The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Steam Oven

mattie405's picture
mattie405

Steam Oven

Having insomnia tonight and spending those hours channel surfing I wandered onto one of the shopping channels, HSN to be exact and lo and behold, they were advertising and demonstrating a new steam oven for home use, it was priced at under $200. Made by Westinghouse and called a Tritec CSV Steam Convection Oven it looked like something bread makers could be interested in. It also works as a rotisserie, looked to be about the size of a microwave oven and comes with a 12 inch stone to do breads on, steam is at the users option if they want to use it or not. Thought some here might be interested in taking a look at a small steam oven for home use.........guess I should say I am in no way affiliated with HSN or the oven maker........maybe I should also say that the only time I ever made a purchase on HSN I was disappointed with their service, but I do know that many, many people buy from them and love them. The Item number is/was HSN 100-831.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

Here are a few particulars:


Westinghouse Tritec CSV Steam Oven with Accessories Features


Versatile multi-function oven
  • Functions include Proofing (making dough rise), Defrost, Grill, Braise, Bake, Combo Bake and Braise, Toast, Pizza and Rotisserie
  • 10 preprogrammed menus
  • Convenient and easy to use

Adjustable temperature control
  • Set cooking temperatures from 105 degrees to 465 degrees Fahrenheit with controlled steam vapor.
rjerden's picture
rjerden

As I had said earlier, I would give a more comprehensive critique after a few more test bakes. First, some qualifiers:


 



  • My comments refer primarily to the use of this oven for baking bread. Chef Rick claims the oven will steam, broil, bake, roast, toast, rotisserie, make pizza and bread (and probably do your taxes). More on Chef Rick later.

  • I have baked several types of bread that I do frequently and am very familiar with. I can't speak to any other bread types specifically, but I will comment on the types that I think are most appropriate for this oven.

  • This oven comes with numerous pre-programmed settings for different dishes. I did not use any of these. I used only the manual settings. It's possible that you might get better results with a pre-programmed setting, like pizza.


General Comments:


After using the oven for several days and baking different breads, I am pleased with the results. In particular, I have been struggling for 2 years to get the light, airy, hollow Rosetta Rolls that I remember from Rome. The controlled injection of steam was the missing piece of the puzzle. I can now make these rolls almost as well as an Italian commercial baker. More specific comments later.


The oven is made in China, and as you might expect, is not high end equipment, but for less than $200, including shipping, it allows you to get steam when you bake, as well as cooking other dishes.


The usable volume is only about .7 cubic ft, the best I can tell. You have about a 12X12 area and about 5.5 inches of headroom to work with, so nothing big will fit.

The user manual provided is pretty slim on details. I had to figure out a lot by myself, for example that you cannot change any settings once the oven starts baking. You have to stop and re-program.
You can view the manual here:
http://www.saihomeproducts.com/upload/product/original/295546994940.pdf


They include a DVD of recipes. I'm not too enthused with most of them, especially the pizza.
You can view  the HSN page with other reviews and a video here:


http://kitchen-dining.hsn.com/westinghouse-tritec-csv-steam-oven-with-accessories_p-6199921_xp.aspx?cmsstr=100831&webm_id=6199921&web_id=6199921&sz=5&sf=QC&dept=QC0010&cat=QC0098&o=&ocm=seis


Refer to the numbers on the attached images for each of the following comments:
Oven Features:

