For many of us, it can be hard to make sure we eat enough veggies—even when they're already on our plate. And while there definitely are health benefits to eating vegetables raw, let's face it: Cooked veggies often taste better than raw veggies. One way to make your vegetables more palatable without needing to cook them using butter or oil is to prepare them in a food steamer. With plenty of electric and stovetop models to choose from, it shouldn't be difficult to find a food steamer that suits your taste and needs.
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The Benefits of Food Steamers
Food steamers (also known as steam cookers) employ a moist-heat cooking method that cooks food using hot water vapor in an enclosed vessel. Not only does steaming food eliminate the need to use oil or fats when cooking; it also stacks up pretty well next to other cooking methods. For example, a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2013 found that steaming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale does a better job of preserving their disease-fighting antioxidant compounds than other cooking methods, including boiling.
But food steamers aren't only good for steaming vegetables. While steaming won't work for thicker cuts of meat, such as bone-in steak, you can use food steamers for quick-cooking proteins like shrimp, scallops, fish filets and boneless poultry, such as chicken breast. You can also use them to steam eggs, which will result in creamier yolks and shells that slide off more easily than their hard-boiled counterparts.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Food Steamer
Electric Versus Stovetop: There are two main types of steamers: electric and stovetop. Electric steamers are easier to use because all you have to do is add water, food and turn it on, but they also take up more space. They usually come with stackable, perforated trays or are otherwise divided so you can steam different types of food or large batches at once. Stovetop steamers, on the other hand, are generally smaller and designed to be inserted into or on top of a saucepan or pot containing a couple of inches of simmering water. Steam enters through the perforated base and heats the food that sits on top. In addition to electric and stovetop steamers, some compact steamers are designed to fit in the microwave; however, they have a more limited capacity.
Capacity: Some miniature food steamers, such as microwaveable steamers, have a capacity as small as 2 cups, while larger food steamers might offer up to 8 quarts or more, spread out over multiple tiers. Electric food steamers tend to offer more room for cooking because they don't have to fit inside a saucepan or pot, but plenty of stovetop models offer a cooking capacity of at least 2 quarts.
Number of Tiers: Closely tied to capacity, the number of tiers a food steamer contains will affect how much food you can steam at once. Multiple tiers not only allow you to cook more food at the same time, but also keep different types of food separate from each other, as well as remove foods at different times.
Other Features: The most basic food steamers will simply include compartments for food and water, but some more advanced steamers will include useful extra features like a timer or automatic shutoff. Some steamers may even be combined with other functions, such as dehydrating. So, it's worth considering whether the steamer you have in mind can do anything else or has any thoughtful design features.
With these considerations in mind, we've selected the best food steamers in 2022 so you can get started cooking more healthily. Full steam ahead!
The Best Overall Food Steamer
Hamilton Beach 5.5-Quart Digital Food Steamer
Hamilton Beach's electric food steamer embodies many desirable traits and features for a reasonable price, earning it the top spot on our list. It offers a mid-level cooking capacity of 5 1/2 quarts and, thanks to its two stacking tiers that can nest inside each other, has a relatively small footprint and doesn't take up that much storage space. The tiers come with a removable divider so you can cook different foods at the same time, or you can forgo the divider and steam something larger, such as a whole fish filet or several chicken breasts. There's enough room to steam taller items, as well.
The steamer comes equipped with useful features like a built-in digital touchpad, an easy-to-use timer, a delay-start feature that allows you to fill the steamer with ingredients and set it to cook later, and a keep-warm setting that automatically switches on after cooking to keep your food warm for an hour before shutting off. Keep in mind that the keep-warm setting does continue to cook your food, even if less quickly than during actual steaming, so you may not want to leave it unattended for too long. Other than that, the only caveat (for some home cooks) is that the trays are made of plastic and need to be hand-washed. However, the drip tray and rice bowl that are included with the steamer are dishwasher-safe.
The Best Stovetop Food Steamer
Anolon Classic Stainless Steel Steamer Insert With Lid
This universal steamer insert is made from stainless steel and designed to fit inside both tulip-sided and straight-sided 2-quart, 3-quart or 4-quart saucepans. It comes with a snugly-fitting, shatter-resistant glass lid and features large looped, riveted handles to make it easy to grip. The steamer and lid are oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and both are dishwasher-friendly for fast and easy cleanup.
