What is a Vegetable Steamer?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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A vegetable steamer is a device that allows raw vegetables to cook by using the steam that is created when water is boiled. It's essentially made up of two compartments: one holds the water, and one above it holds the raw vegetables. A heating element is used to bring the water to a boil. As the steam from the water rises, it slowly cooks the vegetables without robbing them of the vitamins and nutrients that placing the food in boiling water would remove.

Steamers for vegetables come in several different designs. Some are shaped like pots, with a colander like insert that fits into the top section. Water goes into the pot and the colander insert is loaded with the vegetable or vegetables the cook wishes to prepare. The pot is placed on a range top or heating element, gradually allowing the water to heat and steam the food.

Other models come with their own built-in heating element. These electric steamers are great to use, as a cook can simply plug the steamer into an outlet and set the timer. When the vegetables are done, the steamer rings a bell and shuts itself off. The vegetables are loaded with flavor and steamed to perfection, with no guesswork involved.


Many manufacturers include recipe books with their products. These easy to follow guides can help people who are new to the steaming process learn how to prepare the vegetables for steaming. Cooks can learn such helpful tips as when to add firm vegetables to the mix and when to add those that will cook much faster, as well as some great ideas for vegetable combinations that they may not have considered.

Of course, cooks can always fashion their own vegetable steamer from pots and pans found around the kitchen. A large pot that has a matching lid can be paired with a footed metal colander. The colander needs to fit down into the pot easily, but still leave enough room at the bottom for water, without allowing the water to touch the vegetables. Once the steamer is assembled, the cook can pour in the water, place the colander in the pot, and arrange the vegetables in the colander. For faster cooking, a lid can be used to allow the steam to circulate through the pot without much escaping, allowing for the vegetables to receive more of the moist heat.


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Post 7

I have a stainless steel vegetable steamer that looks like a colander that has been sliced into sections. It has silicone stands on the base of it so that it can sit in the boiling water while keeping the veggies above it.

My favorite vegetables to steam are asparagus and broccoli. I think that these taste much better steamed than boiled. I also like knowing that they have retained more of their nutrients.

Post 6

I like those little flexible vegetable steamers that you can lay across the top of any pot. They're pretty cheap, and they are super easy to clean.

They are shaped like shallow bowls with two handles on the sides. The handles lay across the edge of the pot, and the bowl section goes down inside.

This is so much easier to clean than my sister's steamer. She has to disassemble and scrub four different pieces, but I only have to clean one.

Post 5

@giddion – I agree with you there. I have an electric steamer, and I only use it for veggies.

The vegetable steamer instruction booklet told me how long to cook different items. Frozen vegetables take nearly twenty minutes to steam to perfection, while fresh ones take ten.

The booklet also tells how long you should cook certain meats, but I don't need this information. I have followed its suggestions for pairing certain vegetables for enhanced flavor, though.

Post 4

I got a two-tiered vegetable steamer as a wedding gift, and I use it all the time for things like broccoli and green beans. I've also steamed chicken, fish, and shrimp, though I have to say I prefer the taste of steamed vegetables to steamed meat. Vegetables have their own appealing flavor, but meat usually needs to be cooked in some sort of oil or sauce to taste great.

Post 3

@ellaesans I agree. I think a lot of people are too swayed by the zeros so to speak. You can find many great products online through personal reviews that will let you know how things really are. I personally have a microwave vegetable steamer and it is extremely useful. Best of all, it's super fast and I don't have to worry about cleaning a lid and pot and whatever else I used cooking veggies on the stove. It's just one piece you can literally rinse off and put away. It's very convenient.

Post 2

@gameaddicted - I really like my Sunbeam vegetable steamer. The best part is that it is not only functional but affordable which is really a main concern for a lot of people during these tough times. A lot of people think that products have to be expensive in order to be effective or in order to be the best, but it's not true because all those items are out there to do the same thing! Sunbeam is known for lower priced appliances and they get the job done just fine.

Post 1

Steaming your veggies is THE most healthy way to eat them. While there are fancy electric vegetable steamers out there, I prefer the old fashioned way. You just need a pot with a lid and a small amount of water.

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