  • (1). The control panel is on the right side of the oven. Just below the control panel, a water reservoir for the steam can be pulled out to be refilled.
    • The Auto Menu lets you select from quite a few pre-programmed setting for cooking various dishes. There are also 2 programs for cleaning, one of which is for de-scaling the steam feature.  
    • Four of the programs can be selected directly on the control panel: Broil, Pizza, Toast, and Rotisserie.
    • The rotary dial is for changing selections, depending on what  button you pushed previously. For example, if you push the Auto Menu button, the dial selects different programs. 
    • If you push the Time button, the dial changes the cook time.
    • There are 3 manual modes: Steam, Bake, and Bake with Steam. Only the Steam mode injects steam continuously. Bake with Steam injects steam for 30 seconds about every 5 minutes. I got around this limitation by preheating the oven to the max temperature on Bake and then re-programming for Steam so I could get high temperature steam right away for as long as I needed.
    • The max temperature you can select is 465 F. I have my doubts that this temperature is actually achieved as I never got a real nice dark crust on the bottom of any of my bread even though I always selected this temperature and I had my bread on a stone on the lowest rack.
    • The max Bake time is 60 minutes. The max Steam time is 30 minutes, but that's not an issue for bread.
  • (2). The oven comes with a rack, a pan which also fits the rack slots, a round 12 inch pizza stone, and rotisserie tools. It has 3 rack levels. The 2 heating elements are rectangular, which is good for baking. The bottom one tilts up, so you can clean the bottom of the oven. The bottom is sealed, so there is not a removable crumb tray, but this is necessary in order to keep steam in the oven. There is a removable plug to drain the oven if necessary and a plastic drip tray to catch the liquid that drains out. The convection fan turns on and off automatically and there is no way to control it as far as I can tell. It stays off during steaming in any case.
  • (3). I usually bake on a 12X12 black granite tile rather than the pizza stone, but either way, this only gives you about 5 inches of headroom, so the oven's best use is for rolls and flatter breads that are not too long, such as ciabattas and mini-baguettes like they make in Paris for sandwiches. I checked a small loaf pan and I think it would also work for loaf bread if you keep it in the center of the oven. (I use these for proofing my ciabatta loaves, not for baking. I can just dump the super-wet proofed dough straight on the floured parchment paper without handling the dough at all.)
  • (4). The oven door has a gasket which seals in the steam. Nice. Steam does vent out the left back side of the oven when convection comes on, however.



Baking Experience:
I was happy with the results for the breads that I bake regularly, but I was not very happy with the bottom crust, particularly for the ciabatta loaves. I just don't think the bottom element puts out enough heat in Bake mode, even at max temperature. You can work around this by flipping them over at the end of baking of course, but it shouldn't be necessary. I didn't try to make a pizza, but I just don't see any way this oven is going to make a bubbly crisp pizza crust. I'll try baking some bread using the Pizza program to see what happens, but I'm not sanguine about the final results.

  • (5). I'm really happy with the Rosetta rolls. It also really helps to use an Italian 00 flour, like Caputo.  I use 52% hydration with Caputo. The only American flour I am happy with for these rolls is Hodgson Mills AP, which has many of the characteristics of Italian flour, soft wheat, unbleached, unenriched, unbromated and unmalted. It's the Un-flour! 55% hydration for HM.
  • (6). Grissini come out great! The oven might not get very hot, but it bakes very evenly, which is critical for breadsticks. Use only dry heat. The steam makes the crusts too hard.
  • (7). The pan provided with the oven fits a ciabatta perfectly! I just dumped the dough straight from the small loaf pan onto the oven pan and cooked it right on the pan without using a stone. This is half of the dough from Jason's Cocodrillo Ciabatta recipe. I divide the dough right after mixing into lightly oiled loaf pans. I spray the dough with a little cooking spray to make it easy to handle. I weigh the dough in the pans and divide the weight evenly between them. I cooked the other loaf on a piece of parchment paper on the stone.
  • (8) Nice crust and browning on top!

  • (9).   Not so nice browning on the bottom.
  • (10). The loaf baked on the parchment paper on the stone.
  • (11). Better oven spring on the loaf baked on the pan, but this could just be the luck of the draw, as you never know what going to happen with a ciabatta.
  • (12). Nice open crumb. I use the variant of Jason's recipe that calls for 150 gm of semolina. Better flavor IMHO. I also do a 12 hour pre-ferment with half the dough to improve the flavor even more.


Summary:
I'm happy with this oven, but I need it primarily for a very specific use. The Rosetta rolls require 5-7 minutes of constant steaming at the beginning of baking. This oven gives it to me and also allows me to bake some other things pretty well, not to mention the other cooking that can be done. I'd like to try a chicken or a porchetta on the rotisserie, for example. Your needs may be different. I don't recommend it for pizza.
Live long and prosper!
Roy




 

mattie405's picture
mattie405

I don't know if they put the video on their website but I watched the demo on it last night and they showed a loaf baking in the oven, it was a decent sized loaf but I thought it was interesting that you could use steam in the oven. I don't know that I believe their claims that HSN is the only place you can get the oven right now, but according to the show it was the first time it has been offered anywhere and is their to sell exclusively for now. I just thought some here might be interested about the steam function, it is a less expensive way to get that feature without having to buy a super expensive oven.

