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Bamboo Steamers

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I'm thinking about purchasing a bamboo steamer. I was wondering if there is a particular kind that is good or if they are all the same? Also, are they easy to use and clean?

What kind of foods do you make in it? Any easy recipes? And how do you use it? Please excuse all the general, vague questions. I'm just in the 'deciding' phase.



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  1. In my experience they are all the same - just head to your nearest Chinatown. They are simple to use, fill the bottom of your wok with water and place the steamer on top so the bottom is just touching the water. Cleaning is simple, just water and a very small amount of soap, clean with a brush. My favorite thing to make in a bamboo steamer is dim sum.

    1 Reply
    1. re: beth

      One can steam just about anything in them.
      Personally, I use a metal steamer stack.
      I just feel they're cleaner.

    2. I've steamed vegetables, fish and gyozi in them. The main tip I have is that they are MUCH easier to clean if you put down lettuce/cabbage leaves under whatever you're steaming.

      1. Which do you think is better? A bamboo or a metal steamer? What's the difference? Is there a difference in flavour?

        2 Replies
        1. re: gtrekker2003

          I can not tell you which is better. We have both. What I have found is that steam leaves the bamboo steamer easlier. While the steam reforms in the metal one more and can get back into the food again. In the case of bao's (steamed bread) will make them a little wet. I have found it is least problem with the bamboo ones.

          But I find the metal ones a little easier to clean.

          1. re: yimster

            You can cover the metal steamer with a towel.

        2. I have both. Except for dripping condensation, aluminum is the more practical. I still love to use the bamboo, though.

          I would recommend that whichever material you bye, that you get something reasonably large. Big aluminum steamers seem to be more common than big bamboo steamers. But you can find big bamboo ones.

          I have also had good luck steaming with just a thirteen-inch circular cake rack and a tall wok lid.


          1. We use various ways of steaming, but bamboo the most. The different sizes stack inside each other. I have never had a problem of 'past food' tainting 'this food'. If that happened then dim-sum would die. Commonest dish I use them for is mussels. As jessi said you can line them with veg or parchment, but that does trap water so I avoid that for steaming breads. One advantage of bamboo is that they look impressive to your guests, especially if you have a 3-4 high stack.

            If you have gas then you need a wok or a (frying) pan large enough to hold them.

            Of late I have been using a silicone colander... http://www.oxo.com/OA_HTML/xxoxo_ibeC...

            It just fits in a pan and once you put a lid over it, it works well. I can also store it 'locally' rather than in the pantry.

            1. I have two kinds of steamers, several bamboo seamers that sit on my wok and stack three or four tall under the bamboo top. I use a round bottom wok, and NEVER use enough water to touch the bottom of the steamer. But should I need to add more water, I just pour it into the wok above the steamer, and it goes to the bottom. Then I have one of those metal "fan" basket thingies that sit in the bottom of the pan with water under it and veggies or whatever on top under a lid.

              I do not find them interchangeable. The metal basket in the bottom of the pan with a lid on top produces much higher heat and cooks vegetables much faster than boiling the veggies in water to cover. But for the life of me I cannot imagine trying to steam dumplings of any kind in it!

              My bamboo steamer is good for all sorts of things. The advice to cover the layers with a lettuce or cabbage leaf is good, especially if you're steaming something like barbecue pork or even plain old American (or other) style roast beef. You'll get very tender left overs, and the lettuce leaf imparts a fresh taste to the meat. When I do things like pork buns, I set each bun on a small individual square of parchment and steam them that way. A bamboo steamer is also an excellent (and traditional) way to steam Japanese style cakes for tea service. I clean my bamboo steamer by just steaming it alone with nothing in it. It kills any lingering flavors as well as any germs and there is no possible chance of a residual flavor from detergent. I clean my metal steamer by putting it in the dishwasher. But NOT bamboo....!!!

              1. They are essentially the same -- to me anyway. The only difference is how sturdy they are built. Some are built to last longer than others.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The bamboo steamers also have the benefit of doubling as servers. Guests love taking dumplings, etc., out of them.

                  1. re: iyc_nyc

                    I agree. I don't know exactly why, but many people prefer organic looking things. I don't mean environmental friendly organic. I mean organic as in life-like.

                    A bamboo steamer for just provide more warm feeling than a stainless steel steamer, no?

                    A wood cutting board also look better than plastic cutting board

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      +1 for your expression of aesthetical values.

                2. Nobody has mentioned Chinese-style steamed fish - one of the best things that can happen to a fish filet. You put the fish on a little plate - to catch the juices - and top it with whatever sauces or embellishments and some green onion and steam it.

                  1. Metal Steamer...easier to clean and won't mold. Bambo has to complelety dry before you put them away.
                    I use mine to steam Laulau (Pork, fish wrapped in ataro leaves and ti leaves), and all the chinese dishes mentioned.
                    You can get a bamboo one and use it for serving to make your guests say whoo!

