Steaming your food is a simple cooking method that offers a few significant health benefits. The best food steamers allow your food to retain nutrients that might be lost with other ways of cooking, such as boiling or frying. Plus, no oils or fats are required — just add water and you’re ready to go.
If you’re looking to up your steaming game, there are two main types of food steamers that you can purchase: electric steamers and steamer baskets.
- Electric steamers are essentially foolproof: Add water and food to the machine, and turn it on. Before you know it, you’ll have perfectly steamed food that’s ready to be devoured. Electric steamers come in a range of sizes, and some even have multiple tiers that allow you to make a couple of different foods at once, which is a big time saver. However, an electric steamer is usually pricier than a steamer basket, and will take up more space in your kitchen cabinets.
- Steamer baskets are used in combination with your existing cookware. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a simmer. Place the food in the steamer basket and suspend it over the water (make sure the food doesn’t touch the water, though, or you're just boiling your food), and place the lid on the pot. The hot steam will go to work cooking your food. Steamer baskets are made from a variety of materials, from no-scratch silicone to natural bamboo, and are often adjustable to fit different-sized pots. You can also buy steamer baskets that work in the microwave. While steaming is a quick cooking method overall, using a steamer basket requires a little bit more work than an electric steamer (though not that much).
If you’re trying to find a really awesome steamer to use on the regular, Amazon reviewers say these six food steamers are the best of the best.
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1. The Overall Best Electric Steamer
You'll surely want to steam all of your meals once you get your hands on this Hamilton Beach food steamer. It's loaded with features that make steaming an absolute breeze. The 5.5-quart steamer has two tiers, as well as a rice bowl for grains or smaller foods, so you can steam multiple foods at once. You can even remove the center divide to cook larger foods. Fill the steamer with water and use the digital touchpad to set a timer. The delay-start function even allows you to fill the machine in advance and steam later, perfect for extra busy days. Once steaming is complete, the automatic warm setting will keep your food at the perfect temperature until you're ready to eat.
Make sure to hand wash the machine after use. And if you’re concerned about storing this appliance, know that the tiers nest for easier storage. The drip tray and rice bowl are safe to wash in the dishwasher, but you'll have to wash the rest of it by hand.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This food steamer is outstanding! [...] I steamed vegetables; small potatoes, baby carrots, string beans and broccoli. I couldn't believe the flavors! The carrots taste was intensely....carrots! Each veg tasted amazing! The next night I tried sword fish. Needless to say the sword was outstanding in flavor and was so tender. It's like the steam is cooking the food while at the same time infusing the flavors right back into themselves."
2. A No-Scratch Silicone Steamer Basket
This Joseph Lotus steamer basket is a safe bet to use with both nonstick and stainless steel cookware, since it’s made of BPA-free polypropylene and non-scratch silicone. The steamer basket is also compatible with a bunch of different-size pots and pans because it’s self-adjusting (it has a 6-inch diameter when closed and can open up to a 10.5-inch diameter). What all of this means is that you'll be able to get a ton of use out of this pick.
With more than 800 reviews on Amazon and a 4.1-star rating overall, reviewers have reported that they use this basket to steam a variety of foods. Reviewers also noted that the heat-resistant finger guard allows you to safely remove the steamer from the pot once cooking is complete. This steamer basket is dishwasher-safe, but can't be used in the microwave. And when it comes time to store it in your cabinet, it folds away neatly.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I've been using this for 2 months primarily to steam fruits and veggies to make baby food. Works really well in a few different size pots/saucepans. No problems with melting. I keep the water level in the pan just touching the bottom of the basket as directed. Works great to just remove the basket from the pan and put in the sink to rinse food. Love that it expands to fit different size pots. Easy to clean (I've really just rinsed it by hand). Folds up compact to store. In some shallower pots, the handle in the center is a little tall and the lid touches it while steaming, but that hasn't affected the handle or melted any parts."
3. A Stainless Steel Steamer Basket With An Extendable Handle
Removing a steamer basket from a pot can be challenging (after all, it's hot and full of food), but this OXO steamer basket can help. The extendable handle makes all the difference when it comes to filling, removing, and transporting the steamer basket safely and easily. The handle even retracts to fit under the pot’s lid during steaming, so it won’t get in the way.
