The 10 Best Bamboo Steamers
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in June of 2015. You can impress your family or guests at your next dinner party with an authentic Asian feast cooked in one of these decorative and functional bamboo steamers. They allow you to prepare meats, vegetables, dumplings, and other delicacies without added fats, making it easy to reduce the number of calories in your meal, and they also help to retain nutrients in your food. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 09, 2020:
Today we added in the Joyce Chen 6 Piece, an attractive set that provides several of the components you’ll need to steam fresh, tasty food. It’s got two stackable baskets and a woven top, as well as a set of heat-resistant tongs for transferring your finished results to a plate. It also comes with a four-inch dumpling press for making your favorite doughy creations with professional-looking crimped edges. Last of all, you’ll also receive 50 disposable liners, which can get you through many an at-home meal. This set replaces the Joyce Chen 10-Inch, which did not come with the aforementioned accessories and which is not available at this time. Several other attractive offerings on the list include the VonShef Premium, which is made up of three tiers with metal rings on the outside to prevent burning in a pot. With it, you’ll also receive two sets of chopsticks and a handy small dish for dipping sauce.
For another set that includes some useful accessories, check out the Mister Kitchenware 2 Tier, which features a handmade design that includes a domed cover for proper heat circulation. It also comes with chopsticks, 10 liners, and a small dipping bowl. Other tried-and-true models that home cooks have raved about are the trusty BirdRock Home Traditional, which is available in multiple sizes and fits most kitchen pots and woks, as well as the versatile and elegant Huangyifu Handmade, which is sold in a wide range of sizes and two- and three-tiered models, so there’s something for large and small households alike. Check out our list of additional food steamers if you’re interested in models made of food-grade silicone and sturdy stainless steel.
April 02, 2019:
We still like the VonShef Premium for its sturdy construction, and it's one of few models available with metal rings, which not only add stability, but also prevent hot pans from burning the bamboo. Plus, the included liners and chopsticks make it a great value for the price. In terms of quality, it's hard to beat the Huangyifu Handmade, which is made by a well-respected Chinese brand and releases the subtle, pleasant fragrance of cryptomeria fortunei, a traditional medicinal plant belonging to the cyprus family. It's also the only model that comes in several three-tier sizes that allow you to cook more food at once. The Mister Kitchenware 2 Tier is an all-in-one set that includes chopsticks, reusable liners, and a sauce dish, making it perfect for those who don't have much equipment for cooking Asian-style meals.
Bamboo Steamer Basket Made to be placed on top of a wok for cooking vegetables, rice, fish, or dumplings, this handmade offering is sure to simplify your food preparation and help keep the nutrients in your food, where they belong. The single-tier basket measures 12 inches in diameter and four inches in height, and is designed to be placed two to three inches above the water for tasty, tender meals. For best results, line it with parchment paper to prevent flavors and odors from steeping into the steamer, and when you’re done, wash it by hand in warm water without soap or other harsh ingredients. williams-sonoma.com
Dim Sum — The Most Ubiquitous Of Bamboo Steamer Dishes
Even in the west, the majority of Chinese restaurants that serve dim sum will stop serving it by 2 PM, at which time they will transition to their regular menu.
While China has no shortage of popular dishes that have spread to the west, one of the most sought-after by those who consider themselves gourmands might be dim sum, and the traditional method of cooking the majority of dim sum dishes is in a bamboo steamer. For those who are unfamiliar, dim sum is a Cantonese cuisine that is comprised of a variety of dishes that are generally served on small plates in bite-sized portions. Many dim sum dishes are steamed and are actually served to diners in the small, round steamer baskets in which they are cooked. Some people may immediately think of dumplings when they hear the words dim sum, and while there are a huge variety of dumpling options served at most dim sum meals, the cuisine is much more varied than that. It also includes steamed meats; many different kinds of sweet and savory buns, which can either be steamed or baked; tofu skin and rice paper rolls; turnip and taro cakes; sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf; and many more items.
