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9 best food steamers for quick, easy and healthy meals

These handy gadgets ensure your food retains more of their nutritional value

<p>Smart food steamers can take care of all the timings for you</p>

Smart food steamers can take care of all the timings for you

For quick, easy and healthy meals, it’s hard to beat steaming. Thanks to the gentle cooking process and the moist cooking environment, vegetables are able to retain more of their nutritional value, while meat and fish stay tender and juicy.

Traditionally, steamers have been inserts that go over a pan of boiling water, but there are now smart machines that can take care of all the timings for you so you can just set it and forget it. As they come in a huge range of sizes and price points, the type you get will depend on what you plan to cook and how often; the size of your kitchen; and, of course, your budget.

Smaller steam baskets are perfect for cooking vegetables for one or two people, for example. They’re cheaper, don’t take much room and can be used with your existing pans. But there are also bigger options for those who are more adventurous and want to experiment with different recipes or create entire meals.

How we tested

We tested a range of different food steamers. As they varied in size and shape, we tried different recipes to suit each one. Where there were suggested recipes, we tried those.

We looked for how easy the steamers were to assemble, use and clean as well as how versatile they were in the kitchen and how easy they were to store. In general, we found electric steamers to be the easiest to use as they produced steam quicker, helped to keep time, will switch off automatically when dry and can be topped up with water during cooking.

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The best food steamers for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Lakeland digital 3-tier steamer: £49.99, Lakeland.co.uk
  • Best folding steamer – Joseph Joseph bloom folding steamer basket: £10, Dunelm.com
  • Best stainless steel – Tala collapsible steaming basket: £7.50, Talacooking.com
  • Best professional levelsteamer– ProCook professional 2-tier stainless steel steamer set: £89, Procook.co.uk
  • Best electric steamer – Morphy Richards 470006 intellisteam food steamer: £129, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for easy storage – Judge JEA25 3-tier steamer: £32.95, Onbuy.com
  • Best for quick steaming – Russell Hobbs 21140 3-tier steamer: £32.49, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for a small steamer – Russell Hobbs 14453 3-tier steamer: £25.99, Amazon.co.uk

Lakeland digital 3-tier steamer

Best: Overall

The Lakeland digital steamer has a family-friendly 12l capacity with a 1.5l rice bowl (enough for 400g of rice) that will fit in any of the three crystal-clear steam baskets. Unlike many of the other models we tried, it has a digital timer with pre-set modes, rather than a simple dial. It means more precise timekeeping, but also the ability to delay cooking for up to a maximum of 12 hours and 59 minutes.

There are five pre-set modes – eggs, rice, fish, chicken/meat and vegetables – with timings based on the quantities set out in its instruction manual so you don’t need to work out how long to cook things for. You can also adjust this up or down at the touch of a button.

We liked that there was a notch at the base to wrap the cable around which, along with the nesting steam baskets, making storage much easier. The only downside is that the water levels can be hard to read when in use.

This steamer is currently out of stock online but will be back on 28 March.

Joseph Joseph bloom folding steamer basket

Best: Folding steamer

Joseph Joseph’s bloom folding steamer basket is a self-adjusting steamer that’s designed to fit into pans that are at least 18cm in diameter. It opens up into the shape of a blossom and collapses in on itself for storage. The whole thing is made of plastic, with heat-resistant feet and silicone sides so it’s suitable for all cookware, including non-stick. There’s also a handle in the centre that allows you to easily lift it out of the pan.

It was straightforward to use – just pop it in a fairly large pan with any vegetables on top and put the lid on. The clearance of the feet only allowed 2cm of water to be added so you’ll need to top up with water regularly for longer cooking periods.

Trying to remove the steamer from the pan was also a sticking point. You’re supposed to be able to put a fork through the handle to lift it out of the pan but we found that because the handle was so wide, the fork would slide around and the steamer would topple to one side: our vegetables ended up swimming in the steam water. It worked much better when we turned off the heat and just used oven gloves instead.

Tala collapsible steaming basket

Best: Stainless steel

The Tala collapsible steaming basket is very similar to the Joseph Joseph one – it opens up to around the same size and its feet clearance is just over 2cm. However, as it’s made of stainless steel, it’s not suitable for non-stick pans. On the plus side, it’s much more compact, which makes storage easier.

Like the Joseph Joseph version (£10, Dunelm.com), it’s straightforward to use. When fully opened, it’s almost completely flat, which is good if you want to heat up a small amount of anything that needs a relatively flat surface, such as dim sum. Getting it out of the pan was much easier this time around as the handle was smaller so there was no rocking when we used a fork to hook it. The leaves are fairly thin, though, so we wouldn’t cook anything too heavy on it.

ProCook professional 2-tier stainless steel steamer set

Best: Professional level steamer

The ProCook professional steamer set comes with a 4.4 litre stockpot as the base plus two steamer inserts. Stacked together, the whole thing is quite tall – the stockpot measures 14cm while the inserts are 11cm each – which means you may have to split them up for storage and it may pose a problem for kitchens with lower extraction hoods.

