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My first experience with a vegetable steamer was one of great confusion. I had proudly purchased my first cookware set for my new apartment, and it came with a few extra gadgets, one of which was a metal basket-shaped food steamer.
Admittedly, I did not know what a food steamer was. When I came across the metal contraption that resembled a small UFO, I didn’t know what a game-changer it could be.
Since I was going through a minimalist phase (and I had never quite figured out how to use the steamer), I donated the saucer-shaped gadget. Months later when I came across a recipe video online using the very tool I donated, I was filled with deep regret and set out to make it right. I purchased a new vegetable steamer and never looked back. I’ve been enjoying steamed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, to name a few, ever since.
When you have a food steamer, you’re much more inclined to make healthier foods with less added fat like oil. Whether you prefer an electric model that you can set and forget or a stovetop option that occupies less space, here are the best vegetable steamers on the market today.
Best Overall: Hamilton Beach 37530A Digital Food Steamer
What We Like: Auto switches to warm when cooking is done, nestled design saves space, delayed start
What We Don't Like: Steaming bowls are plastic
Anyone who has used a rice cooker with a steaming tray may be familiar with the two-tier design of this food steamer by Hamilton Beach. The nesting trays allow you to use one or two steaming bowls at a time for larger quantities of food, and it’s also space-saving since it requires vertical storage.
Switching between functions and setting the cooking time is easy with the digital touchpad. You can add food to the steamer basket ahead of time and use the delayed start function to begin steaming later. This feature should not be used for perishable items, however. When the cooking time is up, the steamer automatically switches to warm and beeps to alert you.
Though this electric steamer has one main function, it is a versatile appliance that is perfect for cooking a healthy and easy dinner. Steam your protein in one bowl and your veggies in another without adding oil. When you're done, the drip tray and rice bowl are safe to put in the dishwasher, while the rest of the steamer can be wiped down.
Capacity: 5.5 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 13.7 x 7.3 x 12.6 inches | Material: Plastic and stainless steel | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Budget: Bella 9.5-Quart 3-Tier Food Steamer
What We Like: Integrated egg tray, 60-minute timer, automatic shutoff, large capacity
What We Don't Like: Containers are made of plastic, lacks advanced features
Steaming multiple foods at the same time is what this electric steamer was designed to do. With three tiers and 9.5 quarts of capacity, the Bella Food Steamer is spacious, versatile, and perfect for batch cooking.
It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as other electric models, but it’s a solid option for those on a budget. The 60-minute timer dial is simple to use and makes a beeping sound when the cooking time has ended. The steamer automatically shuts off for safety if the water happens to run out. Lastly, it comes with an egg tray that holds up to 18 eggs, and all the trays are dishwasher safe.
To use this steamer, simply fill the water reservoir, add food to the containers, and set the timer. Since this steamer has a turbo-steam function, cooking is usually quick.
Capacity: 9.5 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.5 x 9.25 x 16 inches | Material: Plastic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Basket: OXO Stainless Steel Steamer With Handle
What We Like: Space-saving design, folding feet for compact storage, handle for safe removal from hot pots
What We Don't Like: Small capacity, can steam only one type of food at a time
When using a stovetop steamer, especially one that is inserted into a pot or wok, you’ll need to be careful when removing it when the cooking time is up. OXO’s basket steamer has a nifty handle for quick, easy, and safe removal. That handle can be removed for large pieces of food like salmon.
Another appeal to this basket steamer over other options is the folding feet at the bottom. They create a distance between the bottom of the steamer and the simmering water in the pot so food doesn’t get submerged. When you’re all done, fold the feet for compact storage.
Though this type of steamer has a smaller capacity than electric ones, it’s perfect for cooking small batches of food and tucking away neatly in small kitchens.
Capacity: 1.5 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.5 x 10.5 x 5 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Related: The Best Rice Cookers
Best Microwavable: Progressive International Microwave Mini Steamer
What We Like: Nonstick surface, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, doubles as a colander
What We Don't Like: Small capacity, plastic
If you prefer to cook without added fat but want a time-saving option, a microwavable food steamer is a sound compromise — no oil is needed and food is ready within minutes. These are a great way to save time when only one aspect of your dish needs quick steaming, like the potatoes in our potato and broccoli curry.
