How to choose the best steam cooker

Lynn Wright / 26 May 2016 ( 28 February 2017 )

Steam cookers deliver healthier meals for all the family but make sure you avoid poor performing models with our guide to choosing the best one for you.



Why choose an electric steamer?

Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook food. With no need to add extra fat, steaming gently cooks your food, locking in moisture and nutrients in the process.

Steam cooking is also incredibly easy. You can buy a stainless steel steamer basket that fits in a standard saucepan or dedicated steamer pans with two or three tiers to use on the hob.

But if you regularly steam vegetables and want to become more adventurous with the type of food you steam cook, then an electric steam cooker is the perfect kitchen gadget.

Electric steam cookers are one of the more affordable kitchen gadgets you can buy. You can pick up a basic electric steamer for as little as £15, and it will create healthy, delicious meals.

Up the budget a little and you’ll get an advanced model with useful features such as a digital timer and variable cooking times, to make perfectly steamed food foolproof. Simply add the food and water to the steamer, set the timer or select a programme and leave the machine to do the work.

Knowing which features are worth paying extra for can help you choose the right electric steam cooker for you. This guide explains the key features you should consider when choosing the perfect model for yourself.

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What to consider when buying an electric steam cooker

Price 

With supermarket-brand models available from as little as £15, buying an electric steamer won’t break the bank. Pay a little more and typically you’ll get more capacity and additional features such as a digital timer, a delayed-start option and a built-in rice cooker.

Size 

Most electric steamers have three tiered containers with holes in the bottom for the steam to pass through. They can be used separately or in combination to provide enough capacity to cook an entire family meal and can even be rearranged during cooking to vary the temperature – though be careful to use a cloth or oven gloves when doing so to avoid steam burns. Some steamers have compartments with removable bases to create a taller steaming area for cooking larger items such as whole chickens.

Some electric steamers have different-sized containers that fit inside each other. This makes them compact for storage, but as you can’t swap them around during cooking, you’ll need to plan your timings in advance.

Timers 

Many electric steamers have a 60-minute dial timer that you can turn to set your cooking time. More expensive steamers have digital timers and delay-start functions, which let you set the steamer to start working at a designated time later in the day.

Water levels 

Look for an electric steamer with a visible water gauge on the outside so you can be sure that you’ve filled it completely. Electric steamers rarely run out of water and many will beep if they do, so you can top up the water while they’re still on.

Some steam cookers have an external inlet so you top up the water during cooking without having to remove the cooking containers and risk scalding yourself.

Keep-warm function 

Opt for a steam cooker with a keep-warm feature as this keeps your food at a safe temperature for up to an hour or two after cooking until you’re ready to eat. Some models switch to warm mode automatically after cooking has finished while with others you’ll need to set this function during cooking. Of course, you’ll need to ensure there’s enough water left in the steamer to take advantage of this feature.

Cleaning 

Many kitchen gadgets are fiddly to clean and electric steamers are no exception. The best electric steam cookers not only steam food perfectly, they make clean up a priority. Look for a model with dishwasher-safe compartments and lids as well as a removable drip tray for easier cleaning.

Rice cooker 

More expensive steam cookers come with a rice bowl – a small steam dish that fits inside one of the steaming compartments so you can steam rice. It can take longer to cook rice this way but the end results are fluffy perfection.

Easy cleaning hacks

Five of the best electric steamers

Morphy Richards 48755 three tier food steamer

Steaming vegetables, chicken, fish, rice and more is easy with the Morphy Richards three-tier food steamer. It boasts a 9-litre capacity and comes with a 1.1-litre rice bowl. It features a 60-minute timer with sound alert, an easy-to-read water gauge and easy-fill handles so you can safely top up the water during steaming. The handles also make it easy to lift the bowls without getting scalded. Bowls and the lid are dishwasher safe and the removable drip tray makes the steamer easy to clean. Users particularly rate the smart stacking system for compact storage in kitchen cupboards and invaluable keep-warm feature.

Buy at Amazon from £29.99 

Morphy Richards Intellisteam 48781

With three separate compartments, this family-sized electric steamer makes it easy to simultaneously cook a variety of food. Its intelligent timer with a digital display ensures that all the ingredients of your meal – from tender fish to crunchy vegetables and sauces – are ready to serve at precisely the same time. A keep-warm function keeps food hot for up to 40 minutes. Users rate its ease of use – a few button presses and it’s steaming – along with the clever way it ensures all ingredients are ready to eat at once.

Buy at Amazon from £110.00 

Russell Hobbs 14453 Compact Food Steamer

With a smart stainless steel, this three-tier steamer from Russell Hobbs has a 7-litre capacity that’s perfect for smaller families or couples. Steaming healthy meals is easy with its simple 60-minute dial and it has an auto shut off for safety. The stackable bowls make for easy storage and are easy-to-dissemble for cleaning. It includes a handy rice bowl for practicality. Users love its stylish design, how easy it is to load and how fast it cooks vegetables.

Buy at Amazon from £20.99 

Tefal Compact Steamer VC130115

This ultra-compact steamer has three stackable cooking bowls that provide a generous 6.5-litre capacity – perfect when you’re cooking for the family. Its clever Aquatimer technology monitors the level of water needed for each ingredient and automatically stops the cooking process when the water runs out. Thanks to its stackable bowls that can be stored upside down on its base, this mini steamer takes up very little space on your worktop or in a kitchen cupboard. Users say the Tefal Compact Steamer is quicker to steam than other steamers and love the start delay function.

Buy at Amazon from £25 

Tefal Simply Invents 9 litre Food Steamer VC101616

Tefal’s three-tier steamer combines a 60-minute manual timer with a sound alert that tells you when food is cooked, along with an automatic keep warm function so you can eat when you’re ready. It offers a decent 9-litre capacity and there’s a large visible water level indicator in the smart-looking base. Perfect for those with limited storage space, the steamer’s bowls store upside down neatly on the base and are dishwasher safe for easier cleaning. Users praise its ease of use and great keep warm function.

Buy at Amazon from £48 

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