Steaming is a moist-heat cooking method that cooks food by surrounding it with hot vapor in an enclosed environment, without necessitating any added cooking fat. Steaming can be used to cook a wide variety of foods including meat, poultry, fish, baby foods, vegetables tamales, bao buns, and khaman dhokla.
There are a number of different types of stovetop and electric steamer options to choose from, whether you're looking for a stand-alone electric model or a convenient steamer insert to fit in a pot you already own. To help you choose the right option for your kitchen, we listed the best options below.
Hamilton Beach 37530A Digital Food Steamer
Includes two steaming trays
Can steam taller items
Steam delay setting
Trays are made of plastic
Warm mode continues to cook food
This 5.5-quart electric steamer has two tiers that stack for cooking and nest for more compact storage, so you can use just one tier for cooking smaller batches or two tiers for larger batches. The tiers have a removable center divider so that you can keep foods separated or remove the divider to cook larger ingredients.
The rice bowl can be used for rice or for other small foods that need to be contained, like peas or corn kernels. When the steaming is done, the machine automatically switches to a keep-warm setting for one hour before turning off to avoid overcooking the food, although we found that it can sometimes continue cooking the food past the point of doneness. We left our extra vegetables in the steamer on the warm setting, and after just five minutes, they were too soft and mushy.
That said, we steamed broccoli and green beans in the top basket and salmon in the lower basket (at the same time), and the meal turned out deliciously (and better than the same dish cooked on a stovetop steamer) minus the keep-warm mishap. Other items that came out near-perfect included steamed rice (using the included insert), steamed carrots and potatoes, and steamed pears.
The delay-start feature lets you fill the steamer with produce in advance and start the cooking later. This feature shouldn’t be used for highly perishable foods like fish, poultry, or meat. This steamer includes a drip tray and rice bowl that are dishwasher-safe, but the food containers should be washed by hand.
Price at time of publish: $48
Capacity: 5.5 quarts | Weight: 3.97 pounds | Dimensions: 12.6 x 13.7 x 7.28 inches | Warranty: 1 year
"I thought that this steamer worked perfectly. The broccoli was soft, the green beans had just the right balance of softness and crunch, and the roasted salmon was perfectly flaky and cooked." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
Bella Two Tier Food Steamer
Auto-shutoff when water runs out
Easy to set up, use, and clean
Can cook grains & hard boiled eggs
Made of plastic
Timer dial can be hard to see
Most electric steamers are surprisingly expensive, but this one is both affordable and widely raved about. The 7.4-quart capacity can fit a lot of food, whether you're steaming meat, fish, or vegetables or cooking dim sum, hard-boiled eggs, or grains (the steamer comes with a 5-cup capacity rice bowl). Setup is quick and easy, and the electric base heats up quickly to minimize your wait time. The base features a water level indicator, an external water filler for easy refill without having to interrupt the cooking process, and an auto-shutoff when the water runs out, which is a great safety feature. You just add your food to the steamer, set your dial and go about your business—very "set it and forget it" style.
Whether you're washing the removable parts by hand or in the dishwasher, cleanup is very easy. A few users note experiencing a bit of leaking from their steamer, so you may want to place it on a towel as you get the hang of using it. There is a warm setting, but like with most electric steamers, it can be good to keep an eye on your food so that it doesn't overcook while in warm mode. A guide is included with cook times so that you can get just the right level of doneness for different foods.
Price at time of publish: $36
Capacity: 7.4 quarts | Weight: 4.58 pounds | Dimensions: 11.61 x 8.94 x 11.73 inches | Warranty: 2 years
Anolon Classic Stainless Steel Steamer Insert with Lid
Stainless steel construction
Fits a variety of pot sizes
Only one tier
This steamer insert fits onto just about any 2-, 3-, or 4-quart saucepan, including both straight-sided and tulip-shaped pots. The steamer rests on the sides of the pot, so the food in the steamer bowl remains well about the simmering water.
The steamer is made from stainless steel and has a shatter-resistant glass lid that fits snugly and keeps the steam contained while also allowing you to peek into the steamer to watch the progress of the cooking.
The steamer and lid are dishwasher safe. If you have a use for it, the steamer is oven-safe to 500 degrees.
Price at time of publish: $40
Capacity: 2 quarts | Weight: 2.13 pounds | Dimensions: 10.98 x 8.23 x 6.69 inches | Warranty: Lifetime
Be sure to check the water level occasionally to ensure that your pot isn’t boiling dry, which will scorch the pot and could damage it.
Caraway Steamer Duo
Made with same nonstick coating as other Caraway items
Fit perfectly in the Dutch oven and sauce pan
They don't fit in any other pots
Caraway, known for its popular and near-perfect cookware set, launched a steamer set, which is just as gorgeous and high-performing as the former. The collection, dubbed the Steamer Duo, includes two sturdy, nonstick ceramic steamer baskets that fit right inside the Caraway Dutch oven and sauce pan. The lids included with those pans fit snug on top, too.
