The Best Vegetable Steamers Do More Than Just Broccoli

Hamilton Beach's Digital Food Steamer is the winner

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Best Vegetable Steamers

Simply Recipes / Photo Illustration by Chloe Jeong / Retailers below

My first experience with a vegetable steamer was one of deep 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, I rounded up the top options. To verify that they really are superb, we sent these home to our editors for testing. They put them to the test by steaming broccoli and whipping up a batch of hard-boiled eggs. After testing, they let us know not only how it went, but also how easy or hard the steamer was to clean and store.

Based on our editors’ testing, Hamilton Beach’s Digital Food Steamer is our top choice.

Here are the best vegetable steamers on the market today.

Best Overall

Hamilton Beach 37530A Digital Food Steamer

4.8
Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer - 5.5 Quart (37530A)
Courtesy of Amazon.com.

What We Love: Auto switches to warm when cooking is done, nestled design saves space, delayed start

What We Don't Love: 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 with its 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. 

Our tester found that setup was extremely easy out of the box, though she did need to sometimes switch around the levels so they fit better. First up was the broccoli test, where she followed the guide's instructions for cooking times. The basket quickly filled with steam and yielded vibrant green broccoli. She did find that once the timer switches over to "warm," you should quickly retrieve delicate foods like broccoli or lobster tails, or they will keep slightly cooking in the leftover steam. The egg test went extremely well, enough to convince our tester that steamed hard-boiled eggs really are superior. Both tiers have space for 8 eggs, with the very hot finished eggs needing a short ice water bath before peeling. Afterward, the tiers were very easy to clean and the nesting does make this easy to store.

Though this electric steamer has one main function, it is a versatile appliance that is ideal 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.

Price at time of publish: $60

Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer

Simply Recipes / Siobhan Wallace

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

4.5
bella-food-steamer

Courtesy of Best Buy

What We Love: Integrated egg tray, 60-minute timer, automatic shutoff, large capacity

What We Don't Love: 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 amazing for batch cooking. Since this steamer has a turbo-steam function, cooking is usually quick.

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 room to steam 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. At least, that's how easy it was for our tester. Using the recommended time, she was able to steam broccoli in the bottom compartment while also cooking an egg in the top tier. The vegetables came out vibrant green and fully cooked, though it appeared they might overcook if left in the steamer too long. For that egg, she utilized the egg holders found in each level. The egg came out medium-boiled, though it was difficult to peel even after soaking in cold water. Cleanup was relatively easy, but, if you're using all three tiers, it seems like a lot of pieces to handle at once.

Price at time of publish: $45

Bella 3-Tier Food Steamer

Simply Recipes / Fran Sales

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

4.2
OXO Stainless Steel Steamer With Handle

Amazon

What We Love: Space-saving design, folding feet for compact storage, handle for safe removal from hot pots

What We Don't Love: 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 1.75-inch 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 ideal for cooking small batches of food and tucking away neatly in small kitchens.

When we sent this home for testing, our tester was very impressed with not only the folding feet but also the handle design. There's a small hole for you to slide your fork into, making it easier to remove the basket than reaching into a hot, steamy pot. Both the broccoli and eggs test went perfectly according to familiar recipes, and the steamer can be thrown in the dishwasher afterward. The one caveat was that the handle is plastic. Some reviewers note that their handles melted during use. Our tester didn't notice any melting but was concerned it might happen with long-term use.

Price at time of publish: $23

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

Progressive International Microwave Mini Steamer

Amazon

What We Love: Nonstick surface, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, doubles as a colander

What We Don't Love: 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 an ideal 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.

Price at time of publish: $10

Capacity: 2 cups | Dimensions (LxWxH): 7 x 6 x 3 inches | Material: Plastic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Best Electric

Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer

4.6
Cuisinart STM-1000 CookFresh Digital Glass Steamer, Stainless Steel
Courtesy of Amazon.com.

What We Love: LCD control panel, glass cooking pot, audible alert

What We Don't Love: 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.

Price at time of publish: $160

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

Final Verdict

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.

Hamilton Beach Steamer

Simply Recipes / Siobhan Wallace

What to Look for in a Vegetable Steamer

Electric vs. 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.

Bella Steamer

Simply Recipes / Fran Sales

Insert vs. 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 ideal 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.

Capacity

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.

FAQs

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 specialty in food topics. Though she loves sautéed vegetables, she appreciates an excellent steamer for its ability to cook veggies with a healthy twist.

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