10 Best Food Steamers | March 2017
- includes two pairs of chopsticks
- designed for use over a pot
- metal bands get hot while in use
- collapses nearly flat for storage
- vegetable peeler included
- does not come with pot or pan
- auto-shutoff when water is empty
- generates steam almost instantly
- switches to warm when food is ready
- external reservoir filler
- includes tray for cooking rice
- water level indicator
- add time while in use
- evenly distributes heat
- includes recipe book
- contains no plastics
- can be refilled while in use
- one-piece design is easy to clean
- all accessories are dishwasher safe
- visible water gauge
- intuitive control panel
The Science Of Steam
Though they may look a little alien at first, these steam cookers are supremely simple in design. After all, steam cooking isn't that complex a process: water boils and creates steam, the hot steam encompasses the food in question, and its heat cooks the food.
Okay, well, how does the heat cook the food? That's an important thing to understand when choosing to steam a vegetable rather than to bake it or boil it.
Heat will–not invariably, but mostly–make proteins firmer and caramelize carbohydrates. That's why hard boiled eggs get, well, hard, and why bread browns when you bake it. The proteins are firming up in the eggs and the carbs are caramelizing in the bread (and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!).
When you steam a food, those proteins still firm up and the carbs still caramelize, but the fiber that makes up the bulk content of vegetables breaks down. That's why a carrot will get sweeter (caramelizing) and softer (fiber break down) as it steams.
Most foods also lose water through evaporation as they cook, which is why steaming and boiling make for such moist foods. Remember though, steaming preserves more vital nutrients like folic acid and vitamin C than boiling does. It's definitely the healthier choice.
How Much Steam Is Enough?
Unless you're feeding a small army, the odds are that the steamers we're reviewing here today will fit your needs and fill your family's bellies.
If you are feeding a small army, you could always opt for one of these industrial steamers, though I hope you've got a large enough kitchen at your disposal.
Size is an important factor when choosing a steamer. If it's just you alone in your house, that smaller, collapsible metal steamer at number five might be enough for you.
Just don't go steaming broccoli or cabbage in it because that could give you gas, and we want you to go out and meet people, make some friends so you can eventually also buy one of the bigger steamers.
Certain other features should play a role in your decision, as well. A water reservoir that you can fill externally (usually through a small opening in the side of the steamer base) is a dream. Also, the longer you can set your steamer to run on its own, the better, especially if you like to steam through tougher ingredients or go on short vacations while you're cooking.
Steaming With Possibilities
Steam is a powerful thing. It's helped us build entire industries, cross continents on locomotive trains, and secretly open envelopes addressed to our loved ones.
From the late 18th century, when we began to incorporate steam into our lives as a source of pressure power, artistic minds like those of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have imagined myriad possibilities for its use.
The works of those artists and inventors would later inspire a generation of writers and artists in the 20th century who looked back at our transition to electric and combustion power to ask, "What if steam had remained the predominant source of power, even in the inventions that followed?"
That question led to incredible works of fiction from the 1950s onward, and gained the term Steampunk in the late 1980s.
Steam wasn't always a source of power, though. Its original use, as we've endeavored to explore here, was primarily in cooking.
Evidence of steam cooking dates back at least 7000 years in China, and as many as 10,000 years here in the US. The eastern methods were primarily bamboo and cypress steaming, where the native Americans of the ancient southwest used clay.
The amazing thing is how little has changed in the cuisine, as both cultures still utilize modernized versions of those same tools to cook food the way their ancestors did so long ago.