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Microwaves

What Are Steam Microwaves? 7 Questions Answered & Solved!

Antonio Forde
Updated: January 26, 2024
9 min read

Built-in steaming is one of the latest and niftiest features added to the trusty microwave oven. While pricier, this additional function can be an investment worthy of your money. 

Here is a quick rundown on what steam microwaves are all about.

Here’s What a Steam Microwave Is:

Steam microwaves are combination microwaves that integrate the health benefits of cooking with steam and the speed and convenience of cooking with microwaves. You get to enjoy food with its vitamins and nutrients intact without utilizing the old-school steamer basket or a separate electric steamer.

Are Steam Microwaves Any Good?

Definitely. With steam microwaves, you are guaranteed all the benefits of steaming, but in a quicker, more satisfying way.

Many microwave manufacturers have jumped on the trend of including steam functions in their newer units. These combination models appeal to consumers who want to incorporate more healthy options in their meals.

Steam microwaves combine the conventional method of microwaving food with steaming accessories similar to standard gas or electric ovens.

Like regular microwaves, steam varieties are available in countertops and built-in models. Whether you opt for one that can sit comfortably in your counter space or drawer or one that can fit seamlessly into your cabinetry, you have plenty of options to choose from.

Since microwaves cook or reheat food quickly, you get to enjoy perfectly steamed vegetables or meat in minutes. There is no need for an elaborate setup in your stove range. 

How Much Is a Steam Microwave?

Steam microwaves can retail between $250 to $1500, depending on size, type, and brand. Compared to regular microwaves, they are pricier due to the additional steaming facility. 

With standard microwaves, the most affordable units can cost you between $75 to $170. These models include features such as basic timers and cooking presets.

Those with convection cooking and air frying features come with a $200 to $400 price tag.

For steam microwaves, low-cost countertop models can cost you around $200. These units typically come with only two functions, microwaving and steaming.

Meanwhile, prices for convection microwave oven types with steam function can reach up to $1500.

These units are capable of eight functions, from steam, grill, and combination cooking, aside from the usual microwave, defrost, and auto cook options.

For steam features, advanced models feature powerful dual outlets that allow you to steam two meals at the same time.

Over-the-range and built-in steam microwaves cost more, easily clearing the $2000 price range.

How Does a Steam Microwave Work?

Steam microwaves function just like regular microwaves, but with added steam features.

Like standard units, they cook and reheat food using radiation. The electromagnetic waves produced by the magnetron inside the appliance reflect off the oven walls before penetrating the food.

Once they are absorbed, they cause the water and fat molecules to vibrate. The vibration generates heat, which cooks the food quickly and evenly.

With regular microwaves, steaming is done by adding a small amount of water to food in a covered container. The water present creates extra vapor, so you can cook dishes packed with moisture and flavor every time.

A steam microwave does not need a separate dish to steam food. Instead, it utilizes the entire oven cavity to steam its contents. 

Depending on your appliance size and model, you can steam on multiple tiers at once without worrying about flavor transfer between levels.

With steam microwaves, you can cook food around four times faster than the traditional cooking method.

As the steam infuses deep into your food, it locks in nutrients your body needs while removing excess fat and salt.

Some steam microwaves include convection and defrost functions, allowing you to do different cooking methods, from steaming and baking to roasting and grilling.

You can also use the pre-programmed steam settings so you can cook with precision. You can select the appropriate temperature and steaming duration for specific food items with this feature.

Moreover, there are preset menus for cooking meats, vegetables, rice, and pastries. 

If you have a limited kitchen area, using this one compact device for your cooking needs can save you a lot of space.

What Are the Advantages of a Steam Microwave?

There are two main advantages of using a steam microwave – shorter cooking time and healthier food options.

Steam microwaves can cook food around 75% faster than traditional steaming via conventional gas or electric ranges.

Such is the perk of steaming in a microwave.

Microwaves do not need preheating since the radiation produced by the magnetron is confined to the food itself. While operating, the oven interior stays cool, so you save plenty of cooking time.

Most steam microwaves also come with high-efficiency boiler units, so steam is directed only in the target area/s. This allows you to decrease cooking times without impacting food quality.

Meanwhile, when you steam using your stove, you waste time boiling water, so the food in your steamer basket will be cooked just right.

Electric food steamers or steam cookers follow the same concept as when you steam using a steamer basket. 

While they are considerably faster than the traditional method, their cooking time is not as swift as when using your steam microwave.

Electric food steamers also take up space in your countertops. With steam microwaves, you can free those spaces in your tiny kitchen.

Steam microwaves are the perfect appliance for those who like to eat healthy.

Steaming has been proven to be one of the best cooking methods to retain food goodness. They let you preserve your food’s natural flavor, colors, and textures. 

You can even prepare low-fat meals with minimal oil, butter, and other sauces.

Many vegetables can be damaged by heat and water, making them lose all those water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C and folate.

For instance, when you boil food, the vitamins leach into the cooking water and end up thrown in the sink rather than in your body.

