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There are three basic types of steamers that can be used for making food in the kitchen, and the steamer parts for each design are slightly different. A basic stovetop steamer is just a device designed to hold food above water that is boiling in a pot, and it generally consists of a lid and a basket. Electric steamers come in two varieties, one that generates steam that is funneled into a cooking compartment, and another that heats water in the same chamber in which the food is located. The steamer parts for both electric designs are similar, with lids, control panels, food trays and heating mechanisms. The main difference is the location of the heating elements and the method used for heating the water.
One of the common steamer parts that nearly all designs share is the lid. This can be made from bamboo for a bamboo steamer, or glass or plastic for electric steamers. It is meant to keep the steam near the food so the food cooks more quickly and the steam circulates in the cooking chamber. Most designs incorporate an adjustable vent of some sort so excess steam and pressure can escape the cooking area.
Another of the steamer parts that all units must have is a cooking chamber or area. This is the place where food sits while it is being steamed. This can be a simple metal basket or insert, or it could be a flat tray on which racks are stacked and then covered with a tall lid. For steamers that are placed over boiling water on a stovetop, the chamber and the lid usually comprise the entire unit.
Most electric steamers, regardless of design, come with some type of separate grill, basket or rack that is used to suspend the food so the steam can move around it and cook it from all angles. These steamer parts are usually very specifically shaped to fit within a particular brand and model. For models that allow only steam to enter the cooking chamber, the racks can sometimes be stacked on top of one another to create more surface area for food. In steamers in which the water is in the same chamber, differently sized metal baskets with holes in the bottom are usually employed.
A majority of the parts for an electric steamer are in the base of the unit. This includes heating elements, usually in the form of conductive coils, that either heat water directly though immersion or heat the cooking chamber to make the water it contains boil. A few units have separate reservoirs or cups to hold the water. The heating elements are connected to a thermostat that controls the temperature, and a dial or digital control panel to allow the user to set up specific parameters for the steamer. An electric cord to plug into an outlet that is attached to the unit through a power transformer rounds off the electric steamer parts.
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