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How we test steamers

By Matt Clear

Find out about the tough tests we put steamers through to find the ones that will make perfectly steamed food for quick and healthy meals.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

You might assume that all steamers can do the job they're intended to do - steam your food quickly to give you a tasty dinner. But our tough lab tests have found that this isn't always the case.

Best Buy steamers can cook a range of foods quickly and evenly, leaving meat juicy and succulent, and vegetables with just the right amount of crunch.

Bad ones, on the other hand, will take longer than you'd expect to steam, and turn out overcooked, pallid meat and soft, mushy vegetables.

Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about steamers:

  • How quickly and effectively will it steam different foods?
  • Is it easy to use, clean and store?
  • Should I buy it?

Visit our steamer reviews to find one that will help you cook perfectly steamed food in no time, and avoid the ones that will leave you disappointed.

How quickly and effectively will it steam different foods?

We carry out our own version of a supermarket sweep to test steamers. Over years of steamer testing, we've cleared shelves of over 20kg of carrots, 12kg of broccoli, 14.4kg of new potatoes, 60 salmon fillets and 48 chicken breasts to discover the steamers which are best at cooking.

We cook broccoli, carrots and salmon separately, and also cook complete meals in one go, layering chicken breasts with potatoes and carrots, to see how well each steamer copes with a mixed load.

We time how long each steamer takes to cook the food properly, compared with the manufacturer's recommended cooking time. We then check how well and evenly cooked the food is: chicken breasts that are raw in the middle, dry salmon, and floppy carrot batons will all make a steamer lose marks for the quality of its cooking.

If a steamer has a rice bowl, we test that too. The best steamers will produce rice that is fluffy and evenly cooked.

Will it be easy to use, clean and store?

We rate how easy each steamer is to use by going through the entire process of using it, from reading the instruction booklet to setting it up and and using the controls.

A good steamer should have large baskets to easily fit in as much food as possible, clear water-level indicators and a warning that makes it obvious when the steamer is close to running dry.

We also look at how easy it is to clean and pack away each steamer for storage in a kitchen cupboard. Steamer baskets that remain stained and smelly after scrubbing will score poorly, as will a design that makes it inconvenient to store.

Should I buy it?

As well as the above criteria, we also take the steamer's build quality into account when we calculate its overall score, and ensure that it passes standard electrical safety tests.

73%The score a steamer needs to achieve to be rated as a Best Buy

Each of the tests described above goes part way to making up a total test score, which is the overall percentage score awarded to a steamer. Our overall ratings ignore price and are based on:

  • 50% cooking performance 
  • 40% ease of use
  • 10% build quality

Steamers scoring 73% or above are rated as Best Buys, while those that score 45% or less are Don't Buys that you should steer clear of.

Only the steamers that cook to perfection, are foolproof to use and don't leave you with a headache after cooking are good enough to earn Best Buy status. Check out all the Best Buy steamers that have come through our tough testing.


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