We steamed frozen broccoli and fresh carrots in the Dutch oven and its steamer, and they were ready in about 15 minutes. Just note that the lid handle gets hot during use, so you'll want to keep an oven mitt or kitchen towel handy. Once the cookware has cooled and you've given it a wash and dry, the steamers can be nested into their respective pots, with only a small amount of extra space needed for vertical cabinet or cupboard clearance.
Another potential downside: Caraway's steamers can only be used with Caraway cookware, so you can't just buy these and expect them to fit in the pots you already own. The good news is, if you only have the Caraway Dutch oven or sauce pan, each steamer can be purchased individually outside of the set. So, if you have Caraway cookware, we do highly recommend the steamers: They're sleek, strong, perform very well, and are easy to clean.
Price at time of publish: $55 for the small, $56 for the large, or $120 for both
Size: Large fits in the 6.5-quart Dutch oven, small fits in the 3-quart sauce pan | Material: Nonstick ceramic, aluminum core, and stainless steel handles
"If you have the Caraway cookware set and/or the Dutch oven or sauce pan, the corresponding steamer is the perfect fit and provides many uses with a new way to cook." — Amanda MacDonald, Editor
Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer
Glass steaming basket is dishwasher-safe
Reservoir holds 1 quart of water
Presets for different types of food
Steams food evenly
Only comes with one steamer basket
If you don’t like the idea of cooking in plastic, this steamer has a 5.2-quart glass cooking pot, a stainless steel steaming tray, and a glass lid with stainless steel trim: All parts are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. The LCD control panel includes start/stop, pause, and reheat buttons along with pre-programmed food settings to make cooking easy. You can also set the controls manually for custom cooking.
The steam comes from the top down, surrounding the food and cooking it quickly and evenly. The water tank is removable for easy filling. Two handles on the steamer tray make it easy to remove the cooked food. Everything we made turned out perfectly, and the capacity was enough food for a family of five.
This steamer is available with either stainless steel or white exterior trim.
Price at time of publish: $160
Capacity: 5.2 quarts | Weight: 15.75 pounds | Dimensions: 13.7 x 13.2 x 9.4 inches | Warranty: Lifetime
"We found that the top-steaming design cooked our food more evenly, without any pockets where the food got too soft or remained too crisp." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
OXO Good Grips Silicone Steamer
Rolls up for compact storage
Fits in a variety of pots and cookers
If you don’t want another appliance on your counter, this silicone steamer will fit into any pot with a 7-inch diameter or greater, and it rolls up for easy storage. The stay-cool handles make it easy to lower food into the pot. Not only can you use this steamer on the stovetop, but it also fits neatly into an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, multi-cooker, or rice cooker. The handles lock together to keep them out of the way when you seal the cooker’s lid.
Silicone is naturally nonstick, so it is easy to clean and dishwasher-safe. For even more versatility, it can also be used in the microwave.
Price at time of publish: $17
Material: Silicone | Weight: 0.525 pounds | Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.1 x 6.5 inches
Mister Kitchenware 10 Inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer
Traditional bamboo design
Can be tough to clean
Bamboo steamers are traditional for Chinese dumplings and dim sum dishes, but they’re just as handy for steaming vegetables, chicken, fish, and tamales. This set includes two stacking steamer baskets plus a domed lid, so there’s plenty of space for dinner and sides. The two baskets can be used together when there’s a lot to cook, or they can be used separately. The baskets are 10 inches in diameter and designed for use in a wok, but can also be used over a pot that’s an appropriate size.
This set includes a sample of 10 disposable basket liners for foods that might stick to the bamboo, so cleaning is easier. Since the 10-inch size is standard, it’s easy to find additional disposable liners that fit the baskets, as well as reusable silicone liners. It also includes a set of chopsticks that can come in handy for placing and removing the foods and a sauce dish for when it’s time to serve.
Price at time of publish: $25
Weight: 1.69 pounds | Dimensions: 10 inch diameter
Progressive Prep Solutions Miracle Ware Microwave Fish & Vegetable Steamer Sleeve
Designed for fast cooking
Needs very little water
Made of plastic
Perfect for steaming vegetables in the microwave, this handy steamer holds water in the tray below, while food sits above on the perforated basket. A clear lid sits on top and has a tab on top that slides to hold or release steam during cooking. The hot steam circulates during cooking to evenly steam the food without it getting soggy from sitting in water, and without drying out. This is also perfect for steaming fish, simulating the en papillote technique without the need for fussy paper folding.
To get more flavor, the tray can be filled with flavorful liquids like stock, juice, or plain water with herbs and spices. This holds 1 quart, so there’s plenty of space for cooking, and it has a nonstick surface for easy cleanup by hand or in the dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $13
Capacity: 1 quart | Weight: 12.5 ounces | Dimensions: 10.75 x 3 x 7.75 inches
Our top spot goes to the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer, which holds up to 5.5 quarts of food but is super compact, thanks to a two-tier nesting design. For a more affordable option that still gets good results, the Oster Double Tiered Food Steamer is roomy, versatile, and easy to use.
