Can a pro-style steam oven make you a top chef?

The trend of adapting restaurant appliances for home cooks continues with built-in convection steam ovens that promise speedy, automated cooking and gourmet results. Whether they can deliver is another matter, as Consumer Reports discovered in its kitchen range tests.

The Thermador PSO301M and Wolf CS024 each cost around $4,000, but we were underwhelmed by their performance. They were good at steaming fish and quickly cooking tasty ribs. And the steam yielded crispier-than-usual top crusts when we baked bread, though the improve­ment was more subtle than we expected.

But the briskets we made in these pricey ovens turned out tough or looked unappetizing. Certainly, adapting a favorite recipe will take some trial and error. In fact, these devices are designed to supplement your regular range or wall oven; both have a much smaller capacity. And neither steam oven is self-cleaning. You have to wipe the interiors, which get moist, dirty, and greasy.

Another option. But let's face it, $4,000 is a lot to pay for a second oven. If you're willing to pay that much, you may want to consider our top-rated 36-inch pro-style range, the KitchenAid KDRU763VSS, $6,000, which comes with a steam option and scored very well overall in our range tests. The oven is large and the self-cleaning cycle works like a charm.

—Kimberly Janeway (@CRJaneway on Twiter)

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