Historically, dim sum has its origins in the tradition of yum cha, or tea drinking. In the ancient times of the Silk Road, there were many travelers and merchants passing along the route that needed places to rest. To serve this need, savvy locals established tea houses on the roadside where travelers could find some respite. It wasn't long before they started serving snacks and small plates of food, and so dim sum was born. These days, dim sum is so strongly linked with yum cha that the two terms are used interchangeably in Cantonese.
In the west, we may not look at the standard dim sum dishes and think of breakfast, but that is exactly what it is for the average Chinese person. In fact, many dim sum restaurants in China will open at 5 or 6 AM, and close as early as 12 PM. Even in the west, the majority of Chinese restaurants that serve dim sum will stop serving it by 2 PM, at which time they will transition to their regular menu.
The Health Benefits Of Steaming Food
Dim sum may be the epitome of cuisines made in a bamboo steamer, but that certainly doesn't mean it is the only dish you can make in one, which is great, because steaming food offers a number of health benefits over other styles of cooking. When roasting or sauteing meats and vegetables, one must use an oil of some kind, which adds fat, and in some cases unhealthy cholesterol, too. Sure their are a number of healthy oils, such as coconut or avocado, but no matter which one you use, you'll be increasing the caloric content of your food. Steaming, on the other hand, doesn't require you to add any oil to your food. This makes it one of the best cooking methods for those looking to lose weight.
It is interesting to note that while cooking food is beneficial for some nutrients, others can be destroyed by it. The cooking method plays a large role in how many of the nutrients are preserved. Boiling, while healthy from a fat and caloric standpoint, is one of the most damaging methods to cook foods from a vitamin and mineral standpoint. There are two reasons for this: 1) people tend to overcook foods when boiling them, especially vegetables, and 2) many nutrients, such as vitamin B and C, are water soluble. In fact, according to some studies, boiled vegetables have almost no cancer-fighting properties left. While roasting or sauteing those veggies will leave them with some of their nutritional content, those methods still can't compare with steaming from a nutritional standpoint. It is well-documented that steaming helps foods retain more vitamins and minerals.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, steaming food also helps it retain more of its fiber and texture. Since it keeps food as close to its raw state as possible, while still cooking it, your vegetables' original color and taste will be preserved, as well as the majority of their antioxidants.
How To Use A Bamboo Steamer
Now that you have decided to cook your next meal in a bamboo steamer, it's time to learn how to use one. Whether you are steaming a batch of dumplings, a filet of fish, or just some fresh vegetables, the technique is basically the same. Bamboo steamers are designed to sit on top of a pot of boiling water. They come in a range of sizes, so it will be easy to find one that fits your pots. Start by adding a couple of inches of water to whichever of your pots corresponds with the size of bamboo steamer you have. It is important that your steamer basket fits snugly over your pot to prevent the steam from escaping before it has a chance to cook your food. It is also important not too overload a small pot with big steamer baskets, otherwise you risk them toppling.
Feel free to stack as many baskets on top of one another as you need.
Put the pot you have chosen on the stove with the heat on, so the water has a chance to come to a boil while you prepare your food. Bamboo steamers stack on top of one another, so you only need one pot of hot water, even if you plan on steaming four or five baskets of food.
Next, line your bamboo steamers with parchment paper, cabbage, palm leaves, or another food-friendly and heat-safe material. This will help prevent your food from sticking to the basket's slats. Your food should be placed inside of the bamboo steamer, in a single layer. This will ensure that all of your food cooks evenly. Once your food is ready, place the bamboo steamer on top of the pot of boiling water. Feel free to stack as many baskets on top of one another as you need. Just make sure that the top layer is covered with a lid.
Always make sure that the water never bubbles up high enough to touch your food. You should also check the water level periodically to make sure the pot never runs dry. Feel free to add additional water as needed during cooking.