The Best Microwaveable Food Steamer
Prep Solutions Progressive Miracle Ware Microwave Steamer
If you don't need to cook for many people or are otherwise tight on kitchen space, this microwave-friendly food steamer may suit your needs. Offering a 1-quart capacity that's perfect for feeding just one or two people, it's designed for fast cooking and requires very little water. Made from BPA-free plastic and featuring a clear lid with a sliding tab that enables it to hold or release steam while cooking, the steamer circulates hot steam without making your food soggy or drying it out. Plus, it features a nonstick surface that makes washing by hand an easy task, although it's also dishwasher-safe.
If you'd like to experiment with using more than just water, you can try using other liquids like stock or juice to add more flavor (but remember that these ingredients will add to the caloric content of your meal, even if it's not by much).
The Best High-Capacity Food Steamer
Rosewill 3-Tier Stackable Baskets Electric Food Steamer
For home cooks who've got multiple people to feed, or anyone who simply wants to be able to prepare more food in one go, this 9 1/2-quart electric food steamer from Rosewill offers the higher capacity you're looking for, and then some. Equipped with three tiers that let you cook different types of food at once, the steamer doesn't require close monitoring while cooking, thanks in part to its water level indicator that makes it easy to tell if and when you need to add more water.
When you do need to add more water, the easy-fill inlets on each side make refills easy-peasy. The steamer operates using 800 watts of power that can produce steam in less than 40 seconds. It includes a 60-minute cooking timer with an auto-shutoff safety feature when the water is empty to prevent burning. The three baskets and rice tray that's included are all dishwasher-safe.
The Best Splurge-Worthy Food Steamer
Cuisinart Digital Glass and Stainless Steel Steamer
If you'd rather avoid cooking in plastic and want only premium-quality materials, this digital food steamer by Cuisinart is worthy of the splurge. Made from stainless steel, it offers a capacity of 5 liters (roughly 5.28 quarts) and includes a glass lid with stainless steel trim. It features an advanced LCD control panel that includes pre-programmed food settings, as well as start/stop, pause and reheat buttons, so everything is straightforward to use.
Unlike some food steamers, which send steam upward, this steamer delivers steam from the top down, surrounding the food completely and allowing for quick, even cooking. The water tank is removable to make it easy to fill, while the handles on the steamer tray make it easy to remove after cooking. All parts are dishwasher-safe. The only caveat is that it only comes with one steamer basket, so you can't separate foods (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you don't mind a little mixing of flavors).
The Best Collapsible Steamer Basket
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer
If space is really tight in your kitchen, this collapsible steamer basket from OXO is more compact than any other steamer on this list. Designed to be compatible with all pots measuring 8 inches or more in diameter, it folds flat when not in use and features a removable, extendable handle that makes it easy to add or remove the steamer to and from the pot. The versatile design allows you to use the insert not only with pots and pans on the stovetop, but also with pressure cookers and multi-cookers, so you can explore a variety of cooking options. One thing to note is that, while it's made of stainless steel, it doesn't feature the sleek finish of many other OXO products; the edges can be a bit sharp and rough, so handle it carefully.
The Best Bamboo Food Steamer
Mister Kitchenware Bamboo Steamer
Not only are bamboo food steamers inspired by the traditional method for cooking Chinese dumplings (which predates modern steamers by thousands of years), but they're also eco-friendly. This bamboo steamer from Mister Kitchenware includes two stacking steamer baskets that can be used together or separately, plus a domed lid. Each basket measures 10 inches across. The bamboo construction is an eco-friendly option that absorbs excess moisture during steaming so your food doesn't get covered in condensation and become soggy.
The slatted design of the base promotes free and easy movement of steam within the cooking chamber, while the domed lid optimizes heat circulation. The only caveat to the steamer is that it's not dishwasher-friendly and requires more care to keep clean and maintain than other models.
The Best Combo Food Steamer
Aroma Housewares Pot-Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer
If you like the idea of a small kitchen appliance that does more than one thing, you'll be happy to learn that this rice cooker from Aroma Housewares includes a steaming tray, so you can steam food items on top while cooking rice, soup or other foods below simultaneously. The lower chamber can cook up to 6 cups of rice at once, while the appliance offers an overall capacity of 2 quarts. The cooker is incredibly easy to use, featuring a simple one-touch operation—just set it and forget about it (for a while). It also includes a useful keep-warm feature that automatically switches to warming mode after the cooking cycle has completed. The nonstick inner pot is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.