What to Look for in a Food Steamer
Electric or Stovetop
Steamers come in two varieties: electric or stovetop. The stovetop steamer is an insert that fits into or on top of a saucepan or other pot that's filled with an inch or two of simmering water. The food is placed in the insert, and the perforated base of the insert allows the steam to surround and heat the food. These types of steamers can be found in the following forms:
- Folding or collapsible raised platforms (often made of stainless steel or silicone) that sit in the bottom of a pot
- A perforated metal pan that nests in a saucepan, similar to a double boiler
- A bamboo basket that can nest in a wok.
Electric steamers, on the other hand, can be found with stackable, perforated trays or can be divided so that large batches or different foods can be steamed at the same time. Water is added to a chamber, and a heating element heats the water until it turns into steam. Some appliances, such as rice cookers or multi-cookers, have a steamer function. Electric pressure cookers and stovetop pressure cookers often include a steamer tray and can be used as a steamer.
Electric steamers make the job easy, since you simply add water, put your food in, and turn on the steamer—you just need to consider if you plan to use it enough to warrant the space it occupies on your counter or in storage.
Number of Tiers
Think about how much food—and how many different types of food—you expect to steam at once. Steamers with multiple tiers let you keep certain foods separate from one another. Plus, they allow you to add and remove the foods at different times if one is finished before the others are ready.
Steamers come in different materials, including glass, plastic, silicone, bamboo, stainless steel, and more.
Some people avoid cooking in plastic altogether due to concerns about BPA leaching, while some people seek out BPA-free plastic. In general, glass and food-safe metal steamers tend to last longer than plastic and bamboo models, with silicone steamers landing somewhere between.
When you’re shopping for a steamer, you might not be as focused on special features—however, depending on your cooking style, those extras might increase the product's value in your kitchen. Whether it’s something simple like a timer or an extra function (like the ability to dry foods), it’s wise to consider what else your steamer can do.
How long does it take to steam food in a steamer?
Steaming is one of the quicker cooking methods. The exact time needed to cook food will depend on the quantity and density of the food.
Most vegetables are steam cooked in about five to 10 minutes. Use less cook time if you like your vegetables to retain some crispness and more if you prefer them tender.
Meat and fish can take anywhere from three to 10+ minutes to steam cook depending on the thickness of it. Fish tends to take less time than meat and will turn from translucent to opaque when cooked through, so keep an eye on it for doneness and use a thermometer to determine that it's reached a safe temperature for consumption.
Cutting foods into equal-sized pieces helps them cook evenly. It's also important that there is space around the food so that the steam can circulate; otherwise certain parts might not cook as evenly.
Larger pieces of food, such as dumplings or fillets, should be arranged in a single layer, leaving a little room between each piece to allow the steam to circulate. Vegetables like broccoli or green beans can be piled loosely in the steamer. Tamales can be nestled close together, but make sure to follow your recipe carefully to know when to turn off the heat.
Regardless of what you're cooking, it's important to keep tabs on your food and not let it cook for too long, at the risk of your food becoming soggy and overdone.
Is steamed food bland?
It completely depends on what you're making; unseasoned steamed meats, fish, and veggies can be bland, but you can season steamed food however you like. Because steaming is a cooking method that doesn't require added fats, foods without them can lack the flavor depth that oils and other fats bring to the table. The other downside is that steaming doesn't give you the maillard reaction that causes proteins in food to brown or the caramelization process of dry-heat cooking that causes sugars in food to brown and deepen in flavor.
That said, there are a wide variety of traditional steamed foods that are incredibly flavorful—from Mexican tamales to Chinese steamed fish—due to the seasonings added in before steaming or the flavorful sauces added after. The amount of flavor that ends up in the finished product is completely up to you.
What foods can you steam?
The most popular foods to steam cook are vegetables, meat, seafood, and starches like steamed buns. Tender proteins like lean fish fillets and boneless, skinless chicken breasts steam better than tougher proteins like steak.
Some fruits also stand up well to steam cooking, such as peaches and pears, whether you'd like to make a cooked fruit compote or homemade baby food.
How do you clean and descale a food steamer?
Keeping a food steamer clean is pretty easy, since there are no oils or sauces involved in cooking. With the exception of bamboo steamers, any removable steamer bowls, trays, and lids can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher according to the manufacturer's recommendation. Make sure the steamer is turned off and cool to the touch before cleaning.
Sometimes steamer components begin to develop a cloudy appearance, which is from the mineral content in water. Regular cleaning won't remove this mineral buildup. To descale a steamer, run the steamer filled with white vinegar instead of water and rinse thoroughly. You can also soak the pieces in a mixture of hot water and vinegar for several hours to overnight and then wash by hand.
Does steaming food kill bacteria?
Meat, poultry, and seafood still need to be steam-cooked to the minimum internal temperature recommended by the USDA to minimize any risk of foodborne illness.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author who reviews products and writes roundups for The Spruce Eats. In addition to the best food steamers, she's also written roundups on the best cookware, bread machines, and pressure cookers.
This roundup was updated by Katya Weiss-Andersson, a writer and editor who has nearly a decade of experience as a professional chef, and Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Affairs (ASPA) AS for P. Safe minimum cooking temperatures chart. FoodSafety.gov.
Affairs (ASPA) AS for P. Meat and poultry roasting charts. FoodSafety.gov.