We sell many types of steam equipment here at the WebstaurantStore. And anytime there is a lot of selection, there are many questions. I hope the following guide will help clarify some of confusion regarding some of the basic types of steam cooking equipment that we sell (and some we do not).
Boiler based pressure steamers are the granddaddies of the steamer world. These operate with static steam that is under pressure (5psi) and operate with higher temperatures.
Advantages:They are built like tanks, to put it simply,and very heavy duty machines. Good for institutional situations where food quality takes a backseat to durability. They are very good for root vegetables like potatoes because of the higher temperatures.
Disadvantages: These are not delicate machines, and they are not delicate with your food. Static steam means there is no air currents inside, so a layer of condensation can settle on the food, which takes away from the flavor. The higher temperature also takes its toll on flavor. Speaking of flavors, they will transfer in this type of steamer.
These small steamers are often bought for their ease of installation and where installing drain and water lines are difficult. These units need to be manually filled.
Advantages: Like stated above, these require no connections other than electricity. Cleveland’s manual fill steamer does have convection currents that will help to cook the food faster.
Disadvantages: You must manually fill these units. They are not very fast, and are only suitable for light duty batch operations. Also, when cooking items with starch content, you can have a great deal of foam build up, covering the food being cooked.
These modern steamers are the most popular type sold, and the best for food quality.
Advantages: Cleveland uses steam jets to generate high velocity convection current that eliminates the moisture and air barrier between the heat and the food. These convection steamers allow for cooking at a lower temperature(212 degrees) and for more delicate cooking. There is little to no flavor transfer. High speed and fast recovery make this perfect not just for batch steaming, but also ala cart items. They come in both countertop and large floor model styles.
Disadvantages: These types of steamers do require a full installation with drain lines, gas or electric, and water lines. You will need filters/descalers for your water supply (all steamers should only be used with filtered/descaled water.)
One more thing: if you are considering a countertop steamer, please read my article regarding countertop combi ovens as an alternative to countertop steamers. Because the combi oven is one type of steamer that I didn’t mention here, and combi ovens do so much more.