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An Unintended Review of Sharp’s Superheated Steam Countertop Oven

The purpose of the first part of this blog was to report on the benefits of cooking with steam and in particular superheated steam, not to write a product review. Unlike the air purifier discussed in my last blog which I absolutely needed in my life, I already steam my vegetables in the microwave. And to be honest, I was afraid I wasn’t going to see a real benefit to another appliance in my kitchen. Skeptical of some of the claims touted by Peter Weedfald, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Sharp Home Appliances, he shamed me into trying one out for myself. Fair enough.

So here is my unintended Superheated Steam Countertop Oven review. Rather than repeating the specs and promises here, please check out the Supersteam It! blog here.

Eat Healthier

It is easy committing to eating healthily, but it’s not as easy to stick to it. As part of a “eat healthier” promise this year, my husband and I try to eat salmon two or three times a week. To ensure we actually do that, I subscribed to a monthly delivery from the Wild Alaskan Company. The individually portioned 6-ounce filets arrive packed in dry ice, and the quality is outstanding. Even during one of the hottest summers on record, my salmon arrived enduring a 4,500-mile trek from Alaska to Boston with plenty of ice left. Plus, I love supporting a small family run business.

The night before I cook the salmon, I pop two servings into the refrigerator to defrost overnight, or if I forget (always), they get defrosted in water (still in its sealed plastic) a couple of hours before cooking. While the salmon cooks on the grill for 10 to 12 minutes, I prep the broccoli and carrots to steam with a little water in the microwave. I’ll usually cook enough wild rice for three meals. It’s an easy, quick and healthy dinner.

Unless it is raining, or we’ve run out of gas for the grill because sometimes I turn it on to preheat far too early—we’re on schedule to eat at least two salmon dinners per week. True confession: I favor the grill because it’s an easy cleanup.

It Has to Be More than Just Better

If I am going to purchase a new cooking appliance, it has to be simple to use and make my life easier. It must enable me to eat healthier and can’t take up more room on my already cramped counter.

Fully expecting to send the Superheated Steam Countertop Oven back once I had cooked with it for a couple of weeks, I unpacked it and set it on my kitchen table. It’s definitely larger than my toaster oven.

I’m no different than most. I go for the Quick Start Guide and hope it will be intuitive enough for me to get it working. If I can’t figure out how to use something within five minutes, the product is a miserable fail. Between the Quick Start and the cookbook, I figured out how to use the unit, the temperature, and timing.

Size is Everything

For the overall unit size, the inside capacity seemed small. The trays are 12.5 inches square. I race to my large microwave and put the tray inside and realize that I might pick up some cooking space because there’s more surface area on a square than the round dish. I have one of the larger toaster ovens, but that tray is a third smaller. Objection one is gone.

Something Comes In, Something Must Go Out

I like my toaster oven. I use it like most people. I reheat pizza, it’s great for odd-sized bread and bagels for toasting, and on the rare occasion, I use it to reheat a small casserole if my oven is occupied. Mostly, I use my two-slice toaster for bread.

Test 1: Weedfald said that the Superheated Steam Oven was great for toasting bread. For me, bread and water (steam) must translate to soggy. I like my toast on the darker side, which means it usually cracks as soon as I butter it because it has dried out through-and-through. I filled the small water tank and set it into place. I placed the bread in the middle of the crisper rack in the middle of the oven, turned the dial to “toast” and selected the desired doneness to 6 (1-7). I see the glass steam up and drip inside the oven, so I’m thinking, “see, there’s no way that bread is going to come out crispy.” Several minutes pass, and it’s done. The bread was evenly toasted (more than I’ve ever seen), the outside was crispy, and the middle was still fresh and soft. Not kidding, I expected this to be the first fail.

I can recycle my two-slice toaster.

Test 2: The feature most important to me is how well it cooks salmon. The directions said to spray-coat the broiler pan. Additional cleanup was not an option, so I used baking parchment paper instead of spraying the pan. For me, cleanup has got to be easy beyond belief—which is why I use the grill. I close the lid and forget about it.

I prepared the salmon as usual with slices of lemon and fresh cilantro, but it was frozen solid. “This doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out,” I mumble. I put the pan in the middle of the oven, set the temperature to 485°F (superheated steam), and let it run to the default time of 15 minutes. Surprise! It was way juicier and had more flavor than I get off the grill. The grill is about to go unused.

I forgot to mention: You don’t need to preheat the Superheated Steam Oven. You pop-in your food—frozen or not, and the cooking time is the same as if you put it into a preheated oven. This saves 15 minutes and a lot of energy by not heating up a 5-cubic-foot standard oven.

Test 3: I cook broccoli every night. I usually put it in the microwave with a small amount of water for three minutes, and it comes out great. Set on 485°F, the Superheated Steam Oven took a bit longer, but the broccoli was done perfectly.

Test 4: I mentioned in the companion blog that I hadn’t ever purchased a frozen pizza. Given its popularity and not being able to imagine how steam would turn a pizza crust brown and crispy–and not burn the top—I decided to try one. Success! If I were ever to buy a frozen pizza again, this is the way to cook it. You don’t have to “preheat” or use all the energy to cook a 12-inch pizza in a huge oven.

Test 5: I still like my traditional North End pizza from Regina Pizzeria. Let’s see how this baby does on reheating really thin-crust pizza. The steam has got to kill it. Nope! Crispy on the bottom, with savory hot cheese on top.

Test 6: Cookies. I don’t usually buy premade cookie dough, but I purchased some Toll House Cookie dough, which I accidentally put in the freezer. I decided to wing it. I made six extra-large cookies. Set to bake at 485°F and the default 15minutes, and I had crispy, chewy cookies. Again, I used baking parchment paper. I’ll want to test on my cookie dough, but I’m feeling good about it yielding nice results.

Test 7: Okay Superheated Steam Oven, if you’re going to make my life easier and help me eat healthier, then take this: Dinner for two. Two frozen salmon filets, fresh broccoli crowns, raw baby carrots, sliced lemon and cilantro, all go on the sheet of parchment cooking at the same time. Set to bake at 485°F and the default 15minutes. This is life changing. This one meal means that I will eat healthy at least three nights a week.

Test 8: Move the toaster oven, transfer the Sharp Superheated Steam Oven and see if it fits. It does!

The two-slice toaster and toaster oven will go to a new home. I will keep my microwave oven because reheating a meal on a glass plate is a convenience I can’t live without. My grill won’t be used often. My large standard oven is relegated to holiday duty.

3 Wishes

1: The Cookbook is abysmal. There are 12 creative recipes that seem superfluous and don’t help you explore the wonders of this oven. The worst is the cooking chart on the back that guides you to the settings to cook mostly junk food. I’m all set if I want to heat up frozen processed foods such as pizza, jalapeno poppers, french fries, breaded shrimp, and chicken nuggets, which occupied 26 out of 33 items. Only four of the 33 foods noted would be considered healthy options. I don’t usually care about the cookbook unless it doesn’t provide me with basic information. All I really wanted to know was how long and on what setting to cook broccoli. I figured it out, but something so simple shouldn’t have taken trial and error.

2: The inside is dark. The light illuminates the food while cooking, but when the unit is turned off and the door is open, there’s no light, which would be helpful for cleanup.

3: More height on the inside. I’m not sure I need it just yet—but I might.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to be excited by this product. I figured it would cook some things well, but not the range of items I prepared.

I’m looking forward to testing more meals, baking and eating healthier.