The set was sturdy and well-made – the 18/10 stainless steel is oven safe up to 260C and is suitable for all hobs, including induction. There was a good seal between all the tiers with no steam escaping from the sides. The benefit of the deep steam insert is that you can use it for pudding bowls or chunkier vegetables such as corn on the cob.

It’s worth noting that you can get the stockpot and steamer inserts separately, if, for example, you only needed the insert or wanted to mix and match with another base.

Morphy Richards 470006 intellisteam food steamer

Best: Electric steamer

The Morphy Richards intellisteam food steamer comes in two versions – the stainless steel one we tested and a new plastic model, which is slightly cheaper but works in the same way. The machine features two main steam baskets that sit side by side, one of which can be split into two smaller compartments with a divider. The idea is that you can set a different time for each of the compartments and the machine will automatically work out start times so they all finish steaming at the same time. Then the machine will automatically keep your food warm for 40 minutes.

We found the intellisteam a little intimidating at first – it had more buttons, compartments and accessories than any of the other steamers we tested. But once we turned it on, the control panel turned out to be very intuitive and we didn’t need to refer to the instruction manual at all, although it is handy for checking suggested cooking times for up to four portions of food.

Being able to set different times for different compartments made putting together a meal really easy as there was no need to come back half way through cooking to add ingredients that need less time to cook. However, because of the side-by-side set up, it will take up much more room on your kitchen counter when in use.

Judge JEA25 3-tier steamer

Best: For easy storage

The Judge JEA25 is an 8.5l steamer with a timer that goes up to 60 minutes. It comes with three clear steam baskets and a rice bowl with a capacity for up to 300g of rice, or enough for about three people. The baskets will nest inside each other for storage and the base can be popped out if you’re steaming taller items.

This steamer was very compact for its capacity, but while great for storage, we did spot a design flaw. The rice bowl will only fit in the largest of the three baskets, which goes at the top of the steam column. So even if you’re only cooking rice, you still have to have all three baskets on the steamer. If you’re cooking ingredients such as vegetables that take less time, you’ll have to interrupt the cooking process to add these to the lower tier baskets.

Russell Hobbs 21140 3-tier steamer

Best: For quick steaming

The Russell Hobbs 21140 is a nine-litre steamer with three transparent steam baskets and a one-litre rice bowl. The base itself also features translucent panels, which means it’s easy to see the water levels without having to get close up to the machine, and you can top it up using the spouts on the side.

We had a mixed experience with this steamer. The machine was quick at producing steam and it was the only one that wasn’t covered with limescale immediately after use. However, unlike all of the other electric column steamers we tried, the base of the steam baskets didn’t pop out and the holes didn’t extend fully to the edge. It meant that water was collecting at the edges, so we had to be extra careful removing the tiers.

Russell Hobbs 14453 3-tier steamer

Best: For a small steamer

The Russell Hobbs 14453 3-tier steamer is the smallest of the electric steamers we tried – it has a seven litre capacity, which is still plenty for couples. While the base won’t take up much space as it’s only 18cm wide, the baskets don’t fully nest inside each other so you will need to make sure your cupboard shelf is tall enough (around 28cm). And because it’s so much smaller, the design is very different compared with the other column steamers, which could be problematic for longer or more intensive use.

The three thin, clear baskets are stacked on top of each other with the help of black plastic ring mounts. Although they look good when fully stacked, getting them to line up properly can be a bit fiddly so, if you need to stir anything mid-use, we’d recommend switching the machine off and allowing it to cool briefly before doing so safely.

There’s also no drip tray, so if you’re cooking with herbs and spices, or anything oily, you should always use the rice bowl or wrap it in some way as otherwise, any liquid will fall back into the reservoir and potentially damage the heating element.

Food steamers FAQ’s

How do you use a vegetable steamer?

Steaming is a great way to cook your food without sacrificing any of the nutrients, and it’s actually relatively simple to do. Simply boil a pot of water, place your veg in the steamer above and let the steam cook your food.

How to choose the best steamer

When picking your steamer there a re a few factors you should consider to find the right one for you.

  • Capacity – If you are a big family look for a bigger one that can tackle your meal times, naturally if it’s just you you won’t need a 6l capacity.
  • Hob steamer vs electric steamer – Hob steamers are the trusty old classic, space-saving and considerably cheaper than electric models. Yet if you are looking for more precise cooking with controllable timing and temperature dials, and where you don’t have to keep an eye your food, then it may be a good idea to fork out for an electric model.
  • Separate baskets – If you’ve got lots of food on the go, having separate baskets to cook your veg or rice is a handy feature.
  • Dishwasher safe – This one is self-explanatory, time-saving and well, massively more convenient.

The verdict: Food steamers

Overall we found electric steamers much easier to use and Lakeland’s digital 3-tier steamer offered the best value for money for the number of functions.

Those with deeper pockets and love experimenting with different recipes, we can’t recommend the Morphy Richards intellisteam enough. But if it’s a budget option you’re looking for, go with Tala’s collapsible steamer.

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For the latest discounts on air fryers and other home appliance offers, try the links below:

For more cooking companions, read our review of the best soup makers

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