Steam Oven vs. Microwave: Differences & Which Is Better? 

Steam Oven vs. Microwave

The microwave and the steam oven are kitchen appliances that have made a big difference in modern cooking. They are both valuable members of your kitchen’s team and are time-saving, compact, and efficient. Though they may appear similar, the microwave and the steam oven differ in many vital aspects. So what are the differences between a steam oven and a microwave, and which is better? 

The steam oven and the microwave differ in terms of purpose, use results, price, availability, and manner of functioning. The steam oven works with steam, and the microwave works with radiation. The microwave is about speed, while the steam oven is about the food’s nutritional quality. 

Since both the steam oven and the microwave can do similar things, we naturally assume they are more similar than different. The price difference between these two is quite significant, so why invest in a steam oven if you can get the same results with a cheaper microwave? To debunk this misconception, in the following paragraphs, I will explain the differences between the steam oven and the microwave and give you some valuable information on both.

Steam Oven vs. Microwave: Differences

The steam oven and the microwave have similar purposes; you might even say that the concept is the same; however, their results and the way they work are entirely different. Both have been designed to revolutionize modern cooking, save time, and increase efficiency. Also, neither the steam oven nor the microwave requires adding oil or fat, meaning they are both directed at healthier cooking. 

Purpose 

The main difference between the steam oven and the microwave is the purpose for which they have been designed. While the microwave’s priority is speed, the steam oven is all about healthy cooking. 

Cooking in the microwave will make food cooked faster, but the quality will be dubious, while the steam oven is both fast and healthy-cooking oriented. 

Therefore, the microwave and the steam oven have different objectives in focus while producing seemingly similar results. 

Functioning 

The way they function is another crucial difference between the microwave and the steam oven. The microwave works by using high-powered radio waves that create motion inside the food molecules, causing the food to cook/heat up from the inside out. On the other hand, the steam oven uses steam that creates a very high temperature inside the oven and penetrates the food cooking it on the inside and the outside simultaneously. 

Neither the steam oven nor the microwave needs to be preheated, and both of them can cook, heat up, and defrost food. 

Quality of Food

The food cooked in the steam oven is delicious, retains its nutritional quality, isn’t moist or too dry, and retains natural juices and oils, which means that you don’t have to add any fat or oil while cooking in steam oven. 

The food you cook in the microwave doesn’t require added oil or fat, but it isn’t as high quality as cooked in the steam oven. The microwave rarely cooks the food just right, leaving it dry or excessively moist. 

The steam oven can cook multiple types of food simultaneously, while the microwave doesn’t have that ability. Even if you had several small pieces of food and the space wasn’t a problem for you to cook them in the microwave, the tastes would still mix. 

When cooking several different types of food in the steam oven, each food retains its flavor and doesn’t taste like the other foods. This is because the steam circulates in the steam oven, while there’s no such circulation inside the microwave. 

Although you may do the same action in the microwave and the steam oven, say cooking a chicken, the result from the microwave would be hard and dry meat, while the steam oven will give you nicely cooked and soft meat with a crispy exterior.

In terms of nutritional quality, nothing beats the steam oven. Steam cooking has proven to be the healthiest way of cooking. However, given the shorter amount of time needed to cook in a microwave and the fact that there’s no added fat or oil, you could say that the nutritional value of microwave-cooked food is good as well. 

Due to high temperatures created inside the food (and the movement of the food molecules), some micronutrients are bound to diminish in the microwave. That’s not the case with the steam oven. 

Uses

The microwave and the steam oven have very similar functions and uses. You can cook, defrost, and reheat in both of these appliances. However, the steam oven is more famous for cooking, while the microwave is more frequent use to reheat already cooked food. 

This is because the quality of food is not the same, and the steam-cooked food in the steam oven is of far better quality. The taste is just right, the consistency is excellent, and the texture is well suited for the food in question. 