Candango's picture
Candango

I did a google search on the device and came up with the hsn page listing the Westinghouse Tritec CSV oven, which cooks in a multitude of ways (conventional, convection, rotisserie, dry steam, wet steam).  Wow.  One of the items it comes with is a 12" round pizza stone, which should provide sufficient room for one or two loaves.  For those looking for a countertop electric oven, this looks very good.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I've been dying to get a real steam oven, so I just ordered one of these. I currently use a Cuisinart BRK-200 countertop oven for almost all my bread baking, so the size is fine for me.


I'll let you know how it works out. My only concern is the apparent lack of manual controls to override the pre-set selections. However, the video did show a loaf of bread  that was baked in the oven and it has a pizza stone. Also, I'd like more than 465 F for pizza, although it should be OK for most of the breads I make.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I might be talked into one as well.  Seems a waste to me to pre/and heat a huge oven for one small loaf now.


anna

mattie405's picture
mattie405

For those who do order this oven, please let us know how it works for bread baking. Right now I can't get one but if it works well I would save up for one in the future. Hope it works well!

mattie405's picture
mattie405

Any word on when your new oven will arrive? I am really interested in what you think of it and how it works when you get to try it out. If it works the price can't be beat and I might consider one too.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

Just got the oven yesterday and played around with the settings last night after I put up some biga for my rosetta rolls to bake this AM.


I got the results I had hoped for this AM despite the fact that I overmixed the dough this AM. I am going to bake another batch tomorrow with (I hope) even more spectacular puffing. In any case, the steam does definitely help the rise in the oven. I am also going to replace the pizza stone that came with the oven with a 12X12 tile of black granite as I was not happy with the somewhat light color of the bottom of the rolls despite using the maximum oven temperature of 465 F. The black granite heats up much better in my experience (I actually have to turn down the temp in my other oven or the rolls will get too black on the bottom.)


The nice thing is that the steam is injected continuously at a controlled rate and there's no need to open the oven door to spritz as I did previously. My rolls did puff before, but unevenly. Now they puff up more slowly, but also much more evenly and higher. The crust is also different, much crunchier. You can hear the crust crackling as the rolls cool off.


The oven has a wet steam and a superheated dry steam setting, but only the wet steam setting injects the steam continuously. The wet steam setting does not use convection, but it does put a decent amount of steam into the oven. The door seals pretty well, so the steam does stay in the oven, but you can see a little escape from time to time. When you open the oven door, you realize that there is a lot of steam in there.


In order to get the results I wanted, I first preheated the oven to the maximum level (on bake) with the pizza stone on the rack for about 30 minutes. I then stopped the oven and switched to wet steam, which starts injecting immediately (even though the oven is now supposedly pre-heating again). After 2 minutes, I opened the oven and put the rolls (on parchment paper) on the pizza stone. I continued steaming for about 8-10 minutes while the rolls puffed up. When I thought they had risen completely, I stopped the wet steam program and went back to bake at maximum temp, now on dry heat and convection. After about 12 more minutes the rolls were done. The steam and bake times corresponded very well to several Italian recipes from commercial bakers.


Before you order be aware that this oven is made in China and is not top quality in terms of materials. I'll post some more information and a full critique tomorrow.First rosetta rolls in steam oven

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

favorable one !


Yes, at that price, it wouldn't be the best, but if it does the job it is worth it.

mattie405's picture
mattie405

Your rolls look great. It seems that this might really be a viable option for those who would like to use steam without ruining their regular ovens electronics. Think I'll have to start a saving jar up for one of these! Thanks so much for your telling us of your initial results with it, please keep us posted on it.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

The rolls are beautiful.


I'm just wondering how long this oven's own electronics will endure the steam, considering the quality(or lack thereof) mentioned?

mattie405's picture
mattie405

I really like the looks of the oven and am seriously thinking if it could replace our small convection/microwave oven at some point........just have to convince hubby. I would like the rotisserie in it and the fact that it could concievable replace some other equiptment. Hopefully by the time I can order one it will still be holding up well for you and still be on the market for sale. Thanks for your updates!

