel, and stainless steel body. It’s a pretty hefty machine too, weighing in at nearly 25 pounds. One thing that surprises people is the lack of buttons- it uses a dial system for most things, meaning you’ll be rotating and selecting kind of like you were using an iPod. We tested it first as a basic convection oven, cooking up some frozen pizzas, trying out some other classics like fries and English muffins. It offers quite a bit of room- enough for a medium 12-inch pizza even- and the rack can shift to a few positions to allow different items and heating options. With a range up to 500 degrees, it can handle just about anything.
Steaming foods is a different experience- and one that takes a bit of practice. You can easily tell when things are toasted well, thanks to the browning color and the telltale smoke. Steaming is different, and you’ll need a couple of tries or a little trial and error. That said, we found this to be an excellent option for those looking to bake or proof bread, pretzels, or make rolls. It’s a really unique option, faster than any we’ve seen, and more flexible than a bread maker. Plus, it looks far nicer on your counter as well. Cleanup and accessories are only OK, as the built-in tray is so-so, and it’s easy to make a mess in the unit with self-cleaning functions that don’t quite get it fully clean. For some, it might be a bit small. But for us, it’s a little bit wonderful, with a bit of a learning curve. Available now, online and in stores, the Combo Steam and Convection Oven runs around $280.