How Do I Choose the Best Stainless Steel Steamer?

Cynde Gregory

More and more home cooks are turning to steaming food as a preferred method of cooking and with good reason. Steamed foods are healthier and cook faster than most other methods, and they don’t dry out. Stainless steel steamers are a healthier option than plastic. Choosing the best stainless steel steamer is a matter of selecting a model made of 18/10 stainless steel that is dishwasher safe and stackable.

Steel does not absorb any smells or odors.
Steel does not absorb any smells or odors.

As with most other materials, there are different grades of stainless steel. An alloy composed of iron and other metals, low-quality stainless steel can rust, pit, or corrode. The addition of chromium creates a resistant, protective layer that fights back against environmental damage to the metal. When nickel is added to the metal mix, the stainless steel becomes even tougher. A stainless steel steamer that isn’t likely to pit or rust is important in the kitchen; the surface won’t harbor bacteria, and food won’t inherit a metallic taste.

Stainless steel steamers present a healthier option than plastic models.
Stainless steel steamers present a healthier option than plastic models.

Stainless steel must contain at least 10.5% chromium, but home and professional cooks prefer 18% because that means the protection is that much greater. Not only is corrosion less likely to occur, but so are food stains. Steamers made of 18/10 stainless steel also have a nice, substantial weight that adds to the sensory pleasures of cooking.

Choosing a stove-top or electric food steamer is largely a matter of personal taste and available space. Either type of food steamer should have a transparent lid so that the cook doesn’t have to remove the lid during cooking to check progress. Each time the lid is lifted, a burst of steam escapes. This slows cooking time, can make food cook unevenly, and potentially can scald the cook.

Another important feature to look for when selecting a stainless steel steamer is that all steamer parts that come into contact with food are dishwasher safe. It’s also a plus if the steamer is uncomplicated in terms of disassembly and reassembly for easy cleaning. The best steamers permit the cook to easily add more water if the water boils away as well.

The wise cook will look for a stainless steel steamer that offers the option of stacking. Some models are sold as a tiered kit; others can be purchased as a base model with additional tiers purchased separately. Tiered food steamers permit several types of food to cook at the same time in one convenient spot. This means less cleanup and is a time-saver as well.

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