Choosing an electric food steamer
Electric food steamers are a handy kitchen countertop appliance that allow
you to steam vegetables and other foods. This device consists of a base unit
with electronic controls and a chamber for adding water. One to three plastic
containers with holes in the bottom stack on top of the base. Water is heated
in the lower chamber and steam rises to cook the food in the above containers.
Experts caution that using an electric food steamer isn't as fast as microwaving
or stovetop methods, and steaming takes some practice to learn how long and
what position cooks the food to your liking.
That said, it does free up the stovetop and microwave for other cooking
tasks and automatically warms food or shuts off after the pre-set cooking
time has ended. Electric food steamers also make it easier to steam larger/longer
foods like fish or whole asparagus, which are often a poor fit in a stovetop
Digital food steamers have additional programming functions. Experts at
Which? magazine say these units are particularly convenient when food is
prepared and placed in the steamer containers in advance – simply place
the containers onto the food steamer base and set the timer to begin cooking
Experts say the following about shopping for a food steamer:
- Look for a removable
base. If the top food container has a removable base, it allows you
to connect two containers together to cook large-sized food. A removable
base also makes it easier to clean the holes, where food residue can accumulate.
for visible water-filling features. Water fill marks should be easy
to read. An external water gauge lets you monitor the water level during
steaming, and an external fill inlet lets you add more water without removing
- Size up the storage space. Although large steamer
containers hold more food, they also require more storage space.
Nesting containers require considerably less storage space. Experts say
the size of the packaging is a good indicator of how much storage cabinet
space you'll need if you don't want to keep your food steamer sitting on
- Digital controls add convenience, but don't cost
much more. Digital controls are more accurate than turning a timer
dial, and models with pre-programmed cooking times are even easier to use.
time with dishwasher-safe containers. Food and residue from juices
easily gets trapped in the holes in the steaming containers, which can
be a chore to clean. Dishwasher-safe containers significantly cut down
on cleaning time (but the plastic may need to be dried by hand).
- Look for BPA-free plastic. Given recent concerns about bisphenol-A leaching into food from certain
plastics, look for a BPA-free label on the product's packaging. Both
Oster steamers are BPA-free.