Like most people know, myself included, adding more lush vegetables to your daily meal is must in order to have good health. Vegetables contain multitude of nutrients that can help in maintaining a healthy body and lowers your risk of common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, developing kidney stones and even cancer.
However, we all know that preparing and cooking veggies are not an easy task. But, you know the old saying, that there is always a solution to every problem. For those seeking a quick and healthy cooking solution, may I introduce you to a must-have kitchen tool called “vegetable steamer”. If you want to revolutionize your cooking and drastically boost the nutritional content of the meals you prepare, then you should definitely buy a vegetable steamer.
But, with so many available steamers out there, how can you pick the right one? I’m here to help you with that. Below I have listed the best ones in the market each with more than 4.5 rating by other users. But before we go there, let me tell you everything about vegetable steamer first.
What is a vegetable steamer?
Vegetable steamers are very simple kitchen tools that heat and cook vegetables and other foods you want by steaming. It can be a sealed appliance that is made of plastic which can be electric OR a simple bamboo, plastic, or metal basket that can be placed at the top of a pot with boiling water and sealed by a lid.
The idea of steaming vegetable is that the vegetables itself are not directly placed in the water or on the hot surface of a pan. Vegetable steamers only cook food only through steam and there are electric versions of this tool that usually get the job done in lesser time than the traditional steamers.
Brief History of Steamers
Steam is incredibly fascinating and sensual. Steams are used for all kinds of things like powering boats and trains, cooking and even bathing. In fact, steaming played a great role in preparing staple rice dishes in Oriental cooking.
And for more than three thousand years, steaming devices were used by the Chinese people back in the Yunnan Period, in which archaeological digs found remnants and artifacts. The Chinese people mastered the arts of making thin strips of cypress into steamers during the 8th century. Today their very sophisticated steamers are made from bamboo.
India, too, is fond of steaming food for centuries. Their famous dish, modak, a dumplings made with rice flour covers filled with grated jaggery and coconut that is cooked through steaming. Meanwhile, in Africa, their most famous dish called couscous, is made from semolina which is steamed, that became really famous across the world in the past few years.
Why Steam Food?
So why is there a need to steam food? Or rather why do other people want to steam food than other cooking processes? While steaming is nutritious and delicious, it is also very easy, if you have the help from a good-quality steamer. Many steamers are of circular shape containers that can be made of bamboo or metal. There are others that have a tight-fitted lid so that no steam can escape, therefore cooking your food thoroughly.
Most people, who don’t own a steamer, typically fill a pot halfway with water. It is then place into a metal frame on top of it for the food to sit. There are modern microwaves that have a separate steam setting and water container. Using alternative methods can still work; however, there is really no hassle-free and superior way to steam food than with a food steamer. Not convinced yet? Here are some of the best benefits of steaming food:
#1. Preservation of Nutrients
A 2007 USDA study compared the distinction between boiling and steaming of vegetables. The study reveals that the level of vitamin C and folic acid in vegetables had a 15% drop when boiled. This study shows that steaming is a great process of preserving water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, and other nutritional mineral salts that are naturally present in vegetables.
#2. Maintains Texture
Citing the previous study, it also showed that the foods become mushy and limp when boiled, in contrast to the steamed food that retains its firmness. This means that each vegetables unique texture can be maintained through steaming.
#3. Great for Syrups and Purees
If you love fruit mashes and fruit juices, steamers can help you with that. You can simply add plums, cherries or grapes to the steamer and create sauce or purees from the finished process. Juicers can really be messy when it comes to straining and squeezing but with a steam, you can prevent this.
#4. Ease of Adding Flavor
Who says using steam can result in a bland meal? There are various ways to add flavor to your steamed food. You can simply add the spices to the water and its aroma and taste will infuse with your food on the top compartment without even having a direct contact.
#5. Saves Energy
Steaming saves energy. There are various types of steamer that have multiple tiers in which you can place different ingredients. You save effort, time and energy by simply cooking in one appliance!
