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May 16, 2010 07:31 PM

Steamers - What do you use? What's the best?

For steaming vegetables, what do you think is the best method?

Electric Steamer - Pros: works quickly, can fit asparagus easily, can be set for a certain amount of time. Cons: takes up a lot of space, a pain to clean, lots of plastic, probably will wear out eventually so semi-disposable

Metal steamer insert (the one that looks like a pan with holes) - Pros: easy to clean, takes up very little space, can last a lifetime. Cons: won't fit asparagus (I think), takes longer than an electric one, takes up a burner on the stove.

Pop-up Metal insert (the one that looks like a fan) - Pros: cheap, small. Cons: sits close to the bottom of the pan...does this cause any issues?

Bamboo Steamer - Pros: takes up little space, you can stack multiple ones for more steaming?; Cons: Not as easy to clean? Probably doesn't last long? Same space constraints as with the metal steamer insert.

I have been using an electric steamer, but it does not belong to me and I will have to procure some other steaming source in the near future. I don't think I'll buy an electric steamer because I will have a small kitchen and don't want to collect a lot of electronics.

But...what do you think the best way to steam is? Especially if you like steamed asparagus (and no I don't want to buy one of those ridiculously shaped asparagus cooker pots).


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  1. I have a few options available to me:

    I have a two tiered bamboo steamer, I only use it for dumplings or fish. It works well for heating tortillas, wrapped in a towel. I line it with lettuce leaves or parchment and don't worry about the cleanliness.

    I have a 4 quart one handled Calphlon One pot with a steamer insert, lid and helper handle. I use it for most larger steaming jobs, potatoes, veggies in general, etc. I can
    use the pot for soups, chili and stove top braising as well. I made stuffing in it last Thanksgiving (not steamed.)

    I also use my colander over a 6 quart stockpot, and dedicated lid. Works just fine as a steamer, and does triple duty as stock, soup and pasta cooking pot.

    The pop up metal inserts are great for small portions, so not much water needed. I had one sold by Sharper Image, that didn't actually have individual segments that folded in but it did fold up; it was quite sturdy and easy to use. You need to have the proper size pot for them. Lost it in a move, sadly.

    Don't diss the tall asparagus pots; the science is sound. Problem is, though, they are not multifunctional. I found one on the street, had it for awhile and gave it away.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Sorry, I guess I was unfair to the asparagus pots. =) I am just trying not to collect too much stuff and am trying to figure out what would be the best way to multitask. I forgot about those big steamer insert/pasta strainer things. Could you steam asparagus in that? I like the idea of that for stock...I make a huge mess every time I make it because I don't have a good way to strain it.

      BTW, that's great you found an asparagus pot on the street!

      1. re: megmosa

        The 4 quart I have with steamer insert is not quite like a pasta strainer insert for a stock pot, it's not as deep with plenty of room for extra water without touching the bottom of th insert. It's fine for asparagus, but I don't bother steaming aspapargus anymore, unless specified by the recipe. I just blanch it in a little water or stock in a larger sauté pan or grill or roast. I don't think the pot is on the market any longer. I haven't seen it at the Calphlon website; I bought it as a single piece at eBay.

        Use a bamboo steamer, as applehome suggested. The lager diameter ones are quite adequate for steaming asparagus spears. I set mine in my wok, I forgot to mention that.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          I'm w/you on that--I rarely steam asparagus these days (but i used to all the time). I, too, prefer blanching over steaming and roasting/grilling over everything.

    2. I have 2 sets of bamboo steamers - a small that perfectly fits into the lip of my 6 qt pot, and a large set that fits in my wok. I use one or the other every day, mainly for veg. but sometimes for shumai.

      I keep a multi-level Asian aluminum steamer on top of the fridge for occasional use for steamers (clams) and other seafood/meats that I don't want to flavor my veggie steamers.

      When I steam my veggies in the wok, I dump out the water and ad a little bit of oil (olive oil and/or sesame), then after a little heating, dump the veggies into the wok and stir fry quickly, flavoring with soy or hoisin sauce or just salt and some minced garlic. This is no longer just steaming, I know, but a tiny bit of oil and flavors go a long way to make a delicious side dish. Whether baby bok choy or split brussel sprouts or green beans and certainly asparagus - many things work well this way.

      Applehome -

      1. I use the little pop-up for most of my steaming needs. Set in a larger pot or covered saute pan, you can steam asparagus in it, too. I also have one of those inserts for my stock pot. I hardly ever use it, except for warming tortillas, but it would be great for larger amts. of steamed veggies. I also have a bamboo steamer, which you basically reminded me about. I like it fine, but it's in a top cabinet, and I hardly ever remember I have it.

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