You may not consider a vegetable steamer a kitchen essential, but these electric appliances offer an array of benefits. Not only do steamers lock in flavor as they gently cook your vegetables, but they are actually healthier, too, as they preserve more vitamins and nutrients than boiling.
Steamers work by holding your vegetables in a basket above the water, rather than in the water itself. This way the steam rises and gently cooks your vegetables, making them a tender and nutritious addition to your evening meal. Steamers come in a range of materials, though the majority are stainless steel to better distribute the heat. You can get countertop steamers but also more traditional steaming baskets which are simply placed on top of your saucepan to adapt it.
Countertop steamers are handy for those meals where your hob is looking full, so they can be space-saving too, which is a godsend if you have a big family and multiple dishes to cook at once. Once you know how to use them, they’re super simple to use and provide a fail-safe way of cooking not only vegetables but also meat and rice, too.
There’s a whole range of choice out there, so it can be difficult to know which brand to go for and how much to spend. To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 vegetable steamers currently available, and we’ve even put together a handy Buyer’s Guide, too, so you can experience the benefits of steaming as soon as possible.
Short on time? Find our top pick below…
Top 5 Best Vegetable Steamer
OUR TOP PICK
This best-selling 7-in-1 cooker from Instantpot is perfect if you’re looking for something that is versatile and offers a range of cooking modes and options. The Instant Pot Duo multi-cooker combines 7 appliances in one: featuring a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute pan, yogurt maker, and warmer, enabling you to cook a whole range of meals. The one-touch programming means you can select from 14 options and the appliance will cook these on autopilot.
The 7-in-1 is reliable and provides consistent results every time, thanks to its microprocessor which monitors pressure, temperature, time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration. It also provides a myriad of other handy features, including a delayed start for up to 24 hours, so you can plan meals ahead of time, as well as an automatic “keep warm” function so you’ll never serve up a lukewarm meal again.
7-in-1 design, so multiple products for your money
Microprocessor which monitors pressure, temperature, time and more
24-hour delay start option
“Keep warm” function
14 one-touch programs for easy cooking
Poor customer service
This steamer from Aroma is as versatile as more sophisticated steamers, yet is available for just a fraction of the price. The steam tray allows you to prepare your vegetables above, while rice, soup, or any other meal cooks below - allowing you to save time and achieve consistent quality results.
With a stainless steel cool-touch exterior, this cooker takes safety into consideration and is perfect if you have young kids around. It also has a condensation collector and even features a convenient handle for carrying, traveling, or lifting when you store it away. It’s also user-friendly, with a simple, easy-to-use display that offers a “keep-warm” feature, 15-hour timer delay for flexible meal planning, and a “flash rice” function which cuts cooking time by up to 50%.
This Aroma steamer/cooker also comes with a steam tray, rice measuring cup, serving spatula, and exclusive recipes and coupons for Mahatma and Carolina Rice, meaning you get more bang for your buck!
Multiple layers and functions - cook rice and vegetables at the same time
Cool-touch, stainless steel
15-hour timer delay and “keep warm” function
Flash rice function for quick cooking
Some users found this product to have a short life span
This double-tiered option from Oster has two separate steaming bowls allowing you to prepare your entire meal quickly and easily. This steamer is ideal for steaming meat such as chicken and fish, as well as cooking vegetables - which will turn out tender yet crisp every time.
While this steamer doesn’t feature the fancy touch displays that some more advanced options offer, its simplicity makes it incredibly easy to use, allowing you to set the timer for up to 60 minutes. The steamer will automatically shut-off when the cycle is completed and/or the water is empty. The power indicator light provides a visual reference so you can clearly tell when the unit is on.
This steamer is great for smaller spaces, too. The two steaming bowls conveniently nest inside each other for easy storage. A big plus is that these are also dishwasher safe, making cleaning easy.
Two bowls so you can steam your entire meal in one go
Simple design makes it extremely user-friendly
Automatically shuts off when the timer is done or water drained
This isn’t suitable for preparing vegetables for baby food
If you’re looking for a more traditional steamer that you can use on the hob, this Oster option may be ideal for you. Featuring a dual-purpose Dutch oven saucepan with a glass lid and detachable steamer, this is perfect for cooking rice but also steaming vegetables at the same time, and is a simple option if you’re not a fan of technology or want something you can easily store away.
The encapsulated stainless steel base ensures that heat is distributed evenly to cook food thoroughly and safely, and the vented tempered glass lid allows easy monitoring of the cooking process.
The stackable design is smaller in size than traditional stock pot steamers, making it ideal for smaller gatherings and space-saving. It is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, which is always a big plus.
Simple, traditional steamer design
Can cook rice and vegetables at the same time
Stackable for easy storing
Stainless steel for durability and even heat distribution
A more traditional option doesn’t feature the automatic features of more modern designs
With 7.4 quarts of cooking capacity and 2 separate steaming containers, you can cook a full meal with side dishes with one simple turn of a switch. This Bella dual food steamer also features an auto shut off feature and boil dry protection for simple and safe cooking which achieves consistent results every time.
With a simple timer you can get on with other tasks while your food cooks, and, thanks to the glass steamer bowls, you can easily check up on your meal without lifting the lid. The water reservoir view window allows you to always know whether you have enough water to finish the job at hand, and the guess-free steaming guide chart on the unit guarantees perfect steaming results every time. With this steamer you’ll find that vegetables lock in their nutrients and retain their original color, taste, juiciness and freshness for ultimate healthy eating.
Dual steaming options perfect for cooking meat and vegetables
Glass bowls for easy supervision
Water reservoir window
Integrated steaming guide chart
Some users complain that the water in the reservoir is tainted after use.
