Steamers can be a great way to add versatility of cooking to your restaurant, commercial or institutional kitchen. Below is a brief comparison of steamers to other pieces of cooking equipment. Also included is a comparison of boiler-based units vs boilerless units and the Sterling Steamer vs all other boilerless units.

Steamer vs Combi (combination steamer and convection oven)

A combi can steam and bake so it would seem like a perfect piece of equipment for a commercial kitchen. However, there are some drawbacks. A combi usually costs considerably more than a steamer for the same steam capacity. Another drawback to a combi is the expense of service and maintenance. Combis are more complicated than steamers and are more expensive to service. For the price of a combi you can purchase an oven and a double unit steamer. This gives you more cooking and steaming capacity. You also have redundancy. If the combi breaks down, you lose both the baking and steaming capacity.

Combis are also less productive than steamers when used as a steamer. Here is a link to compare production rates of combis to a double stacked Sterling Steamer.

Advantages of a Steamer

  • Less maintenance
  • Lower cost
  • Higher production
  • Redundancy

Advantages of Combis

  • Can be used as an oven
  • Space savings, both an oven and a steamer

Boilerless/Connectionless Steamers vs. Boilerbased Steamers

Boilerless steamers use much less water and electricity. A study done by the Foodservice Technology Center in san Ramone CA showed an average savings of $3000.00 a year when replacing a boilerbased steamers with a boilerelss units. Boilerless steamers do not have a separate boiler and use about 1/30th of the water of boiler units. This means they are not as prone to service issues. The vast majority of service issues with a steamer are related to water problems, specifically lime buildup inside the boiler. One of the drawbacks to boilerless units is that they do not recover as quickly as boiler units. So if you are doing ala carte cooking (opening and shutting the door often) a boilerless unit may not keep up. Another drawback to boilerless units is that you cannot spill food in the bottom of the cooking cavity because that is where the water is boiling. If you have a manual fill boilerless unit you can let the water get dirty but if you have an automatic water fill unit the sensors will eventually fail if the water gets contaminated.

Boilerless Advantages

  • Less Maintenance
  • Lower Utility Costs
  • Longer Life

Boilerbased Advantages

  • You can spill food in the chamber
  • Quicker Recovery

Sterling vs other Boilerless Steamers

The Sterling Steamer is in the category of boilerles/connectionless steamers. The advantage of the Sterling over other boilerless steamers is that it tested as the highest production, fastest and most efficient of all boilerless steamers. Another advantage is that it recovers much quicker than other boilerless steamers. With the Sterling you get the advantage of boilerless steamers with the recovery and cooking speed of boiler based steamers.


  • Faster
  • More efficient
  • Quicker recovery


  • None

Sterling vs Conventional Boilerbased Steamers

The Sterling has the same advantages of all boilerless steamers. It saves thousands per year in utility costs and it does not require boiler service or maintenance. The sterling also recovers quickly like a boiler unit. The only drawback with the Sterling is that with the automatic water fill units you cannot spill food into the cooking chamber. If the water in the chamber gets too dirty the sensors will fail and you will need to empty the chamber and clean the bottom of the unit.


  • Less Maintenance
  • Lower utility Costs
  • Longer Life


  • Cannot spill food in the autofill units

Steamer vs. Oven

Steamers are ideal for cooking large batches of food quickly without over cooking or drying the food. Steam cooks at 212 degrees while an oven cooks at higher temperatures however a steamer will cook faster because steam transfers heat 100 times more efficiently than air. You cannot bake foods or brown meats with a steamer so a steamer will not replace an oven. However most commercial kitchens could use a steamer for cooking large batches of food that do not require browning.

Advantages of Steam

  • Less chance of overcooking
  • Faster batch cooking

Disadvantages of Steam

  • Cannot bake or brown foods

Steamer vs Stove Top (boiling)

Steamers have two advantages over cooking on a stove top. Cooking with steam retains much of the flavor and nutrients while boiling will cause a much greater loss in nutrients and flavor. Another advantage of steaming compared to a stove top is that there is no need to monitor the food while it is cooking.

Advantages of Steamer

  • No monitoring or stirring
  • More flavor and nutrient retention

Disadvantages of Steamer

  • A stove top can be used to pan fry foods