If you consider these many benefits of a steamer, there is no reason why every kitchen should not have one this handy appliance.
Various Steaming Methods
While steaming is a general process, there are various methods available for steaming food. Here are some of them:
It is the most basic and popular way to cook rice. Actually, the method of traditional oriental use of steam to cook rice involves the immersion of rice in stock or water. It is then cooked over the steam until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
This traditional steaming method involves sealing the food in bamboo leaves (Chinese Method), plantain leaves (Indian Method) or a pleated wax paper. By securing the container with a string and placing it on top of boiling water to rest, the steam food is cooked in its own juiciness and will taste really amazing.
This is the easiest steaming method in which you will suspend the food on top of boiling water. You can cook anything from fruits and vegetables to meat with this method.
Different Types of Vegetable Steamer
Today, more and more sophisticated and innovative steamers make their way to the market nationwide. Many of these products are specifically designed to do the work of steaming without you, constantly watching it in order to prevent overcooking.
Most microwave steamers are usually made of plastic and have a cake pan shape. It comes with a lid for steaming and since it functions in the microwave, the timing can be easily regulated and steaming of food is incredibly quick.
2. Electric Steamers
The greatest and latest of all steamers. The electric steamer involves less work since it manages the steam time for you. Such steamer looks like crock pots and comes with removable bowls and pots that holds several vegetables and other food. Moreover, there are other models in which have three tiers and includes warmers to keep steamed vegetables hot while the rest of the ingredient is prepared.
3. Bamboo Steamers
This type of steamer is usually tiered in order to accommodate more than one dish at the same time. In Asia, this is the fundamental cooking method. Just like the steamer basket, the bamboo steamer, too, is placed on top of a cooking vessel containing little water.
4. Steamer Basket
The least complicated form of steaming tool, but, it always works. A good high-quality stainless steel steamer basket can fit into any bigger vessel and will keep the food out of the boiling water’s contact. Once the pot is sealed with the lid, the food will is heated and cooked through the creation of steam. However, you will need to monitor the food you are steaming in order to prevent overcooking.
Considerations when Buying Vegetable Steamer
If you are thinking about buying your very own vegetable steamer, then you need to consider some factors that can help narrow down the competition. Here are some of them:
You should first consider what steaming process you are more interested in. For example, water amount and cooking time will vary based on the type, quantity, and size of the food you are going to cook and what methods are involved when cooking them. Cooking time will be different whether you are using a basket or electric steamer and when you understood what method is best for you will very much depend on how much time you will spend.
Most steaming baskets meant to fit into a cooking pot can be made of bamboo or stainless steel. Both are incredibly durable materials that are proven effective. But, the primary difference between these two is that bamboo basket will change color over time while stainless steel will always be the same.
Microwave steamers, on the other hand, are always made of plastic. Electric steamers are made in different materials, usually with plastic inserts for the process of actual steaming.
If your kitchen is not that spacious and you only have limited space for storage, then collapsible steaming basket will be good. There are also electric steamers that can be broken down in several ways which makes them very easy to store.
If you choose a simple steamer basket, then you will find that these steamers are designed to collapse and expand in order to fit different pot sizes. Some, are designed to fit a specified pot size only. On the other hand, bamboo steamers come in multiple tiers and several different sizes that allows you to steam more than one type of food at the same time. Microwave and electric steamers are fixed in size and they usually take up most of the storage space.
Ask yourself how often do you need or plan to use the steamer. If you want to steam every day, then you can choose high-quality steamers that can withstand the test of time. You can invest in a good machine built with the best durable materials. However, if you want to only use it on rare occasions, then you can purchase a less expensive one like the simple steam basket.
The Top 5 Best Vegetable Steamers
Because of the availability of so many steamers and while all manufacturers and sellers insist they only have the highest quality steamers, many people can be confused and have a hard time choosing the right one. To help you choose only the best vegetable steamer, we have her the top five steamers you should try out.
*Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
What makes this steamer different than the others is its extendable handle. Why? It is because the handle fork keeps your hands away from the steam protecting it from getting burned making it really safe. Moreover, its extendable handle can lock into a position for transporting and filling and can be retracted to the accommodation of pot lids while steaming.
This vegetable steamer is also perfect to use together with a multi cooker or a pressure cooker. There are also handle hole for fork that keep the hands away from the steam. It fits in pots with a diameter of 8 inches and more.
It has a sturdy construction of stainless steel and can be fold flat when you are not using it for compact storage. Furthermore, it is dishwasher safe, meaning it is quite easy to clean without being vulnerable to cuts.
What We Like
What We Don't Like
This top-rated electric steamer is most suitable for cooking your entire family’s meal. With a capacity of 5.5 quarts, it can accommodate larger sizes of vegetables and other foods. Not to mention it has dividers that can separate your vegetables from meat. Plus, a small rice bowl at the base of the machine. Meaning, you can create an entire meal using only one kitchen appliance.
This versatile, nested storage, stackable 2-tier steamer fits neatly in any cabinet. It has digital touchpad that makes setting countdown timers and other functions quite easy. It also has a function called “Automatic warm” wherein when the food is ready, it switches to warm mode so that your steamed food will be kept warm while you prepare other ingredients.
It also alerts you with a beeping sound when the cooking time is finished. Moreover, it has a function called “Delay start” timer that lets you add ingredient to the steamer in advance and can start steaming later.
What We Like
What We Don't Like
This versatile classic steamer and saucepot from Farberware give you ease when simmering, steaming, heating and boiling different kinds of foods. You steam veggies on the steamer by adding water to the saucepot and bring to a boil. Even without the steamer insert, you can boil yams and cook your favorite soup dishes on the saucepot. That’s 2-in-1 kitchenware for you.
The lid and pot of this steam pot are made of stainless steel for durability. This 3-qt pot can be used as a baking casserole (because it is oven safe up to 350°), simmering sauces, or making soups and not just steaming. Its base gives even distribution of heat and prevent the food from getting burned even you simmer for too long.
This steam pot is stain resistant and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Moreover its comfortable handle provides a confident and firm grip and the self-basting lids aids in sealing moisture and heat inside.
What We Like
What We Don't Like
This steamer basket with stainless steel petals can be used to steam desserts, meats eggs, seafood, veggies, baby food and more. It is also collapsible and expandable to accommodate various food sizes to be steamed.
The “wings” of this vegetable steamer basket can be folded in and out to allow the steamer to fit pressure cooker and instant pots. It has telescopic handle that is removable and has 3 foldable legs each with silicone in order to prevent scratching your pot.
Moreover, because of its stylish designs, it cannot only be used as a steamer basket but can also be used as a fruit container or a strainer.
What We Like
What We Don't Like
The Hatrigo Instant Pot Steamer Basket is not like the other steamer basket brands. This basket is designed and custom built in order to fit inside the instant pot and steam your favorite veggies.
This instant pot steamer basket is covered in silicone to prevent any burns hen removing the basket from hot pots. Moreover, it has legs covered with silicone to prevent any scratches to your instant pots and avoid slipping when it is placed on the counter.
It is dishwasher safe so it is very easy to clean and made with grade quality stainless steel. Its handles are strong and firm and will not fall off even though it contains heavy ingredients such as meat, in fact, it can hold over 10 pounds of food!
What We Like
What We Don't Like
The Final Judgment
Among the top 5 vegetable steamers that I listed, the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer would be my top pick. Why? Because it is a rice cooker, steaming basket, grill, and crockpot in one which you can use to create your whole meal. Furthermore, it is compact so it does not take up too much space.
Purchasing a steamer can be a challenging decision, especially when a person is not really into steaming when cooking their meals. However, steaming is very beneficial to health-conscious people because it has the ability to retain more minerals and vitamins from the food, unlike boiling. Moreover, it is a great way to preserve the true quality and flavor of vegetables. So why don’t you start steaming today?