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Steam Cooking . . .Uncovering the Possibilities

For years man has used steam to cook food, with the best example being the Chinese when they started using bamboo steamers thousands of years ago, as well as food wrapped in water-soaked leaves as among the earliest attempts to harness the tremendous energy and heat potential of steam.
Even with the long history of steam cooking like the pressure steamer as a bulk vegetable cooker, some operators have not considered steam equipment for their kitchens. This may be due to a few lingering misconceptions or a general lack of understanding about steam. The Cleveland Range innovation of the no pressure convection steaming principle in 1974 changed the market place. I hope this article helps to explain how steam works and opens your mind to steam cooking for the future.
Steam delivers a great deal of energy that readily transfers to the food by way of a steamer, or indirectly though a heat transfer surface such as a steam kettle wall. Steam is water (a liquid) that has been converted to a gaseous state. It gives up the energy load when it touches the food and condenses back into water. The best example of the gaseous state would be to view a combi oven (with a glass door) operating in the steam mode. Some operators believe that the combi is not working, as they do not see the steam. However, opening the door, you are blasted by the gaseous state of steam, which until it came into contact with the outside air wasn't visible. The steam gas condenses the moisture within the air and produces a vapor most people think is steam.
My favorite example of the benefits and effectiveness of steam would be to compare the heat of an oven and the steam generated by boiling water in your teakettle at home. You will notice that you can hold your hand in the oven operating at 400 degrees for a time period and not really get burned.
However, take that same hand and try to hold it over the steam generated from your teakettle (212F) and you could get an instant steam burn. That's the power of steam. It carries 3 times the BTU energy at 212F than the oven at 400F.
Today steam is used in both high volume central commissaries for prisons, schools and casinos and in small ala carte restaurants. Steam can be used in such a great variety of applications for the following reasons:
1. Steam is very forgiving. Because steam cooks at 212F it cannot burn the food. Even if you leave the product you are cooking in the steamer too long, it still remains firm and maintains good structure.
2. Cook multiple products in a steamer all at the same time with no flavor transfer. You can cook seafood, vegetables, meat, and even a cake in the same steamer compartment as long as you make sure the food does not drip down onto the food product beneath it.
3. Steam retains the highest amount of nutrients and vitamins of any other way of cooking. Therefore, it is the healthiest way to cook.
4. Vegetables maintain their brilliant colors during cooking, and enhance the presentation to your customer.
5. Steam cooks fast. You can cook some products in half the time of a convection oven.