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When choosing a steamer set, you should consider how often you plan to steam food, the kitchen equipment that you already have, as well as your budget. You should also think about whether you wish to steam food on a traditional stovetop or whether you prefer microwave steaming. Some steamers are more versatile than others, so if you have limited cabinet or shelf space in your kitchen, you may wish to consider sets that contain components that can be used for other types of cooking.
If you do not plan to steam-cook food very often, you may wish to choose an inexpensive steamer set so that you do not have to invest a great deal of money in a product that may not get much use. On the other hand, if steaming is your preferred cooking method, you may wish to budget for a high-end food steamer. Many kitchen and department stores sell a wide variety of steamers in a wide range of prices.
Typically, a steamer set includes a steamer basket and lid and may also include a pot that can be placed under the steamer. Bamboo steamers, for example, typically include only a basket, which may be multi-tiered, and a lid. These are intended for use with an additional pan or pot, such as a wok. Some cooking experts advise against using the same wok for both steaming and stir frying, because steaming will remove the season from the wok. If you choose a bamboo steamer, you will need to have on hand a suitable additional pan for heating up the water. As a general rule, however, a bamboo steamer set is typically fairly inexpensive.
A stainless steel steamer set, on the other hand, can be more expensive than one made of bamboo. You may find, however, that stainless steel has several advantages over bamboo. The first is that a typical stainless steamer set includes a pot that is proportioned to the steamer basket and lid. This provides you with an additional pot to use in your kitchen and makes the set self contained, reducing needed storage space. Secondly, this type of steamer set may last considerably longer than one made of bamboo, reducing your cost over time.
Microwave steamers are also available, and are typically made from some sort of microwave safe plastic. The steamers sets are likewise self-contained and typically consist of a lid, a rack and a base. These sets are designed primarily for quick cooking. If you use your microwave a lot, you may wish to choose a steamer set that is suitable for this method of cooking rather than a stovetop option.