Star chefs like Daniel Boulud swear by the amazing cooking powers of combi ovens, but the price has shut most home cooks out—until now. F&W's Daniel Gritzer looks at how new, more affordable options can revolutionize our kitchens.
I never really questioned the adequacy of my oven. As long as it got hot, I pretty much figured it was doing its job. But as more and more chefs are upgrading their kitchens with a professional "combi" oven, a steam and convection oven rolled into one, I've started to feel like my home model is as up-to-date as a telegraph in a world of smartphones.
Unlike standard ovens, combi ovens offer the ability to regulate humidity along an impressively wide temperature range (many models can go lower than 100 degrees and higher than 500). That makes combis the Swiss Army knives of ovens, with a staggering range of capabilities: They can brown a roast with high, bone-dry heat or cook rice with the steam on full blast (there's no risk of the rice scorching as it can on a stove top). They can dehydrate fruit when set to a very low temperature and zero moisture, or keep dough perfectly supple during proofing—same low temperature, but with added humidity.