Best Vegetable Steamer Buying Guide
Steamers come in a range of styles, from the traditional stainless steel steamers which simply sit on your hob, to more advanced, multi-functioning options. While they may not differ too much in the final result, it’s worth thinking about what you want to cook - and how. For example, it’s worth splashing out on something which offers multiple modes if you’ll use them, but if you’re looking for a steamer alone, go for something simple. It’s worth bearing in mind the space and time-saving benefits of dual steamers, too. For example, you can use these to cook your entire meal thanks to the separate compartments. 2-in-1 rice cooker steamers are also incredibly effective and save you from having to use multiple pots and pans to cook your meal.
The great thing about steamers is that the market has expanded massively, meaning prices are more competitive than ever before. We advise buying a good quality steamer, especially if you’re going to be using this frequently. However, you can get a highly effective steamer with multiple functions and cooking modes for a price that won’t break the bank. We recommend spending around $20-$40 on your first steamer, or more if you’re looking for something that will last for years even with frequent use. Whatever your budget, there’s a steamer out there that will suit your needs.
Frequency of use
How often do you plan on using your steamer? If you’ll use it regularly, then it’s worth investing in something of good quality that has multiple features such as a rice cooker or pressure cooker, as this way you’ll get more out of the product. However, if you only plan on using a steamer occasionally then there’s no need to break the bank, especially when there are so many affordable options on the market.
Steamers come in a range of styles and materials, and our list above is by no means exhaustive! Traditional bamboo steamers may age and change color quickly with frequent use, while stainless steel is durable and will remain the same even after years of use. If your steamer contains plastic, it’s worth checking the grade of the plastic to see whether it’s safe for young children and babies, and that it won’t transfer toxins into your food.
There’s no point buying a steamer to save you time and effort if you have to deal with the inconvenience of it being hard to clean. Traditional steamers that are stainless steel can usually be put in a dishwasher but are best hand cleaned, while many tier steamers with removable glass or plastic bowls can usually be put in a dishwasher. More complex countertop designs will probably have to be hand cleaned. When looking for a steamer, look out for perforations that may trap dirt, and bear in mind that anything with removable bowls/baskets will be far easier to clean, as you’ll be able to wash these more thoroughly.
If you go for a traditional steamer, it’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t have the convenience of an automatic timer or shut-off function. This means you’ll have to judge the timing yourself, which may end up with you overcooking the vegetables and, as a result, losing the nutrients that you bought the steamer for in the first place. Steamers with digital timers are usually more reliable than clockwork timers which can stop before their allotted time. A lot of advanced, modern steamers feature a microprocessor which monitors your food and changes the time and heat intensity accordingly.
Storage and space
Many steamers are compact enough to store on your kitchen countertop, but if you’re particularly short of space look for something that has removable, stackable bowls that you can put away in a cupboard, or opt for a traditional design that can be stowed away with your other pots and pans. It’s also worth thinking about the space you can save on your hob. If you’re cooking for a lot of people or multiple dishes, then a countertop steamer saves you cooking space.
Most modern steamers offer a water gauge so you can identify how much water is in the steamer chamber. This allows you to find the perfect measure of water without adding too much, or too little. Remember, if you go for a traditional steamer that is used on the hob, you’ll be relying on your own timing, and not an automatic feature.
Best Vegetable Steamer FAQ's
Are vegetable steamers healthy?
Yes, steaming vegetables is widely acknowledged to be one of the healthiest ways to cook vegetables, as this way you retain heat-sensitive vitamins that would otherwise be lost when boiled and drained in hot water. Steamers also eliminate the need to add oils, which are rich in fat and calories. Plus they keep the color, juiciness, and flavor locked into your vegetables, meaning they won't just be good for you, but they'll taste and look better, too.
Are plastic steamers safe?
There are a few things to bear in mind if you see a steamer that contains plastic. For example, plastics marked with a #7 recycling symbol—signifying mixed sources (polycarbonate) or otherwise hard-to-classify plastics (such as acrylonitrile styrene or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)—are considered to be risky in terms of their potential chemical exposure. Polycarbonates are the most common types of plastic in items marked #7. Any of these types of plastics mentioned above could contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that has been widely used since the 1930s to harden plastic and which has been linked to neurological and reproductive problems. If a steamer contains plastic, it’s worth reading the small print and checking whether it’s BPA free or not.
Are pressure cookers and steamers the same thing?
These two kitchen gadgets are pretty similar and both use steaming techniques to cook vegetables. However, pressure cookers use high-pressure water vapor at temperatures of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit to accelerate the cooking process, whereas your average steamers cook at water’s boiling point - 212 degrees. Some multi-functioning steamers offer different modes and may feature a pressure cooker option and a conventional steamer.
How long does it take to steam vegetables?
That depends on what kind of vegetable you’re cooking and on the steamer you’re using. However, as a rule of thumb, tender vegetables such as spinach will cook quicker than denser vegetables like carrots or broccoli. The best way to ensure you don’t overcook (or undercook) them is to cut the vegetables up into smaller chunks so that they cook more thoroughly, and smaller pieces will cook quicker than larger ones. It’s also a good idea to set a timer. Most modern steamers have automatic timers and different programs you can set to achieve the perfect degree of tenderness, however, if you’re using a traditional steamer, it’s still a good idea to use a timer.
We’ve provided you with a rough guide from Wikihow below:
- Asparagus: 7 to 13 minutes, or 4 to 7 minutes if you cut up the spears into short pieces
- Broccoli: stalks for 8 to 12 minutes, florets for 5 to 7 minutes
- Carrots: 7 to 12 minutes, depending on their size and how much you cut them up
- Cauliflower: 5 to 10 minutes for florets
- Corn on the cob: 7 to 10 minutes
- Green beans: 5 to 7 minutes
- Potatoes, sliced: 8 to 12 minutes
- Spinach: 3 to 5 minutes