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I have roasted a chicken on the rotisserie and steamed some veggies twice. Everything came out great! Huge amount of steam and it stays in the oven. I used the steam cleaning feature after roasting the chicken and wiping up and it did a great job of completing the cleaning.


Cheers,


Roy

mattie405's picture
mattie405

Roy, thanks again for keeping us updated. In our last move years ago hubby neglected to put my nice rotisserie on the moving truck and I've missed it ever since. Now with everyone doing rotisserie chickens in the markets all he ever talks about is getting a rotisserie! He seems to have forgotten we had a great one back then. In any case hopefully he will continue to dream about getting one and I will show him this.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I have continued to use the oven with success, but still wanted to get more heat/temperature out of it to get a really brown bottom crust.


After reading the manual again, I noticed that it says never to put aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven, as it will cause the oven to overheat. 


OH YEAH! I couldn't resist! (no pun intended - electricity joke).


Sooooo....


I lined the bottom with a double layer of foil and baked as usual on max heat (465F).


I am neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the results. Just whelmed, I guess. There is definitely a difference in the color of the crust, and the oven does seem to get hotter, but not a lot. The heating elements in this oven never really get red-hot like my Cuisinart anyway, and they still don't get red-hot, but there is definitely a better baking temperature now.


I'm pretty sure that the digital temperature settings are on the low side, but until I get an accurate thermometer and test them, I won't know.


In any case, I'm getting better results with bread. Still not hot enough for pizza, IMHO. 


I might try raising the front of the bottom heating element (which rotates up for cleaning) closer to the bottom rack that the stone is on to see if I can get a higher temperature.


Living on the edge, breaking all the rules, love it!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I'd caution against lining the bottom of a new-style oven with foil, for two reasons:



  1. The foil messing up the thermometer doesn't always lead to a reasonable and repeatable increase in temperature; sometimes it leads to the thermometer going crazy and turning the oven on and off at pretty much random temperatures-lower one day and higher the next.

  2. Aluminum foil is likely to not just change the temperature but also melt onto the bottom of the oven. The resulting big mess will be impossible to ever get off.


 


(Tricking a home oven into operating at a higher temperature also carries a risk of the hotter-than-normal exhaust overheating and burning out the electronic controls. "Old" ovens built with too-thick steel and mechanical controls handle modifications better; modifying a "new" home oven can be risky:-)

rjerden's picture
rjerden

Aluminum melts at 1220F. I doubt that I'm even getting close to 500F, considering that I can't even burn toast in this oven. There is a risk of Al foil BURNING in a MICROWAVE oven, however, which I have read about. Different mechanism however, as microwaves can heat metal very hot in a focused area.


In any case, this is a $199 countertop oven, basically the same price as a dinner for two in a fancy restaurant, so I'm not worried about harming it. In fact, I bought it more to see what real steam would do for baking rather than as my everyday oven, although I have no problem using it as such as long as it lasts. Real steam injection does a lot for baking as it turns out, so as a proof of concept, I'm very happy with the results. Now I'm willing to spend real money on a proper steam oven.


Anyone want to warn me about baking on granite? I used to teach radiation biology, so be forewarned.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Cheap countertop oven, not full-sized kitchen oven


Yep, my apologies for not onsidering the whole thread's context and posting an irrelevant comment.


 


Aluminum melts at 1220F. I doubt that I'm even getting close to 500F...


If you don't believe me that foil melting in full sized ovens is a problem, just Google something like "oven aluminum foil melt". Even though the overall temperature of the oven may max out at 500F, some metallic hot spots -particularly those around the heating element- can momentarily be much much hotter.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I picked up a cheap oven thermometer last night at Target and checked the steam oven today with the temperature set at the maxiumum of 465F. I put the thermometer on the rack at the bottom level and waited until the oven dinged, indicating it was up to temp.


Temperature in the center back of the oven with the rack set on the lowest level was 400F. After about 5 more minutes it made it up to 425F. It never hot any hotter. The temperature was pretty constant on all sides of the oven, likely due to the convection fan.


This pretty well confirms what my senses had already told me, i.e. the oven (or at least the one I have) does not reach its stated max temperature. I'm pretty sure that it's more of a general case however, as the pizza that was cooked in this oven on the video had a blond crust also.


It's possible that it's closer to the nominal setting on lower temperatures.


Just another factor to take into account.