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: flylice2x

                      I've had my bamboo steamers for a long time and have never had mold problems. They dry super fast - doesn't even take overnight! :-)

                      1. re: flylice2x

                        Hi Fly,

                        You are correct that stainless steel steamers are easier to clean, won't mold and last longer, which is why many Chinese restaurants use them.

                        On the other hand, the bamboo ones are cheaper and are not that much more difficult to clean. Bamboo is also anti-bacterial, so they don't mold easily. I have used both and find the bamboo steamers to be quiet good.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Yup. My bamboo steamers have been going strong for well over thirty years now with never a problem or a smidgen of mold. I've worn out two metal steamers in that time, and need to pick up a third one.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            I am a believer of the bamboo steamers, yet I would have never thought metal steamers can be worn out. I just don't use my stainless steel steamers enough and they are sitting in my cabinet. I used them only a few times. Bought them at HomeGoods.

                            So when your metal steamers get worn out, exactly what happened? The metal started to rust or the thing started to fall apart or food residues got trapped between metal sheet that cannot be remove yet giving off smell? Thanks.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              There may be some semantic conflicts going on here. The metal steamers I use are the basket type with edges that fan out to fit saucepens and pots of different sizes. I do NOT use the metal steamers that are designed to simulate a bamboo steamer. The reason is that these two different types of steamers produce different intensities of steam for cooking.

                              Bamboo steamers, and their metalic counterparts that I've seen, are designed to let steam pass through the cooking chamber thereby limiting condensation on the foods being steamed. The result is that you get nicely "steamed" buns and other dough or batter based foods.

                              The basket type steamer that I use fits totally inside a pan instead of sitting on top of a wok (or the steamer support brackets that go inside a wok) with the lid of the cooking vessel keeping as much steam as possible inside the lidded saucepan or pot. This results in a higher temperature of steam than the vented baskets, and cooks non-flour based things MUCH faster. It's faster than submerging in water to boil and retains all of the nutrients. But the problem with steamer baskets is that the legs often break off. Fortunately, they're only about five or six bucks a pop, but I cannot imagine a well equipped kitchen without one!

                              Wellllll... Let me back up a bit there. When I lived overseas and couldnt find one, I did resort to steaming with two soup plates, one turned upside down sitting on the bottom of the pan in the water, and the other sitting right side up on top of it to hold whatever I was steaming. It works, but if you don't use distilled water, you could end up with nasty water deposits on your porcelain. Oh, and this method is ONLY good with vitreous dishware such as glass and porcelain. Not safe for earthenware or pottery.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  I am thinking of getting a bamboo steamer because I find that things I steam in my metal steamer are watery because the condensation drops back. Am I right that a bamboo steamer would solve this problem? And can I use a bamboo steamer for anything I would steam in a metal steamer? Thanks in advance for any info.

                        2. I've enjoyed my bamboo steamers.. first, they are dirt cheap at any chinese market - this isn't a Le Creuset debate. They have a lot of surface area, so cooking larger fillets or bunches of dumplings, they work well. The condensation isn't as bad, as well. They fit nicely on top of one of my 12" skillets, so the water doesn't get near the bamboo. I've heard they add a bit of flavor depth to foods cooked in there, but I am not enough of a supertaster to notice..

                          They are a bit more work - you do have to let them dry, sometimes not lay food directly on the wood (I just put stuff on a smaller salad plate, or a piece of parchment), but again, letting something dry isn't exactly "work", and again, dirt cheap - if they wear out, buy another set.

                          So I am glad I added them to the kitchen arsenal.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: grant.cook

                            I have very little room in my kitchen so don't want to buy bamboo steamers unless they really help with condensation. Would you say they make a major difference? (Grant.cook says "isn't as bad" but I find asparagus I cook in a metal steamer for a salad I make, so watery it reduces the dressing). Thanks in advance.

                            1. re: Fuffy

                              They do take up space - 12" round, .. fortunately, I can store them in shelving in the basement, along with the tagine, cataplana, cazuela, la chamba stewpot, and too much HIC porcelain. If you have very little space, I'd probably just roast the asparagus instead

                              1. re: grant.cook

                                FYI, you can find smaller (e.g., 8-10") bamboo steamers but you'd want to make sure they fit your pots/pans of course. They're also super light so are easier to store higher up in places that might not work for your other kitchen items, and nice looking enough you can have them sitting out if necessary. They also multi-task as serving dishes.

                                I find the bamboo to be noticeably better than SS re: the condensation although there still is some condensation - the bamboo has some 'gloss' that might affect the porousness and ability to absorb moisture. But the bamboo steamers are affordable enough that you can probably just test and try, then give away if it doesn't suit your purposes.