Technology Profile – Smart Kitchens
cooking with superheated steam is all the rage, and Sharp sells more superheated steam ovens than anyone
By Douglas Weinstein
Take a step back and think about the food we all consume. The majority of what we cook and eat is comprised mainly of water and most thrive and grow in bountiful rainfalls. Think about the vineyards that absorb the moisture of a late summer evening when fog fed by ocean breezes rolls in and shrouds the hills of Napa and Sonoma counties. Or the juiciness of a ripe peach. Or how plant life and animals depend on water for survival. Not to mention that when we cook, we often use water. Poaching, simmering, boiling, blanching, braising, stewing, pot roasting, steaming and en papillote. Water plays such a fundamentally important role in our lives, especially in our kitchens, that we sometimes take it for granted.
We also take for granted what is happening to those water-based foods we put in our ovens. Traditional ovens can dry out the food, leaching out the nutrients and significantly diminishing the taste. It’s no wonder professional chefs like to rub some butter on steaks once they come out of the oven to make your first bite savory and delicious.
There is an evolution happening in our kitchens today that is dynamically changing how we think about cooking food and how to provide our families with the healthiest meals possible. And it has to do with water. From foodies to home cooks to elite name-brand chefs, we are witnessing a revolution and a revelation with the latest technology being deployed in homes and restaurants around the world. Cooking with superheated steam.
cooking with steam
Steam cooking is one of the most ancient methods used for preparing food. Archaeologists have found the chards of ceramic pots at different digs around Japan that reveal the cooking habits of the people in the Jomon period. These pots date back as far as 15,000 years to the last ice age. Some used for cooking are the earliest incarnations of what we now call the nabemono, or hot pot.
Every family made its own pots for basic needs like cooking and storage, and later with spare time, pottery with stands and other ritual vessels were produced. The Yayoi people made different types of pots for different uses. Jars for cooking, pedestaled bowls used like dishes for serving foods, and vases for storing food and water. Perforated jars were used for steaming foods such as rice and oysters.
the Yan steamer
In China during the Qing Dynasty, in the small town of Jianshui a potter by the name of Yang Li created a steam-pot with a hollow tube in the center. This was used primarily for steamed chicken. Versions were created that resemble today’s double-boilers. This type of steam pottery is known today as a Yan bronze steamer. It consists of a zeng, or deep upper bowl with a pierced bottom, which was placed upon or attached to a lower, legged vessel known as a li.
Water contained within the li would be boiled, steaming the food in the upper bowl. Yan first appeared during the late Shang dynasty (c. 1300–1046 BCE), around the 12th to 11th century BCE, and was a popular form of steamer throughout the Western Zhou (c. 1046–771 BCE) and early Spring and Autumn (770–476 BCE) periods.
The yan pictured here is from the early Western Zhou period. The decoration on the upper section is fairly restrained, with only a narrow ornamental band of animal masks below the lip.
Fast forward to the 21st century and steam pots (double boilers) are a staple in any serious kitchen. Steamer ovens come in many shapes and sizes and can be found in restaurants and bakeries where the steam cooks food faster and helps produce crispier crusts on bread.
Superheated steam is steam put in contact with additional heat, which makes the temperature of the steam raise with pressure. Water vapor heated to 485° F keeps the heat evenly distributed inside the oven to eliminate hots spots and provides a more efficient way to transfer heat to the food. The food browns, but the inside stays moist and nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants aren’t lost in the cooking process.
In a recent study published in the Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources, superheated steam food samples scored the highest among the sensory characteristics, tenderness, juiciness and overall acceptability. After extensive research, steamed vegetables maintained a better texture quality than boiled vegetables and steamed sweet potatoes had an increase in antioxidant activity.
Sharp has sold more superheated steam ovens than anyone else on planet Earth. They have sold over 2 million superheated steam ovens globally since 2004 and offer a wide assortment of products in this burgeoning category.
The newest kid on the block is the Sharp 24-inch SuperSteam+™ superheated steam and convection Built-in Oven. This is a truly versatile 3-in-1 combo wall oven that cooks with both moist and dry heat. You have the option of ensuring your food browns with superheated steam or you can use the standard steam setting at 212°. You can also cook with radiant heat plus convection. With a powerful convection oven providing even heating, utilizing dry heat adds another tool to your arsenal. They even have new steam bake and water bath settings.
Another new product coming to market is the Sharp 24-inch 1.2 cu. ft. 950W stainless steel Easy Wave Open Microwave Drawer with IoT capability. Simply wave up-and-down near the motion sensor and the Microwave Drawer will glide open.
Having a built-in microwave drawer allows you to choose a location that works in your kitchen. From a design viewpoint, you can install it below an island or peninsula or below the super-heated wall oven. They even have an elegant flush mount kit available. And it fits a 4-quart casserole dish. What’s not to like?
full kitchen suite
Sharp has now introduced dishwashers and refrigerators in addition to a new line of premium Schott Ceran® glass-ceramic induction cooktops, European Convection built-in wall ovens, and their award-winning microwave appliances. They are launching a concerted effort to become a major presence in the kitchen, and they are connecting their products to the IoT.
Sharp entered into a strategic partnership with recipe startup company SideChef only a few years ago to develop a SideChef-compatible second generation SuperSteam+ Built-In Wall Oven for a recipe-driven culinary experience. Homeowners will work with their kitchen – via the SideChef app or touch panel on the appliance. They will have access to a wide gallery of steam recipes compatible with each cooking mode; Steam Cook, Steam Bake, Steam Proof, Convection Bake, Super Steam Grill, and Super Steam Roast. On the ovens touch panel, you will be taken through a step-by-step process of creating a recipe and will have the ability to categorize recipes based on desired cooking mode that you want to experiment with. It’s this connectivity that makes it fun to get in the kitchen and prepare nutritious, fun and creative dishes.
On the SideChef app there are step-by-step instructions for each recipe and guided tours of how to prepare each meal, in addition to being able to quickly create shopping lists and save money planning out your meals ahead of time. These smart collaborations speak to Sharp’s long-term vision in bringing innovative kitchen appliances to market that are smart and intuitive to use. We like the road Sharp is traveling with reasonably priced, performance-based products that have joined the connected kitchen. Sharp thinking from the folks at Sharp.
The Sharp superheated steam countertop oven is the simple way to experience the innovation happening in superheated steam cooking. The combination of superheated steam and conventional radiant heat in all cooking modes means your food will be crispy and browned on the outside, moist and delicious on the inside.
This is a powerful, low-profile pizzeria-style oven that is roomy enough for a 12-inch pizza! Besides becoming your new toaster-style oven, we think it’s also perfect for guest suites, cottages, basement entertainment areas, and luxe rental properties.