Which food steamer is best?

When it comes to healthy cooking, a food steamer is an excellent tool. It uses the steam created by boiling water to gently cook meat, vegetables and starches without diminishing the nutrition in these foods.

If you are cooking for a large household and need an appliance that can do more than just steam, the Aroma Housewares Food Steamer is a great choice.

What to know before you buy a food steamer

Type of steamer

There are three main types of food steamers.

  • Basket: Basket steamers are the most affordable. These are simple metal devices that unfold like a flower.  There is a hole in each “petal” to allow steam through. Fill a pot with water just below the steamer basket, place food in the basket and cover the pot to trap the steam for cooking. This type of steamer works best for preparing one food at a time. 
  • Bamboo: Bamboo steamers consist of two or three layers of covered trays that sit on top of a pot full of steaming water. These are common in traditional Asian cuisine. 
  • Countertop: Programmable and precise, countertop steamers plug into an outlet and can be used to create an entire meal with one appliance. 

Capacity

Regardless of the type of steamer you choose, you’ll need to consider how many people you’re cooking for. Small basket steamers that only prepare one vegetable at a time may not work for larger households. On the other hand, a triple-decker steamer designed to feed a crowd may take up too much space in compact kitchens or for just one or two people. 

Unitasker vs. multi-use

When space on the counter or in storage is at a premium, the last thing you want to do is add a unitasking appliance. A large appliance that can perform multiple functions is a good solution to the problem of minimal space. Look for food steamers that also double as rice or slow cookers. 

What to look for in a quality food steamer

Easy-to-use controls

If you choose a countertop food steamer, an advanced degree should not be required to operate it. Look for easy-to-use clear controls and offer specific instructions to achieve the results you want. 

Dishwasher-safe

While electronic parts are never safe in a dishwasher, all other components of your food steamer should be easy to maintain. This includes lids, utensils, trays and any other parts that separate from the unit. 

Note that you should never place a bamboo steamer in the dishwasher. Instead, hand-wash with warm water and mild soap. 

BPA-free

As always, any plastic in your kitchen appliances should be labeled food safe. Look for BPA-free plastic and other certifications to indicate that everything touching your food is safe. 

How to steam food 

If you have a multi-tiered food steamer, stacking your food in a specific order ensures that you will cook everything properly at the same time. In general, stack in this order:

  • Starches and root vegetables on the bottom
  • Animal protein, including fish in the middle (season first)
  • Leafy greens or other delicate vegetables on top 

If you want to use your food steamer for cooking rice or other grains, check with the specific instructions that come with your machine. Each steamer differs slightly, and tailoring your approach helps you achieve the best result possible.

How much you can expect to spend on a food steamer

From a simple metal basket to an elaborate, programmable, multi-tiered appliance, expect to spend $10-$100.

Food steamer FAQ

Is there anything you should not cook in a steamer?

A. Although food steamers generally preserve the nutritional benefits of food, some vegetables actually lose it when prepared in a food steamer. These include:

  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bell peppers 

Can you use a steamer for anything other than vegetables, fish and meat? 

A. Yes. Cuisines worldwide use food steamers to steam dumplings and other savory dishes, but a fun thing to try is making a cake. Instead of using the dry heat of an oven, a food steamer creates a delicate, tender cake that is moist and flavorful. The basic process is simple.

  • Make sure your steamer has enough room to allow the cake to rise without touching the lid. You will also need 1 inch of space around the cake pan.
  • Add enough water to the steamer so that it does not dry during the steaming process, and bring it to a boil with the lid on.
  • Prepare the cake with the usual recipe, ensuring that you have greased and floured the pan you use for easy release. 
  • Place the cake in the steamer and steam for the recommended usual baking time. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in its center comes out clean. 
  • Remove the cake to a rack and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. You can continue to let it cool in the pan, or turn it out onto a rack. 

What’s the best food steamer to buy?

Top food steamer

Aroma Housewares Food Steamer

Aroma Housewares Food Steamer

What you need to know: This large-capacity cooker is a great choice for feeding a crowd. 

What you’ll love: You can use it as a heavy-duty rice cooker. It also holds 20 cups of food. The 15-hour timer delay allows you to plan ahead. Use this as a slow cooker, too. 

What you should consider: It takes a long time to create enough steam to cook food. Once it gets going, though, the results are consistent and delicious every time. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top food steamer for the money

Bella Two-Tier Food Steamer

Bella Two-Tier Food Steamer

What you need to know: It has a small footprint and is an affordable option. 

What you’ll love: Even with its small size, it has a 7.4-quart cooking capacity. There are two separate steam containers over two tiers. It’s transparent to see what’s going on inside, and many of its components are dishwasher safe. 

What you should consider: The loose-fitting lid allows steam to escape, and some users report leaks in the bottom of the steamer. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ovente Electric Food Steamer

Ovente Electric Food Steamer

What you need to know: This lets you make dinner in one appliance all at once. 

What you’ll love: The two levels hold transparent compartments that you can operate on a timer with an automatic shutoff. The most popular use of the steamer is for cooking fish. It has a 5-quart capacity and comes with a one-year warranty. 

What you should consider: The containers that hold food inside the steamer are small and sometimes difficult to store. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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