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Best food steamers 2020: Electric steam cookers from top brands

Best food steamers 2020: Electric steam cookers from top brands
(Image credit: Hamilton Beach)

The best food steamers will cook your vegetables, fish, chicken or rice using the heat of steam. This method of cooking keeps nutrients in your food and, unlike boiling your food, won’t damage the consistency. If you’re plagued by soggy broccoli and overcooked carrots, giving an electric steam cooker a try could transform your cooking routine. 

Food steamers are also super easy to use. You simply insert water into the base, place your food in the tier above, and allow the steam to rise and cook your meal. Some of the best food steamers in this review come with multiple tiers to separate fish and vegetables or to give you easier access to whichever food type will cook quicker. When creating our food steamer reviews, we cooked chicken, fish, vegetables and rice in our steam cookers to ensure that you’ll be able to create a large variety of meals in your steam cooker. 

One of the reasons food steamers are such a good investment is their oil-free approach to cooking. This could cut the fat and calories which are usually added in the cooking process out of your diet, making them a healthy kitchen appliance for those watching what they eat. Our top rated food steamer is the Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart. It’s powerful and comes with smart controls which enable you to stagger your cook time and also view your water level, which makes topping up easy. In our guide to the best food steamers we also have budget steam cookers and professional standard food steamers suitable for chefs or enthusiastic home cooks. Keep reading to find the right steam cooker for you. 


1. Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart: Best food steamer overall

Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart: Best food steamer overall

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart

This is the best food steamer you can buy to steam cook your food

Tiers: 2 | Capacity: 5.5 Quart

This is the easiest food steamer to use of the models we reviewed
The steamer has convenient features like a water-level window and delay start
Automatic warm setting
Tricky to clean

The Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart is an affordable 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. This steam cooker is more versatile than others; the delay start feature is unique to this model, and a post-cooking warmer is found on very few of the food steamers we tested. These features, coupled with its low cost, make it a good investment for healthy cooking.

You can prepare a whole meal at once using this one convenient appliance. 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. For instance, you would place chicken and potatoes in the bottom bowl and green beans or squash on top. 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.


2. Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer: Best professional food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer

This is the best high-end steam cooker out there

Tiers: 1 | Capacity: 5 Quarts

Five liter dishwasher-safe glass pot
Five preprogrammed foods settings 
Electronic LCD display
 Only one steaming tier  
Expensive

The Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer is an ultra high-end steam cooker which has preset modes for cooking seafood, poultry, grains and vegetables, as well as a manual control. It can also reheat food to serving temperature, and keep food warm once it’s finished cooking. The electronic LCD display allows you to adjust your cooking setting to meet your tastes and preferences, and there’s also an audible alarm which 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. It’s also nice to have a glass steamer pot if you are wary of even BPA-free plastic when cooking food. The pot only has one level, but the tray which lines it can be used to easily lift food away and flipped to act as a steamer stand for versatile use. 

The major drawback of steamers with only one tier is that your food will all have to cook on the same level of heat, and if you want to add or remove something from the pot you’ll have to open the glass lid and lose the steam. However, you’ll find cooking meals all-in-one a convenient way of preparing meals, and your food will take on the flavor of the component parts which saves you from bland potatoes or tasteless greens. A deserved entry in our guide to the best food steamers.


3. Oster Double Tiered Food Steamer: Best budget food steamer 

Oster Double Tiered Food Steamer: Best budget food steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Oster Double Tiered Food Steamer

This is the best value steam cooker we reviewed

Tiers: 2 | Capacity: 5 Quarts

Easy to clean and store
Super affordable
Two tiers
Smaller capacity 

The Oster Double Tiered Food Steamer can cook an entire meal as well as leaving you little work to do when your meal is over. This is the easiest food steamer to clean of all the machines we tested. You can hand-wash it or put the removable parts in the dishwasher.

This low-priced food steamer performed well during our tests, and the vegetables, chicken, rice and fish we made got a hearty thumbs-up from our taste-testing panel. However, the two-tiered food areas are rather small, as is the water reservoir. Still, this Oster model cooks well and is a great budget option. 


4. BELLA Food Steamer 13872: Best for steaming food fast

BELLA Food Steamer 13872: Best for steaming food fast

(Image credit: Amazon)

BELLA Food Steamer 13872

This food steamer has a great warranty and will steam your food fast

Tiers: 2 | Capacity: 7 Quarts

Cooks food fast
Comes with a rice bowl
Drawer lets you add water while steaming 
No warm setting

You can fix healthy, tasty chicken and as much as five cups of rice with the BELLA Food Steamer 13872. 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, and this steamer cooked faster than any other model we tested.

The steamer comes with a five-cup rice bowl. You add water to a drawer-shape area, and a water level indicator shows you how much is in there. If the water level gets too low, the machine shuts off automatically. You adjust the temperature using a simple dial, and a green indicator light lets you know the steamer is working. All of the BELLA Food Steamer 13872’s removable parts are dishwasher-safe.


5. Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer: Best large capacity steamer 

Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer: Best large capacity steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer

This is the best three tier food steamer you can buy

Tiers: 3 | Capacity: 12 Quarts

Great 12 quart capacity 
Add water while steaming
Dishwasher safe
No manual timer dial

The Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer comes with three dishwasher safe steaming tiers which can cook a different component of your meal separately. This is great for families with fussy eaters, or for steaming different elements of a dish for different times. For example, the Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer allows you to steam fish, rice and vegetables simultaneously, and it has preset modes for each different type of food. 

The Magic Chef 3 Tier Food Steamer also comes with a rice bowl, and its seven pre-set programs include vegetable, chicken, fish, shrimp, eggs, rice and potato steaming. The LCD display is bright and easy to use, with one-touch settings for whatever you may be cooking. It’s a shame there’s no option to manually set the timer and override a food setting, but that’s about the only downfall of this large capacity steam cooker. 


6. Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186: Best food steamer for small kitchens

Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186: Best food steamer for small kitchens

(Image credit: Amazon)

Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186

This food steamer is compact but still has a good capacity

Tiers: 2 | Capacity: 5 Quarts

Large water reservoir 
Two tier, with removable middle shelf
Window to monitor water level
 Basic, cheap construction 

The Aroma 5-Quart AFS-186 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 more bulky items on the bottom tier of this steam cooker. 

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 which 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, which is a lovely touch.


7. NESCO 5-Quart: Best food steamer for vegetables

(Image credit: Lowe's)

NESCO 5-Quart

Perfect for if you live alone or just want a steamer for vegetables

Tiers: 2 | Capacity: 5 Quart

Easy to set up and use 
Steamer bowl included
Hot exterior when used
Not the best rice results we had 

If you want a simple food steamer to make mealtimes easier, or if you live alone or in a small household, the NESCO 5-Quart could be the best food steamer for you. It has three tiers, which is great for preparing various components of meals separately, and also comes with a rice bowl, which is a handy tool for adding some versatility to your cooking routine. 

If you want a food steamer for cooking vegetables specifically, this is a great one. We say that because we weren’t in love with the results when we tried the rice we cooked in it. This steamer doesn’t come with the more high-end functions of other models we reviewed, but for the price, it’ll do everything you need it to. 


Why buy a food steamer? 

Steaming is one of the healthiest way to cook everything from beef to broccoli, according 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 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 to avoid 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.