The microwave-cooked food can be soggy or very dry, the flavor diminishes, and the nutritional quality is different too. 

Price 

The price is another aspect in which the microwave and the steam oven differ by large. While the microwave has been around for quite some time, the steam oven is relatively new on the market, and therefore the microwave is much more affordable than the steam oven. 

The steam oven, in turn, is much more expensive than the microwave, making it less available due to the steep price. 

Is Steam Oven Better Than a Microwave?

The steam oven uses superior technology and is therefore superior to many other cooking appliances, including the microwave. However, the fact that the steam oven is superior to the microwave does not mean that the microwave is a bad or a low-quality appliance; it just means that the steam oven is the best cooking appliance available now. 

 However, that doesn’t make the conventional oven bad either; as we know, we all use conventional ovens anyway. 

So even though the steam oven is better, you can do a great job with the microwave too. However, when it comes to cooking, the quality of the food cooked in the microwave and the steam oven isn’t the same. 

Can a Steam Oven Be Used as a Microwave?

A steam oven can be used as a microwave; combined appliances called combi-steam ovens combine the microwave and the steam oven together, but you can use a regular steam oven as a microwave too. 

The technology involved is, of course, different, but what you can do with the microwave, you can do with the steam oven. So warming up foo and defrosting, known microwave functions, can also be performed by the steam oven. 

Does a Steam Oven Brown Food?

Unless the steam oven has an integrated function to brown the food, it doesn’t brown food. However, this isn’t to say that the food is exactly the same color as it did before the steam cooking. Although browning is not much of a factor in other foods, it is desirable when cooking meat. 

The meat will have a different color but won’t have that mouth-watering golden brown shade we want. The steam oven doesn’t have a broiling or grilling option, so the meat will be perfectly cooked, but still, it will lack color. 

The meat in the steam oven is surrounded by steam equally. It’s surrounded from all sides and is simultaneously cooked on the inside and outside, so there’s no meat part more or less exposed to the steam. There’s no dry air to dehydrate and brown the surface, so the meat color won’t be what we are used to. 

Can You Put Plastic in a Steam Oven?

Generally, no, you cannot put plastic in a steam oven, though there are types of plastic designed to withhold high temperatures and considered safe to use in a steam oven. 

The temperature in the steam oven is very high, 212 °F (100 °C). Moreover, the humidity level is 100% in the steam oven, so putting plastic inside, even the kinds that are advertised as safe, is a considerable unnecessary risk. Even if the plastic remains intact in the steam oven, there is still a chance that it will leak toxins inside your food and will contaminate your steam oven. 

You can use metal trays, tin foil, and heatproof glass pans in your steam oven. 

What Can a Microwave Do That a Steam Oven Can’t Do?

In terms of functions, the steam oven can do everything a microwave does- reheating, defrosting, and cooking. However, in terms of time, the microwave can be much more time-effective. 

Therefore, if there’s one thing a microwave can do that a steam oven can’t, that would be reheating an entire meal in under a minute. The steam oven needs more time, while the microwave is a fast worker. 

What Are Some Best Steam Ovens on the Market?

Since steam ovens are still new on the market, and there’s a lot to learn about them and their functions, it is always good to have a pointer about what should good steam look like. Therefore, I’ve selected some of the best steam ovens on the market as a starting point. 

1. AUG Countertop Steam Oven

This is a multifunctional combined appliance from the premium category on Amazon.

2. Cuisinart Convection, Stainless Steel Steam & Convection Oven

This is in Amazon’s budget option.

3. Instant Pot Omni 18L Air Fryer Toaster Oven 7-in-1 Combo with Adjustable Toasting Levels

This is an Amazon bestseller, and although it isn’t a steam oven, it’s an excellent multifunctional appliance.

  • Laura is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery. She started this blog with her grandma Julie who introduced her to the amazing world of cooking. She likes to experiment with different flavors, and her favorite flavors combo is chicken with coconut milk, curry and peanuts!