Health benefits

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The steam oven has long been a staple of the professional kitchen, where chefs have been utilising the benefits of retaining food’s natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients for decades. Now consumers are wising up to its advantages too, as cookery programmes and food magazines continue to fly the flag for healthy eating. Built-in steam ovens and multifunction ovens with steam settings are the latest trends in appliance sales, along with Teppan Yaki grills, range cookers with griddle tops and wok hobs.

Market trends

“The market is awash with appliances that make life healthier for the consumer and easier at the same time,” says Whirlpool’s head of training Ray Isted. “There is a broad range of appliances, from countertop mini cookers to multifunction ovens and microwaves, steamers, healthy grills and rotisseries, to hobs with woks and Teppan Yakis. It is an eclectic variety but clearly these are the staple appliances that suit our lifestyles and promote our healthy expectations.”

Ray goes on to confirm that consumers like appliances that are easy to use with a ‘one button does all’ approach – perfectly illustrated in the company’s 6th Sense steam assisted oven, which provides automatic menus at the touch of a button.

It seems that sales of steam ovens have increased substantially in recent times. Neil Jaques, marketing manager for LSY UK, says, “Whilst steam cooking has been popular in Asia and other European countries for over a decade now, the benefits of steam cooking are finally starting to be recognised by the UK consumer. The trend is relatively new, and although past sales figures look healthy, we expect to see a further boost over the next couple of years.”

This is certainly backed up by Joan Fraser, national sales support manager for Smeg UK, who agrees that steam ovens are probably the largest growth appliance prompted by healthier eating and an increased interest in home cooking and entertaining.

“Steam ovens and combination steam ovens have really taken off in the last couple of years,” says Jane Massey, brand manager for Siemens, “as healthy eating and healthy cooking have become such important issues for us all.  This is likely to be a continuing trend in the foreseeable future and we predict that it will go from strength to strength as consumers learn to appreciate the many benefits of steam cooking. Steam and steam combination models also open the door towards specialist compact appliances and this is another growing trend that we are seeing in the built-in cooking sector right now.”

Latest features

“Steaming is leading the way in healthy cooking appliances,” says Danny Lay, sales director of Caple, “as it is an ideal method for consumers that need quick and simple meals that are equally healthy and delicious.”

If budget restricts the customer from buying one of these new aspirational appliances, then Gorenje has the solution with its steam insert. It fits neatly into any Gorenje single oven, turning it instantly into a fully functioning steam oven.

For Stoves’ commercial manager Steve Dickson, it’s the tabletop cooking appliances that are proving popular, “These types of products have developed from the humble slow cooker to those appliances that roast, grill, steam, warm and defrost – all using the healthy option of steam to do so. Other advanced products include those that use infrared and vacuum technology to cook food – this cuts cooking time as well as allowing oil-free frying and grilling – all of which make preparing a healthy meal simple.”

Many manufacturers offer healthy eating accessories on their core ranges. Stoves’ Richmond and Sterling range cookers for instance come with removable cast iron griddles that enable users to cook food on the hob without using fat or oil, resulting in a healthier meal.

Multifunction ovens are not to be overlooked when it comes to healthy cooking, as Richard Bowe, general manager for Fisher & Paykel in UK/Europe, confirms, “All our ovens as well as the ovens in our range cookers are multifunction. This means that various cooking methods are available. Fan grill is a great alternative to frying, fan forced is a popular programme to cook multiple dishes at the same time while bake is the simplest and easiest function to be healthy – for fish and vegetables as well as bread.”

AEG-Electrolux has introduced the induction Teppan Yaki, as Tanya Searle, category manager for food preparation, explains, “This hob top is perfect for searing and cooking all types of food – without oil – from exotic sushi to crisply seared vegetables, fish and lean meats. It also co-ordinates beautifully with other products in the Frontline Future modular hob range, so consumers can create their own bespoke cooking centre.”

Simon Freear, country manager for Amica in the UK, sees wok cooking gaining ground. “Wok cooking is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons – the drive for the nation to eat more healthily, further integration of cultures, the greater availability of fresh and speciality ingredients, and hobs being designed with rings to specifically hold and provide the appropriate heat distribution for wok cooking. Hob-buying consumers who use a wok regularly will, more often than not, actually look for a wok-friendly hob, but others can be sold on the benefits of healthy cooking/eating and the plethora of new and traditional recipes and tasty meals that can be achieved in just the one pan, which means less mess too.”

New designs

Appliances to look out for include V-ZUG’s Combair steam oven, Smeg’s S302X combination steam oven, Caple’s Sense SO108 steam oven with 1 litre water tank and the new Gorenje BOC6322AX compact steam oven.

There’s also plenty on offer from De Dietrich, including a collection of modular hobs that can be mixed and matched to suit users needs. These include the DTE768X Teppan Yaki, which, together with a DTG708X gas wok or DTi732X modular induction wok with concave surface and matching pan, offer a range of healthy cooking options for even the most discerning cooks. 

“It is unlikely that a steam oven will replace a microwave or microwave combi in terms of sales for the forthcoming future,” concedes Richard Walker, sales and marketing director for the brand, “but given the rise of compact ovens, such as the De Dietrich Compact 38 collection, kitchen designers are often able to install compact ovens together with singles or doubles within their specifications and the DOV738X is a popular choice. Furthermore, De Dietrich also offers a 45cm version – the DOV745X, which can be installed above a standard single oven in the same family of appliances, and these will fit exactly into a double oven cavity.”

Rangemaster has recently launched a new range cooker onto the market, which incorporates many innovative healthy cooking features. The Professional +FX has a Teppan Yaki griddle, which fits easily onto the hob and is angled to ensure that any fat drains off. “We encourage our customers to use this griddle for cooked breakfasts, meat or even vegetables,” says Holly Sleight, marketing manager at Rangemaster. “The results are much healthier and cooking in this way can be great fun!”

Les Wicks, head of product and buying at Beko, confirms the key benefits of owning a range cooker, “It’s the variety of the cooking functions available. Some of these features are particularly relevant when it comes to healthy eating.  The new Leisure Range 90 may look like a traditional range cooker, but the specially designed pan and high output gas burners allow for healthy, easy wok-style cooking, ideal for Chinese, Asian and other stir-fry dishes.  It also comes with a non-stick griddle, which is ideal for rustling up healthy breakfasts and other hotplate dishes. A key benefit of griddle cooking is that they do not require additional cooking oil.”

Champion of tabletop cooking Cuisinart has a wide range of healthy cooking appliances that can be purchased as more of an impulse buy. “The Cuisinart Cook & Steam and Cook & Hold are great for busy consumers,” says divisional manager John Smethurst, “as you can put your ingredients in and then leave them to cook. They also both benefit from an automatic function that switches to hold once cooking is complete, keeping the food warm.  All Cuisinart cooking appliances are made from the finest materials and have non-stick bases so only a small amount of oil is needed.”

Sophisticated styling

According to Baumatic’s product marketing director Richard Cristina, good design is all in the detail, “Easy to use touch control operation, electronic regulation of steam and temperature and LED programmers are all helping to minimise effort when steam cooking and are making these products incredibly easy to use. Co-ordinating stainless steel finishes and sleek handles are also helping the ovens to look as good as the food they cook.” The Pythagora P470SS combi-steam oven is testament to this.

For Bosch, stainless steel remains popular with steam ovens that co-ordinate perfectly with the rest of their range with touch controls and pop-out buttons. V-ZUG’s appliances go one step further with the option of a striking black glass finish.

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