Controlling the moisture in an oven?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by french fries, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,169
    Likes Received:
    302
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Tonight I was re-heating some stuffing (I know, I'm way early) and I was concerned that it could get dry. So I decided to place a large roasting pan with 1/2 inch of water. I thought maybe that'd make the oven interior more moist. 

    However, the oven was set to 300F and the water never boiled. 

    I wonder: in those conditions, does the pan of water still helps? 
     
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    I don't know if upping the moisture level in the oven would even matter, FF. And water does not have to be boiling to evaporate. It just does it more slowly at lower temperatures.

    Fwiw, when simulating the steam injection of a commercial bake oven, the tray is preheated in the oven. Water (or, sometimes, ice) is then poured into the hot pan. It instantly vaporizes, filling the oven with moist air. That would certainly up the moisture content; at least temporarily. But, again, I have no idea whether or that it matters when reheating things.
     
  3. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,169
    Likes Received:
    302
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Thanks KYH, I always wondered about that. Now that you mention it it makes total sense, after all a sauce does not have to be boiling to reduce. 

    So you're saying it will release some water vapor, just not enough to make a difference? 

    Happy Thanksgiving. 
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    No, what I'm saying is that I don't know whether increasing the moisture inside an oven makes any difference when reheating something.

    Could be that it helps a lot, for all I know.
     
  5. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,169
    Likes Received:
    302
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Oh OK I see what you mean now. Thanks. 
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,551
    Likes Received:
    193
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    Yes, a water pan makes a big difference in oven humidity.  The more surface area the better the evaporation. 

    "Boiling," and "visible, rolling boil," aren't quite the same things.  As long as you get phase change, wotthehell wotthehell.   An oven's hot air isn't a very efficient medium of energy transfer.  It takes less time to boil a potato at 212F than baking one at 400F.  The instant steam you get from dumping ice or water on a preheated pan is "contact," not "convection,"  But you don't want to turn all your water into steam all at once anyway.

    BDL
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,169
    Likes Received:
    302
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Thanks BDL!
     
  8. transchef

    transchef

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    Even if the water is not boiling as long as heat is warming it, there is a vapor happening.  Example: a bottle of water near a window.  yes, it adds moist.
     
  9. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    Fact is, transchef, anything above 31F is "warming" it. So long as water is in liquid form it is evaporating. The higher the temperature the more quickly that happens is all.

    Even at 32F water is vaporizing, albiet very slowly. That's why if you hang freshly washed clothes on a a line, at 32F, they will dry, even though initially frozen.

    At anyrate, while there's no question one can increase the moisture levels inside an oven, the original question still applies. Does doing so help, hinder, or have no appreciable effect on reheating food?
     
  10. pcieluck

    pcieluck

    Messages:
    369
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    being that water carries heat better than air, yes it definitely should make the food heat faster. But will it keep left-overs from drying out? Bread based stuffing? Maybe, but if I've learned anything from being a baker off and on, steam aids caramelization on the surface!  I'd be afraid of it drying out worse, ironically, because of the moist steam.

    I'm inclined to tell you if you want to serve moist left-over stuffing, to heat it stove top and add a little chicken or turkey stock.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  11. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,169
    Likes Received:
    302
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Really!? That's definitely a surprise. It's funny, the whole time I was writing/reading this thread I was thinking of how bakers put water in their oven when they bake French baguette. And I believe that's to help with the crust right? That goes along with what you're saying. 
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  12. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    The question is whether that caramelization will continue on previously cooked bread.

    What happens is that the higher moisture combines with sugars on the dough surfrace, forming an even layer, which then caramelizes to form the crust.

    Once cooking is complete, and there is no longer any yeast or enzyme activity, does sugar still migrate to the surface? I think not. Nor do I believe there is enough on the surface, given the reheating times and temperatures, to cause further caramelization.

    The problem, as I see it, isn't caramelization. It's simply drying. It's a matter of relative humidity. Unless the humidity inside the oven is at its highest possible level, additional moisture will be drawn out of the food. And I don't believe it's possible to achieve 100% relative humidity in a home oven. Certainly not on a sustained level.
     
  13. pcieluck

    pcieluck

    Messages:
    369
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I don't see what sugar on the surface has to do with yeast. Yeast eats the sugars of the flour and creates the fermentation process. Not saying you're wrong, but I don't understand the logic in that statement. And I can think of another application where moisture does aid in the caramelization of pre-cooked bread, and that's a casserole. Difference being is that a casserole's topping is dry and a stuffing's bread is soggy on purpose.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  14. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,551
    Likes Received:
    193
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    We call it "toast."

    L'chaim!

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
  15. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    158
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Touché!
     
     
  16. pcieluck

    pcieluck

    Messages:
    369
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    hahahah .... i feel pretty stupid at the moment
     
  17. benway

    benway

    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    15
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    Why not just cover your stuffing in the oven?  Let it steam in its own moisture rather than trying to turn an oven in a steamer.