Aside from locking in vitamins, steaming is excellent in retaining antioxidants such as flavonoids and anthocyanins. These substances are vital in cleaning up free radicals that harm your body.

Steaming is a fat-free way to cook since you do not need to add oil or salt to make food tastes good. By eliminating those in your diet, you can avoid future health risks such as stroke and heart attack.

One of the misunderstandings with steaming is the lack of flavor in food. Steaming actually helps the food retain its natural taste. Since there is no direct contact with hot water, you also get to enjoy meals that look appetizing.

By steaming, food keeps its moisture without becoming mushy. Steamed meat and fish are likewise unlikely to dry out, compared to when you cook them at much higher temperatures, like oven roasting.

Microwaves do not heat up as much as conventional ovens, so protein-packed food items stay moist and tender when steamed.

With fish and other seafood, you can steam them, and they retain their shape and texture.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Steam Microwave?

One definite drawback in buying steam microwaves is the price. Combination microwaves ovens, like those with steam functions, are considerably more expensive than the conventional ones.

Countertop varieties will be the least expensive among the oven types, but even then, they will cost you a few hundred dollars more than when you buy the regular microwave you place on your kitchen counter.

If you want a built-in steam microwave fitted in your cabinets, the price tag will jump even more.

However, considering the benefits of owning one, that money is a decent investment.

Combination microwaves will let you save cash in the long run since you do not need to purchase multiple appliances for your cooking needs.

Another disadvantage of steam microwaves is cleaning. Since these units involve a lot of moisture, you need to clean them more regularly and thoroughly to get rid of that excess condensation.

When left alone, too much condensation inside your microwave oven is harmful to your appliance.

Condensation is entirely normal, even with conventional microwaves. When the electromagnetic waves heat up the water molecules, they turn into steam.

The steam precipitates into water droplets once it touches the cold walls of your appliance. If you cook food items with high moisture content, it is common to find puddles on your oven floor.

You can expect to find more condensation inside your appliance with steam microwaves. Water may even leak through the oven door.

If there is too much water and you fail to clean up right away, you may end up with a damaged oven interior.

Rusting may occur since water damages metal by speeding up the oxidation process. 

Water leaks can also get into the electrical conductors. When these materials corrode, they become prone to overheating.

A damp microwave is the perfect breeding place for molds. Combine this moisture with forgotten food particles, and you will have spores sprouting up anywhere in the interior of your appliance.

Generally, mold growth is not common in enclosed spaces such as microwaves. Molds take time to sufficiently cultivate, so they should not be a problem if you keep your appliance clean.

However, if you let the water settle for long on the floor of your microwave, this may be enough for the mold spores to propagate.

Killing the active spore colonies is not as easy. The heat from your microwave is not enough to eliminate them altogether.

If there is mold growth in your steam microwave, you should refrain from using it to prepare your meals. You may end up with respiratory problems or allergic reactions. 

Aside from those unsightly black or green mold patches, your steam microwave will also smell bad. 

That mildew stench will not go away unless you perform a thorough cleaning of your appliance.

The better option, of course, is to avoid condensation build-up completely.

While most steam microwaves come with auto-clean or self-clean settings, you still need to give your appliance a quick but careful wipe down after each use.

This is to eliminate any residue in the oven compartment and walls. Leaving the microwave door open for a few minutes after use also helps get rid of the lingering moisture inside.

Is It Worth Getting a Steam Microwave?

Sure. A steam microwave is a helpful appliance worth your investment. 

As with other combination ovens, you are paying for one piece of equipment that can perform a number of tasks. 

Instead of buying a separate steamer for your cooking needs, you have a microwave that can do it for you, alongside other functions.

Steam microwaves are also handy when you need fast but efficient meal preparations. Your steamed dishes will be ready in no time, compared to the minutes you wait when you cook via the conventional method.

You can also enjoy delicious food without sacrificing the flavors. 

Steam microwaves ensure that the meats and vegetables you cook will retain the nutrients that your body needs in your diet.

At the same time, you will never have to deal with dried-up food items again. All those moisture are safely locked inside, more so than when steaming via conventional ovens.

While pricier than your standard microwaves, all the benefits recompense that extra money you shell out.

If you are on a healthy eating journey, a steam microwave is an excellent companion tool.

The preset settings in your appliance will let you experiment with different recipes that are both tasty and wholesome, without over-or under-steaming.

You can prepare a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert by using your steam microwave.

Even if cleaning can be a drag sometimes, it is necessary to ensure optimum performance. You will not want your investment to go to waste.

Steam microwaves deserve regular maintenance, the same as your other household appliance. This is vital if you want to keep on using it for many years.

Making it a routine to clean after use should help. After all, a little tender loving care will go a long way.

Sources:

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Written by
Antonio Forde
I'm the head-writer @ Ask The Home Geek (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing & editing the majority of the content here). Current learning project: Korean.
Have any questions? Write us a message.
Antonio Forde
I'm the head-writer @ Ask The Home Geek (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing & editing the majority of the content here). Current learning project: Korean.