A food steamer like the Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart Digital Steamer means you can create healthy and delicious meals in less time than if you were to cook on your stovetop or in your oven. It can handle everything from fish and vegetables to rice and shellfish. It has a decent capacity for feeding a family, a decent-sized water reservoir so that you're unlikely to need to refill it for more steam – if you need to, though, there's a small, convenient drawer for that purpose.
All electric food steamers heat quickly, and this Hamilton Beach model is no exception. This unit has a digital screen where you can set the timer or even use the delayed-start function, which is unique to this steamer. When we considered how well this steamer performed compared to the other steamers we tested, it's not surprising that this Hamilton Beach earned Top Ten Reviews' Gold Award.
A food steamer can handle many tasks in your kitchen that were previously taken care of by a pot, a grill, an awkward metal steaming basket and even a bulky rice cooker. This Hamilton Beach steamer cooked fish in our test to the perfect texture. The dill and lemon we used came through as bright and herbaceous. The fish flaked and maintained moisture. It was the favorite among all of our testers.
We also tried chicken in this appliance and, although we weren't fans of steamed chicken overall, this one produced chicken that was more flavorful than chicken cooked by other steamers. The marinade we used for the chicken was discernable by most of the taste-testers: They were able to pick out garlic, ginger and soy sauce. The chicken wasn't exceptionally moist though.
One moment this unit steams fish, seafood and chicken, and the next it's a vegetable steamer. We used small red potatoes as a test, sprinkled with thyme and a couple of garlic cloves. After 20 minutes in the steamer, we were rewarded with the best potatoes we tasted in our tests. They were full of flavor, tender and creamy.
Also, we cooked all of the fish, chicken and potatoes simultaneously, and none of the flavors mingled, which can be very helpful when you have fussy eaters in the house and you need to prepare more than one type of vegetable or entrée.
Although we could probably live on steamed fish and vegetables alone, it's nice to have a bed of rice too. This steamer made decent rice. We used regular white rice with just enough water and steamed it for the time suggested in the manual: 35 minutes. The rice was very good, though a bit sticky. It was cooked thoroughly and not waterlogged.
Before testing any small appliance, we make sure to read every user manual first, but it wouldn't have been necessary for this unit. The Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart Digital Steamer is intuitive, even with its more advanced features, compared to its competition. Programming it to cook for a certain amount of time is as simple as setting an alarm clock.
The size of the unit was just right for any countertop. It's big enough to accommodate a fair amount of food but not cumbersome. Although there are some units with as many as three tiers, the two on this unit were plenty for what we needed to cook. The water reservoir isn't the largest of all the food steamers we tested, but it was big enough for what we needed to cook without having to refill it. However, if you do need to refill, you don't have to remove tiers in order to see the water level or to add more – there's a small window on the front to show you how much water is left. Also, a drawer located at the bottom of the appliance lets you add small amounts of water without having to disassemble the unit.
This Hamilton Beach steamer has more convenient features than any other food steamer we tested, including a bowl for rice, and all of the digital features that make your life in the kitchen easier. This steamer has a timer to let you know when your food is ready, and a warm setting so you can finish other things and still have a hot meal that's ready when you are. A unique feature on this unit is the delayed-start option, which allows you to set a time that you want the steamer to start cooking, which is helpful when you have dinner planned for a certain time.
A center divider between the tiers is removable, so the steamer can accommodate large or tall foods – like ears of corn – and there are indents on the bottom that can cradle unwieldy foods, like eggs.
After all of our cooking, we washed everything by hand, though all parts of the steamer are safe to toss in the dishwasher – except the water reservoir, because that's where all of the electrical parts are located. It didn't take an exceptionally long time to clean this unit, but it was more difficult than other steamers. All of those holes are necessary to allow steam through to cook your food, but all of those nooks and crannies collect food, and it can be difficult to get every corner clean.
One of the great things about this unit is that the tiers nest within the reservoir to make the steamer more compact for storage, so you can easily put it away in a cabinet if you don't want to keep it on your countertop.
Hamilton Beach doesn't offer the longest warranty available for a food steamer, but the 12-month guarantee that protects you from a defective product is standard for this type of appliance. You can find a digital user manual and FAQs on the manufacturer's website. Customer support is also available 8:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, by email and phone.
The best food steamers deliver perfectly cooked food every time and make it as simple as possible. The Hamilton Beach 5.5 Quart Digital Steamer goes above and beyond those expectations by adding even more convenience through thoughtful features like a water-level window and a delayed-start option.