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How Do I Choose the Best Digital Steamer?

Cynde Gregory
Cynde Gregory

Home cooks who decide to explore the wonderful world of steamed veggies, grains, and fruits in addition to fish, chicken, and even pork discover a wealth of advantages. Nutrition is locked in by steam rather than cooked away, and steamed foods can be prepared with little or no added fat. Meats stay moist, and fish doesn’t overcook. Choosing the best digital steamer depends in part upon selecting features important to the cook and looking for other pluses, such as stackable steel or glass trays that are dishwasher safe.

Steamed dishes have been popular in Eastern cooking for centuries, but the Western world has limited culinary steaming to just a few types of food until recently. The explosion of popularity means there is such a wealth of electric steamers to choose from that it can be downright confusing. The first thing for the home cook to do is take stock of the size of the kitchen and make an educated guess as to how often the steamer will be used in order to decide if a mini or maxi steamer is optimal.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

An electric food steamer shouldn’t be difficult to find that fits the cooks needs, and digital models can be found with a little looking. Even cooks who are steaming novices should take a good look at a digital steamer for a number of reasons. Electric food steamers are quite inexpensive; many good models retail for less that $50 US Dollars. Going digital only adds a few bucks for quite a bit more convenience.

For one thing, a digital steamer has an LCD display that is easier to set and read than machines with manual dials and displays. For another, it’s easy to find a digital steamer that allows the cook to load it with veggies or grains, set the time delay, and go run an afternoon’s worth of errands. That’s a time and trouble saver, for sure. Many digital machines have a number of preprogrammed settings that make cooking a particular food a breeze.

The wise home cook looks for a digital steamer model with an exterior water indicator. A food steamer that runs out of steam is not only no good to anybody, but it can be a fire hazard. It’s not enough to be able to read the exterior indicator, though. The steamer should also have an easy way to add additional water without having to dismantle the entire machine during the cooking process.

Unless the cook intends to use the steamer only occasionally and for a single food, such as rice or a veggie side dish, it’s a good idea to consider a steamer with stackable trays. This allows the cook to build up, steaming potatoes or other root veggies on the bottom tray, meat or fish on the next level, and delicate veggies like asparagus or spring peas on the top. Trays should be made of stainless steel, glass, or a synthetic material that can handle high heat without leeching toxins or scratching. For the greatest convenience, the cook should also make sure any digital steamer under consideration has dishwasher-safe parts as well.

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