Appliances

Product overview

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Food steamers

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Do you really need one?

We tested 5 electric food steamers and found out how well they cook, how easy they are to use, and the features to look for if you're considering buying one. They do what they claim ... but do you need one?

From our test

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Why have one?

Electric steamers allow you to steam different foods together – and you can cook lots at once instead of juggling food in batches as you do with other steaming methods.

Do you really need one?
Steaming is a healthy way to cook. There’s no need to add fat and the food retains its nutrients. Steaming produces tender results because foods aren’t exposed to intense dry heat – so it’s perfect for cooking fish, chicken and vegetables or for reheating meals.

But there are many ways to steam food other than an electric food steamer – you can use a microwave, a bamboo basket over a wok or a steaming rack in a saucepan on the stovetop.

The main advantage of an electric steamer is you can steam different foods together. They’re also handy if you’re feeding a crowd – you can cook lots at once instead of juggling food in batches as you do with other steaming methods.

Will you save time?
Unless you’re steaming a large amount of food, you won’t save time. Broccoli cooks in the microwave in about 3 minutes but takes 8 in a food steamer. Rice cooks in 12 minutes in the microwave or in 15 to 20 minutes on the stovetop – it takes 30 to 40 minutes in a steamer.

What we found - steamers

We tested 5 electric food steamers. Become a Gold or Silver member to find out how they rated.

What to look for

Consider these features when choosing a food steamer.

  • Baskets with removable bases let you stack the baskets to get one double-height (or even triple-height) basket – great for extra-large or bulky food items. The downside is more parts to keep track of and assemble.
  • Interchangeable baskets mean you can swap them from one level to another (food cooks fastest in the bottom basket, slowest in the top).
  • Programmed cooking times save you having to calculate the steamer time.
  • Easy-to-access external water inlet makes it easy to top up the water level during cooking.
  • Easy-to-view water gauge lets you see when the steamer needs topping up.
  • Dishwasher-safe parts are easier to clean. But most are plastic so they come out of the dishwasher wet and need to be dried.
  • Large juice collector/drip tray makes it easier to dispose of moisture – or you can keep it for making stock.
  • Accessories such as egg supports (for steaming eggs in their shells) and a rice bowl add versatility.

Tips for good steaming

To get the best out of your food steamer, follow these handy tips:

  • Similar-sized pieces helps everything be ready at the same time. If sizes vary, place smaller pieces in the top basket.
  • Having space between food allows maximum steam flow.
  • Maintain the water level in the base of the steamer during cooking – but keep it at less than two-thirds full.
  • If you’re cooking several foods at once, place meat and fish in the bottom basket so they can’t drip on to foods below.
  • Letting steam escape will increase the cooking time. So fit the lid well – and don’t remove it for long while the food is cooking.
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