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Cookware - Steamers

Information and how to choose and use Food Steamers

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Steamers are becoming more and more popular as people discover the benefits in steaming their food versus boiling, sautéing, or frying. Choosing the right steaming cookware is often a daunting task so in this article we explain about the benefits and different types of food steamers currently on the market to help you choose the type most suitable for your needs.

What are the Benefits of Using a Steamer?

Steaming your food is beneficial due to the natural vitamins and nutrients that the foods are able to retain. Steaming is a quick way to cook foods and because of this they have less time to lose these important vitamins and nutrients. 


Steaming retains more of the essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs then other cooking methods. When you boil or sauté vegetables you lose a great percentage of these nutrients in the water that you pour out or in the oils that you cook in.


Another great benefit is that it is not necessary to add any fatty oils! Additionally when you steam your food it is more difficult to overcook, which is another common reason for lost vitamins and nutrients.


Types of Food Steamers

Most commonly steamers are used to cook vegetables, but they can be also used to steam fish, crab, shellfish, rice and even meats.  Let’s now discuss the different steaming options that are available and find out which will work best for you.


Electric Food Steamers

  Electric Steamers are the quickest method of steaming. Not only do they have your water boiling in about 30 seconds but they are also the least time consuming as most electric steamers have timers: you literally just add water and the food, turn it on and walk away. The steamer will beep when it is ready.

Another benefit of electric steamers is that they can be purchased in a number of different sizes depending on how many you are cooking for. They start at single tier and come in tiers of two, three, and four.

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The trick here is to put the food that needs the most steaming at the bottom and layer your way up with the food that needs the least steaming at the top.


Electric steamers are going to be the more expensive of your steaming options.  If you do a lot of steaming, are looking to save time and steam multiple foods at once then an electric steamer will work great for you.


They are best for cooking for families or for when you want multiple parts of your meal steamed, vegetables on one tier, fish on the next, etc.



Food Steamer Inserts and Stove Top Steamers



Stove top steamers come in different shapes and sizes. Generally they come as a steamer tray that inserts into a pot leaving room for water in the bottom.

There are also collapsible metal inserts that sit on the bottom of the saucepan and open up to sit inside the pan. These are raised off the bottom so water can be added underneath  and are best for boiling vegetables as they are not generally multi tiered.  They are cost efficient and usually work with your existing pots or saucepans.


You do have to check the vegetables from time to time with a fork to be sure not to over steam and they take a little longer to cook then an electric steamer but are still a quick method of cooking.


Stove top steamers are best for cooking vegetables and can accommodate groups small and large.


Microwave steamers



Microwave steamers are probably the least practiced way to steam. Many believe that the use of the microwave counters the idea of being healthy. This is a microwave safe bowl with a steamer insert and lid. You can even find two tier microwave steamers. They are dishwasher safe making for easy clean up.

Microwave steamers are best for singles and couples who don’t do a significant amount of steaming.  


Bamboo Steamers



Bamboo steamers are popular for cooking Asian food.  However, they can be used to cook just about anything! Bamboo steamers are generally used with a wok, but can also be used with a pot.  You just fill the bottom of the wok with water up to the point that it just about hits the bottom of the steamer. These can be multi tiered steamers, two and three tiers are most commonly found. 

The benefit of the bamboo steamer is that the bamboo absorbs the moisture which would normally condense on the lid.


Perhaps the down side of the bamboo steamer is the difficult cleaning. These are not dishwasher safe and should be only cleaned with a mild cleaner if anything at all. They need to be stored in a cool, dry place.


Due to the nature of the bamboo you shouldn’t put the food directly on the bamboo grate, this is for two reasons.  The first being the difficulty in cleaning and the second being that the bamboo with absorb the flavours of the food you are cooking. Use lettuce, parchment paper or any fresh leaves to separate the food from the steamer grates for an easier clean up.


Due to the nature of the bamboo absorbing flavour it is recommended that you use a separate tier for your fish, veggies, meats, etc.  Bamboo steamers are great for people looking for a unique natural way to cook and who are willing to take the time to clean and care for the bamboo.




Standard Safety Marks.   Look for electric food steamers with a recognised safety mark for your particular country which is a sign that the manufacturer follows the best safety precautions.


Good Reviews.  Check cooking magazines and websites to read slow cooker reviews from other consumers and businesses.



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