How Do I Choose the Best Steamer Basket?

M.C. Huguelet

If you want to preserve the nutritional content of foods like vegetables and fish during cooking, you may wish to use a steamer basket. There are three main types of steamer baskets: metal steamers, bamboo steamers, and electric steamers. If you are looking for an affordable steamer basket that is easy to store, you may wish to choose a metal model. Should you want a durable, stylish basket that can be stacked during cooking, consider a bamboo model. Finally, if you would like a steamer basket that does not require stovetop space and are willing to invest a bit of money, you might find that an electric model is a good fit.

Metal steamer baskets are affordable and easy to store.
Metal steamer baskets are affordable and easy to store.

For an affordable steamer basket that is easy to store, choose a metal model. These baskets, usually made from stainless steel or aluminum, feature a unique, flower-like design in which perforated, movable “petals” of metal unfold around a central handle on which they are hinged. In its unfolded mode, the basket is filled with uncooked food and placed over a pan of steaming water. Between uses, the basket’s “petals” can be folded up to a compact size that requires little cabinet space. On the downside, some metal steamer baskets are rather flimsy and may break easily.

Consider a bamboo steamer basket if you are interested in a model that is durable, stylish, and can be stacked during cooking. As their name suggests, these round, shallow baskets are crafted entirely from bamboo, making them durable and also giving them a stylish look that conjures up visions of dim sum restaurants. Further, using the baskets is easy. They are simply rested on top of a saucepan of simmering water or placed on a rack inside a steaming wok. Their flat shape allows for easy stacking of multiple baskets, making it possible to steam several foods at once.

Finally, if you would like a steamer basket that does not require stovetop space, you might find that an electric model is a good fit. Electric steamers are powered by a wall outlet and thus can be operated away from the stovetop, a feature that can come in handy when you are preparing a multi-dish meal. They typically feature removable plastic baskets which are usually dishwasher safe. It should be noted that the convenience that electric steamer baskets offer comes at a price, as they tend to be more costly than their metal or bamboo counterparts.

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