This is so much more than just a toaster oven!
This mini oven can do so many things, including roasting a whole chicken, baking bread, steaming vegetables, and yes, it can even make toast.
Cuisinart’s newly released Combo Steam and Convection Oven does way more than just make toast. That is good considering the price tag on this unit is $299. At that price it needs to be more than just a fancy toaster oven and after a couple weeks of testing this unit out, I must say, it is really an impressive unit.
The two main cooking techniques that this oven can perform is convection cooking and steam cooking. Convection ovens, circulate the heat to eliminate hot spots and produce a more even heat. Many full size ovens have a convection option but it is not common for smaller counter top ovens. I have used older toaster ovens to try and cook pizzas, chicken and other large sized foods. In many of the other brands that do not have a convection cooking option, there are significant hot spots. Since the inside is small, the heating elements are closer to the food than in a traditional oven, and it is hard to eliminate hot spots. The Cuisinart Combo Steam and Convection Oven does a good job at reducing the hot spots. It does not eliminate them completely, but it is the best I have experienced with these smaller ovens.
The second form of cooking that this little oven can do is steam cooking. Steam cooking was what had me really excited about this unit, and this is what justifies the price tag. There is a reservoir on the side of the oven that can be filled with water, which is used to generate steam to fill the inside of the oven. This is great for food that would dry out during a traditional or convection form of cooking. It is great for steaming rice, cooking seafood and proofing bread.
There is a large display on the front of the unit allowing you to select the cooking option, temperature and cooking time. A dial is used to cycle through the options and the menu is both simple to navigate and understand. This is great considering this oven can do far more than any previous toaster oven I have used. There is also an interior light that you can turn on to see how the food is coming along.
The first thing I cooked in this oven was toast, but I did not take a picture of it. It makes toast just fine, but if you are considering purchasing this oven, you are looking for it to do more than just toast bread. The next thing I tried was a chicken. The bird was 4 1/2 pounds and it fit perfectly in the oven. I set it to the Bake Steam option at 450F for 50 minutes.
After the cooking time, I pulled out the bird. As seen in the picture above, the top of the bird crisped up nicely, but the sides did not. I wonder if cooking it on the Convection Bake setting would crisp the sides better. Cutting into the bird and tasting it was perfect. The meat was tender and juicy. The breast meat, which can sometimes come out dry, was excellent.
I also tried making mini pizzas. This is a common dish for us to use toaster ovens for, so I wanted to see how Cuisinart’s oven performed. One nice feature of this oven is that the rack is adjustable. There are four heights that the rack can be set at. The chicken was on the lowest level and the mini pizzas were at the highest setting. This is perfect for broiling and these little pizzas were great. The English muffins were crisp and the cheese was bubbly.
Baking a loaf of bread was my next test and I was really excited to try out the steam function for baking. Professional bakers have steam injectors in their large commercial ovens. The steam is sprayed in the oven just after the bread is added and this allows the bread to rise more and it also helps to produce a nice crispy rustic crust. I have manually sprayed water in my large ovens when baking bread, but the Cuisinart oven is designed to do this.
I followed the recipe for rustic bread that was included in the manual for the oven. I kneaded the bread and let it rise twice. Then I placed it on the tray with parchment paper and put it in the oven.
The first setting was to steam it at 100F for 25 minutes. This proofed the bread, allowing it to rise really nicely. This is a setting that is difficult to replicate in a traditional oven but does really well in this Cuisinart unit.
After proofing the bread, I set it to the Bread setting (yes there is a baking setting specifically for bread). This does a combination of steaming and baking. As you can see in the picture above, the bread rose really well and filled the oven.
I was really happy with how well the bread turned out. The top darkened a little more than I would like, and it is possible that either lowering the heat or reducing the temperature could solve that issue. The bread tasted amazing and was fluffy and light inside. The crust tasted like a wonderful artisan style rustic bread.
My final test in the oven was to make this indoor clambake. I saw the recipe for it in the manual and just had to try it. I love seafood and look for any excuse to cook some lobster! This recipe fills up the tray with red potatoes, corn on the cob, clams, shrimp and lobster.
The setting for this cooking cycle is Super Steam. This heats up the oven while injecting a lot of steam inside the oven. It is perfect for steam cooking the crustaceans.
Everything came out great and the lobster and shrimp were perfectly cooked and very moist.
The Cuisinart Combo Steam and Convection Oven allows you to cook in ways that the typical oven does not offer. It is pricey at $299 and if all you are looking for is a toaster oven, then this is probably more expensive than you want. But, for all that this unit can do, it is well worth the money, and is perfect for a small family or the bachelor who enjoys cooking. It is also great for people wanting to bake bread as this unit makes bread really well!
Buy your own at The Bay or Home Outfitters or online here – Cuisinart CSO-300 Combo Steam/Convection Oven
Disclaimer: Cuisinart provided me with the Steam and Convection Oven. They did not pay me for this review and the views expressed above are my honest reactions after trying the product.