This steamer by Progressive International is called “mini” for a reason. It is designed for single-serving portion sizes with a capacity that holds approximately 2 cups of food. When not in use for steaming, the nonstick basket doubles as a colander for straining noodles or rinsing fruit.
Capacity: 2 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 7 x 6 x 3 inches | Material: Plastic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Electric: Cuisinart CookFresh Digital Glass Steamer
What We Like: LCD control panel, glass cooking pot, audible alert
What We Don't Like: Pricey, heavy
With an LCD control panel and 5-liter capacity, the Cuisinart CookFresh Digital Glass Steamer is the model to consider for high-end features. It offers five preprogrammed food settings: seafood, poultry, grains, vegetables, and manual.
The powerful steam system cooks food from the top to the bottom so food cooks quickly and evenly. The cooking pot and lid are made of glass, which prevents food from coming in contact with plastic and allows you to view the contents while in use. However, glass is heavy, so the model weighs 15.75 pounds.
Capacity: 5.3 quarts | Dimensions (LxWxH): 15.3 x 13.3 x 9 inches | Material: Stainless steel and glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Related: The Best Instant Pots
With a space-saving nesting design and auto shut-off, our top choice is the 5.5-quart Hamilton Beach 37530A Digital Food Steamer (view at Amazon). If you're looking for a modern steamer basket, the OXO Stainless Steel Steamer With Handle (view at Amazon) improves upon all the classic designs.
What to Look for in a Vegetable Steamer
Electric versus Stovetop
The two main types of food steamers are electric and stovetop. Electric steamers are separate appliances while stovetop steamers are usually paired with a pot, saucepan, or wok. Both electric and stovetop steamers yield thoroughly cooked food with less added fat. The better option for you depends on whether you prefer a dedicated appliance for steaming food or a steaming tool that is compatible with your existing cookware.
While some appliances, such as pressure cookers and rice cookers, may have steam functions, electric steamers usually allow you to steam different foods at once since they have multiple tiers. Electric steamers can hold up to 9.5 quarts of food, and some have a digital interface for user-friendliness. However, electric steamers are more pricey and take up more space than stovetop cookers.
Stovetop options made of bamboo or stainless steel rest in a pot, pan, or wok that’s filled with simmering water. Food is placed in the steamer, and steam from the bottom of the pot surrounds and heats the food. This is a more space-saving and budget-friendly option, though it has fewer features than electric steamers that have built-in timers or automatic shut-offs.
Insert versus Separate Appliance
If you steam food a lot or cook large quantities of food at one time, a separate appliance dedicated to steaming food may be your best option. They tend to have a larger capacity than inserts, though this means they will take up more space on your countertop or in your cabinet. An insert is perfect for small kitchens or cooking small batches at a time since they have a smaller capacity and some even fold up to take up less space. This is also the more budget-friendly route.
When choosing any kitchen appliance or gadget that will be used to cook food, capacity is one of the most important considerations. Mini steamers can hold as little as 2 cups of food while electric steamers can carry up to 9.5 quarts across multiple tiers. The sweet spot for you depends on how many people you will be cooking for or how much food you plan on cooking at a time.
What foods can you put in a steamer?
Steamers are most commonly used to cook vegetables, meat, and fish. You can add prepped veggies like potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, spinach, green beans, artichokes, and more. Tender proteins like chicken breasts and boneless fish fillets are better suited for steamers than tougher cuts of meat like steak.
How do you clean an electric steamer?
Many electric steamers come with dishwasher-safe parts. The base of the steamer and power cord should never be submerged in water. You can clean the outside of the unit with a damp cloth and dry it thoroughly. The inner steaming bowls are usually removable, and these can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Lacey Muinos is a health and wellness writer with a speciality for food topics. Though she loves sautéed vegetables, she appreciates a good steamer for its ability to cook veggies with a healthy twist.
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