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Best food steamer

best food steamer
(Image credit: Hamilton Beach)

Food steamers are designed to delicately cook healthy meals and lock in moisture and nutrients. They cook an entire meal at once, so all you have to do is eat it. Many of the food steamers in our guide have various settings for cooking different types of foods including vegetables, meat, rice, seafood, and eggs. Food steamer capacities range from three quarts to as much as 12 quarts, so whether you’re cooking for yourself or a large family there’s an option for every kitchen.

Best overall

best food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hamilton Beach digital food steamer (opens in new tab)

Two-tiered model

The Hamilton Beach is a two-tier food steamer with a removable divider for large items. Using its digital display, you can set it to steam, delay start, and warm, and it includes a rice bowl for steaming rice and small foods. You can prepare a whole meal at once using this one convenient appliance.

Pros:

  • Super easy to use
  • Delay start
  • Automatic warm setting

Cons:

  • Tricky to clean

This steam cooker is more versatile than others; the delay start feature is unique to this model, while the post-cooking warmer isn't common on most steamers. It can accommodate small items or large foods, such as corn on the cob or a head of broccoli. You can also cook seafood, poultry, hot dogs, hard or soft-boiled eggs, and rice. Food cooks faster in the bottom tier, so you should put food that takes longer to cook below and use the top tier for items that have shorter cook times

Best value

best food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Bella two-tiered food steamer (opens in new tab)

Steams foods fast

You can fix healthy, tasty chicken and as much as five cups of rice with the Bella food steamer. It starts steaming in about 30 seconds, so you can quickly start cooking chicken without using unhealthy oils. The two-tiered basket keeps different foods separate. 

Pros:

  • Cooks food fast
  • Comes with a rice bowl
  • Drawer lets you add water while steaming

Cons:

  • No warm setting

You adjust the temperature, and a green indicator light lets you know the steamer is working, though there isn't a warm setting to keep your meal hot without causing it to dry out. All of the removable parts of the food steamer are dishwasher safe.

Best professional

best food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Cuisinart digital glass steamer (opens in new tab)

High-end design

The Cuisinart digital glass steamer is an ultra-high-end steam cooker that has preset modes for cooking seafood, poultry, grains, and vegetables, as well as manual controls. It can also reheat food to serving temperature, and keep food warm once it’s finished cooking.

Pros:

  • Five-liter glass pot
  • Five preprogrammed food settings
  • Electric LCD screen

Cons:

  • Only one steaming tier
  • Expensive

The electronic LCD display allows you to adjust your cooking setting to meet your tastes and preferences, and there’s also an audible alarm that sounds when your meal is finished. The Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer is a significant investment, but the five-liter glass pot is high-quality and will get plenty of use in your kitchen. The pot only has one level, but the tray which lines it can be used to easily lift food away and be flipped to act as a steamer stand for versatile use. Because there is only one tier, all your food will have to cook on the same heat level, and if you want to add or remove something, you'll have to open the glass lid and lose steam.

Best small-capacity

best food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Aroma Housewares food steamer (opens in new tab)

Compact, 5-quart model

The Aroma Housewares food steamer can be heated up within a minute and will fit up to five quarts, allowing you to cook multiple foods at once with its two-tier system. The top shelf has a curved lid, so you’ll have to put longer or bulkier items on the bottom tier of this steam cooker. 

Pros:

  • Large water reservoir
  • Two-tier
  • Window to monitor water level

Cons:

  • Basic construction

This food steamer is easily cleaned in a dishwasher, which saves you scrubbing the slatted tray by hand. Because it’s narrow and tall, this food steam is also easy to store. The Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186 has a window that allows you to monitor the level of water in your steamer. You can’t top this up without turning off the steamer, so be sure to fill it up before cooking. The Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186 allows you to set your timer with the dial on the front of the base, and its handy chart which sits right beside the dial will tell you how long you need to steam various foods for

Best large capacity

A/C 3-tier food steamer

(Image credit: A/C)

A/C food steamer (opens in new tab)

Simple, three-tiered steamer

This food steam is great for preparing vegetables. It has three tiers and boasts an impressive 9.5 quarts of cooking space. It comes with a rice bowl and a built-in egg holder in each basket, so you don't have to dirty more dishes when preparing a healthy meal.

Pros:

  • Three, multi-use tiers
  • Built-in egg holders
  • Lots of room

Cons:

  • Hot exterior when in use

This steamer is customizable, so you don't have to use all three tiers in order for it to work. There is a timer, and auto shut off if the steamer runs out of water. The water reservoir has two inlets, so it's easy to refill when needed. Several of the parts are dishwasher safe making clean-up super easy. The steamer heats up quickly and the outside gets pretty toasty too, which can cause burns if you're not careful.

