Steamer reviews: FAQs

Steamers

How much do I have to pay to get a decent steamer?

Less than you might expect. One of the best steamers we’ve tested costs less than £30, and there are other Best Buys you can pick up for under £40.

We’ve even tested a good steamer that costs less than £15, though it’s not quite up to Best Buy standards.

How does a steamer work?

Most steamers have a chamber at the bottom which is filled with water. The steamer heats this water to create steam, which rises and cooks the food in the series of baskets above.

Steamer with rice

We test steamers by cooking rice as well as vegetables, meat and fish

What can I cook in a steamer?

Pictures of steamers normally show them stuffed with fresh vegetables, but you use them to cook much more than greens. All the steamers we review are tested on a wide variety of foods – potatoes, carrots, broccoli, chicken, salmon and rice.

Other foods you can cook in a steamer include pasta, couscous, shellfish, hard-boiled eggs and even fruit.

Some steamers, such as the Breville Digital Herbal Infusion VTP068, allow you to add fresh or dried herbs so that the flavour can be ‘infused’ into the other foods you’re cooking.

How much food can I cook in a steamer?

Steamers typically have three baskets, though you can find steamers that have one, two or four. Multiple baskets allow you to cook several different types of food at once without the flavours mixing together too much.

Most steamers can fit up to 9 litres of food, which should easily be enough for a main meal for a family of four.

How long does it take for a steamer to cook food?

It depends on what type of food you’re cooking and how much of it there is.

In our tests, we measure how long it takes each steamer to cook four types of food on their own, using a single basket. Vegetables cook most quickly in this set-up, with carrots and broccoli taking 13 minutes on average. Chicken takes an average of 19 minutes and rice takes half an hour.

We also cook three foods together to measure how well the steamer copes with three baskets being in use at once. Salmon cooks most quickly in this test, taking an average of 11 minutes. Carrots take 16 minutes on average, and potatoes average 37 minutes.

Food that’s placed in the bottom basket will usually cook more quickly than food in the baskets above, so it’s best to place foods such as potatoes, which take longer to cook, in the bottom basket.

Our testing times are based on each basket containing only a single layer of food. The steamer will take longer to cook if there are several layers of food in a basket.

How much more healthy is it to cook with a steamer?

Steaming keeps more of the vitamins and nutrients in food than other cooking methods such as boiling, where nutrients destroyed by heat can leach away into the water. Steaming broccoli retains 20% more vitamin C than boiling it.

However, an electric steamer isn't actually the healthiest way of cooking. Microwave steaming retains more of the food's nutrients. It's also quicker and uses lower temperatures and less water.

Microwave steamers almost always have a smaller capacity than conventional steamers, though, and typically have only one compartment, meaning you can only cook one type of food in them if you don't want the flavours of the food to mix together.