On another note, I found somewhat of a mixed message on aluminum foil melting when placed in an oven. The biggest culprit appeared to be non-stick Al foil, of which some folks think the non-stick cotaing is what melts and binds the Al to the bottom of the oven. Ceramic oven bottoms were mentioned frequently also. However, I think it might be possible to weld the Al to the bottom of a gas oven, which likely has a much higher temperature. It also might be possible in one of the newer electric ovens, where the heating element is below the oven floor. Unlikely, IMHO, however if the heating element is above the oven floor.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

A general rule with convection ovens is to lower the temperature 25F from what you would use with a non-convection oven (especially for the "typical" cakes and meats home cooks put in their oven, and most likely also for bread).


Remembering to set the knob a little lower than what the recipe says can be a pain. So some convection ovens pre-account for this difference by setting their knob a little higher than what a thermometer would say, thus allowing you to just dial in the number from the recipe.


 


(Also be a little wary about cheap oven thermometers, as there have been some comments here about their calibration sometimes being off almost as much as ovens themselves:-)

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I really wish oven manufacturers wouldn't try to do the cook's thinking for them. If the oven says 450F, I want 450F, not the oven's adjusting the temperature based on the state of convection.


I have no problem with programs built into the oven, but I really want fine manual controls on top of that. Here is my manual wishlist:




  • Separate heat controls for top and bottom heating elements. This could be as simple as separate dials numbered 1-10 (or 1-11 for Spinal Tap fans).

  • Convection on/off toggle switch

  • Honest thermometer/thermostat.


The oven I use in our vacation home in Italy pretty much has all these features built in. It's a gas range/electric oven with convection like almost all new Italian cookers. I get amazing bread out of that oven (also due to the use of Italian flour, I might add). This type of oven exists in the U.S. but is very expensive as a rule. On top of that you have to get a 240V outlet installed (not an issue in the EU).


I wanted to get a good oven thermometer, but they were all of the "probe" type and none of them went over 390F. I'm going to look at one like Alton Brown uses that I think I saw at Fry's some time ago.
Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I didn't have coils or stone included with mine.  (lucky you!) I did notice the steam cycles.  I would let the oven start to steam first before putting in my hard rolls.  The proofing was a great function with steam.  The dials look also similar and I was toggling between steam settings and bake settings removing the steam cassette.  I ended up baking pizza's in two bakes, first to do just the crust and then the toppings.  

rjerden's picture
rjerden

It's been years since I tried to make real french baquettes (w/o much success), although I do make pan francese using a ciabatta recipe and baking in baguette pans.


I was hoping that the steam oven would give me better success, and it did (although I must also say that my baking skills in general are a quantum leap from what they used to be when I first started out).


I knew I had to make short baguettes in this small countertop oven, but I wanted to maintain the approximate relative dimensions of a parisian baguette, basically reduce the size to the mini-baguttes that they use to make sandwiches with in Paris.


I used Daniel Leader's Local Breads recipe to start with, making 4 baguttes instead of 3 baguttes. This consisted of 500g of flour at 68% hydration. I brought the oven up to 450F and then switched to steam, put in the 12 inch baguettes (which I had proofed in my baguette pans with a narrow stip of parchment paper on the bottom to facilitate removal and handling), steamed for 6 minutes and then baked for 15 minutes more. They were the best baguttes I have ever made, but too fat. The oven spring was incredible with the steam.


Next batch I reduced the flour to 400g and made a 12 hr poolish with part of the flour. Even better flavor, but still a little too fat.


The final batch I reduced the flour to 320g, made a 12 hr poolish, and then retarded the final dough 24hrs in the fridge. Outstanding results and just the proportions I wanted. I can bake all 4 baguettes at once w/o crowding. These will make great sandwiches and also fit perfectly placed sideways in a 2 gallon plastic zip bag for freezer storage.


 


12 inch baquettes in steam oven


 

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

TFL user rjerden:

Your impressions and the really stunning results you've achieved from the Tritec CSV Steam Convection Oven have nearly convinced me to give the little countertop oven a try. The price seems to have dropped a little—currently available from CHEFS or Amazon for $135, free shipping. 

Thanks for taking the time to followup on your original suggestion with thorough explanations, share your successful results and describe your efforts to maximize the oven's features.

Grazie!