The steamer basket is made of a sturdy stainless steel, and has folding feet to elevate the steamer above the water during use and tuck neatly away when in storage. The steamer basket fits pots that are 8 inches in diameter and larger, and can even be used in a pressure cooker. Clean-up is a breeze, too, since it's dishwasher-safe.
Amazon reviewers are certainly impressed by this pick; they give it a standout 4.5-star rating after 1,100 and growing reviews.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I looked everywhere to find this steel steamer and am very glad I finally did. It can collapse so that it fits into my existing saucepan and now I can easily steam vegetables and other foods in it. Lifting out the steamer is easy due to the pop up handle. Other steamers in stores don't have this feature and you have to have really steady hands or use another kitchen tool to lift it out. This steamer is easy to lift up with a fork and then I use the same fork to put the veggies into a serving bowl. There are little adjustable legs at the bottom of the steamer which keeps it out above the water."
4. A Large Electric Steamer With Three Separate Tiers
This Rosewil electric food steamer has an extra-large capacity (9.5-quarts) and three separate baskets so you can cook lots of different foods all at once. In addition to the baskets, it also comes with a small rice bowl and built-in egg holders. And Amazon reviewers are thrilled about it; they give this pick an impressive 4.5-star rating.
In addition to its large size, this pick has other notable features. Once loaded, the powerful machine starts to generate steam in less than 40 seconds. The two water vents allow you to easily add more water when needed, without having to remove the steamer baskets. The steamer has a 60-minute timer and an automatic-shutoff feature that turns the machine off when it runs out of water. All of the pieces are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. When it comes time to store the appliance, the nested design makes the steamer more compact, so it can fit in your kitchen’s cabinets.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Very happy with this steamer system. Really like the layered sections which allows for more food to be steamed at the same time. Root vegetables are delicious and can be steamed to a delightful texture that isn't mush (which often happens with boiling or steaming in a closed pot). We have recently steamed ahi tuna steaks and were very pleased with the results."
5. A Natural Bamboo Steamer Basket
This bamboo steamer is made from bamboo, which is a natural alternative to materials like silicone or stainless steel. The lightweight steamer is tightly woven to trap steam for quick and efficient cooking. The two tiers allow you to make different foods at the same time. And bamboo absorbs condensation, so less water will drip back onto your food.
Amazon reviewers are pleased with this steamer; with more than 260 reviews on the site and a 4.4-star rating, reviewers say that it both works and looks great. Choose from different steamer sizes — from 4 to 12 inches — based on your needs. This pick is safe for use with nonstick cookware.
This bamboo steamer does have a couple of downsides. It must be hand washed, and some reviewers say that the basket absorbs the scent of food. The manufacturer recommends washing without soap, as the basket could absorb the fragrance of the soap, too.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Well constructed, and looks great, tight enough to keep in steam, and smells great when steaming. Bamboo is the way to go, and Helen Chen makes good stuff for a budget conscious buyer."
6. A Steamer Basket For The Microwave
With more than 4,400 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating overall, this Sistema microwave steamer is clearly adored by those who’ve tried it. Reviewers say that this pick allows you to quickly and easily enjoy steam-cooked foods while at work, or really anywhere you have access to a microwave.
The microwave steamer is designed to cook veggies, fish, and even poultry, and holds an impressive 83.5 ounces of food. It’s made of plastic, and the steam release vent allows for splatter-free heating. Once your food is cooked, the side tabs stay cool-to-the-touch for easy opening. The middle stalk of steamer basket should stay cool, too, so you can lift the food out.
This steamer is phthalate- and BPA-free, and is also freezer-safe and top-rack dishwasher safe. Choose from small, medium, and large sizes.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This little gadget is great! I wanted an easy way to be healthier with my cooking and found that the in-pot steamers didn't allow for much water. This is a perfect size for steaming up veggies for my family. It allows for enough water that it doesn't evaporate in the time it takes to steam the veggies. The parts are easy to clean and everything is a breeze."