Why buy a food steamer?

Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook everything from beef to broccoli, according to an article published by Healthy Options. Among other things, eating steamed food can help you lower your cholesterol – steaming meat removes fat, unlike frying, baking, and grilling. Also, you don’t need to use butter, oil, or any other fat to cook meat when you use a steamer.

Steaming is also an excellent way to prepare vegetables since it cooks them thoroughly without sapping them of essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, steamed vegetables retain their taste, color, juices, and freshness better than those cooked in other ways. Other cooking methods, such as boiling, can destroy naturally occurring vitamin B, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, biotin B12, pantothenic acid, and vitamin C as well as minerals like calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc.

An article published online by Shape Magazine also encourages steaming many foods, especially vegetables, chicken breasts, fish, and shellfish. “It's perfect for fish and shellfish because it doesn't dry out the delicate flesh. Halibut, cod, and snapper steam particularly well,” the article states. Shape recommends jazzing up your steamed meals with herbs and other natural flavorings and avoiding using salt, which will wash off. For example, you can steam a fish fillet in foil with some garlic, grated ginger, onion, basil leaves, and a bit of lemon juice.

How to choose a food steamer

Size

Food steamer size is measured in quarts, and most models are 3 quarts or bigger. They also usually have one to three tiers. When you buy a model with more than one tier, you can stack different items and steam them at the same time or cook large foods and big batches.

If you buy a combination rice cooker and food steamer, the size is relative to the number of cups of rice the cooker makes. The larger the rice cooker, the larger the steamer basket will be. Small steamers are great for cooking a single dish, while a three-tier model can cook a whole meal.

Versatility

Dedicated food steamers can accommodate a variety of foods, but if you often cook rice, it makes sense to get a rice cooker and food steamer combo. These machines typically limit the variety of food you can prepare at the same time because there is only one basket for steaming other foods. Still, if you usually eat rice and meats or vegetables together, a food steamer and rice cooker combo is a convenient way to prepare a meal. 

Ease of Use 

Food steamers come in electronic and stovetop varieties. Electronic steamers have timers, so you can set them and do other things while you wait for your food to cook. Stovetop varieties need some monitoring – you have to keep an eye on water levels and perfect your timing so your food is cooked the way you want it. The best steamers are dishwasher safe so there are no pots to clean.

How we tested food steamers

We spent more than 80 hours comparing the best food steamers you can buy. We considered dozens of models and cooked many pounds of food. Afterward, we had taste testers sample the results and give feedback of how each model performed. Each steamer was subjected to a battery of tests to see if it delivers on its promises, and we compared each model’s features to see which one gives you the most value for your dollar.

We subjected each of the food steamers we reviewed to a battery of tests to gauge how effective they are at steaming common types of food. 

Fish Quality
We cooked 6 ounces of fish for the time suggested in each food steamer's manual. Testers then tasted the fish and judged it based on how well it absorbed the flavors from our aromatics and how moist and tender it was. On average, fish cooked in 19 minutes, but the best steamers cooked it in as little as 15 minutes.

Chicken Quality
We set each food steamer to cook 6 ounces of chicken for the time specified in its product manual. Testers tasted each sample and scored the steamers based on whether they produced chicken that was tender, moist, flavorful, and not overcooked. On average, chicken cooked in 25 minutes, but the best steamers cooked it in as little as 20 minutes.

Vegetable Quality
We steamed 1/2 pound of similarly sized small potatoes in each food steamer for the time specified in its user manual. We then taste-tested each batch and judged the potatoes based on tenderness and flavor infused from the added spices. Potatoes came out nearly perfect in each case – they were fully cooked and tender. On average, potatoes are cooked in 27 minutes, but the best steamers can cook them in 20 minutes. 

Rice Quality
We cooked 1 cup of rice, covering it with water in the provided rice bowl or a separate bowl if one was not included. We cooked each batch for the time suggested in the steamer’s manual and then taste-tested the results. On average, rice is cooked in 36 minutes, but the best steamers can cook it in 20 minutes. 

Why trust us?

At Top Ten Reviews, we recommend the best products to enhance your life. As experts, we handpick products based on quality and usefulness to positively impact your life. We take our responsibility seriously — testing products, reading reviews, and sourcing knowledgeable outlets to ensure our selections are worthy of your time and money. Our detailed product overviews balance objective information with subjective opinions, so making the best choice for your home and lifestyle is easy.

Millie is a former staff writer for the Top Ten Reviews brand who now works across Future's Home portfolio. Her spare time is spent traveling, cooking, playing guitar and she's currently learning how to knit. Millie loves tracking down a good deal and keeping up-to-date on the newest technology and kitchen appliances.