Best Bamboo Steamers

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
124 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best bamboo steamers

Last Updated September 2020

From vegetables and chicken to fish and dumplings, steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook a wide range of foods without added butter or oil. You have a variety of steaming devices available to you, but one of the simplest and last expensive is the bamboo steamer. 

This multitiered steamer has been used for centuries by Asian and other cultures to steam foods. It’s an eco-friendly and affordable option that all cooks should consider for their kitchen.

This guide introduces you to some of the features to consider when you set out to purchase a bamboo steamer. From construction and size to specific features related to the baskets, liners, and lids, we examine all aspects of bamboo steamers so you can better find the one that’s right for you. We include information on what you can expect to pay, as well as some of our favorites and what we like about them.

A domed lid on a bamboo steamer helps to circulate the heat inside for even cooking.

Key considerations

Construction

It should come as no surprise that bamboo is the primary material used in these steamers. Indeed, most are 100% bamboo, with bamboo used for any pegs, laces, or fasteners that hold the steamer together. Some bamboo steamers also have stainless steel bands around the outside edge of the top and bottom of each tier (more on those below).

Size

When considering the size of a bamboo steamer, there are two primary numbers you need to concentrate on: the number of tiers and the diameter of the steamer.

Tiers: Bamboo steamers have multiple stacking baskets — usually two or three — in order to steam more food at a time. Individuals and couples will probably be satisfied with two tiers, while larger families and those who love to entertain groups may be better off going with a three-tier steamer.

Width: Most bamboo steamers measure 10 inches in diameter, which is the perfect size to be used with a wok. You can also find bamboo steamers in other sizes, such as 4, 6, or 12 inches, too. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Bamboo steamers originated in China centuries ago, where they were known as mushiki.

Features

Baskets

Bamboo steamer baskets are usually made of strips of bamboo that are woven together. The strips should be close enough together to support whatever you’re cooking and far enough apart to allow the steam through. As mentioned, often these baskets are held together with bamboo pegs or laces as opposed to glue or some other method.

One way that some manufacturers strengthen the steamer baskets is to add metal bands around the outside circumference. These help to keep the bamboo from splitting during cooking and serve to keep the steamer from getting burned where it touches the wok or pan. One downside to the metal bands is that they can become quite hot, which makes it more difficult to safely handle the hot baskets.

Lid

Like the baskets, the lid is also constructed of woven strips of bamboo, but the weave is tighter to help retain heat and moisture within the steamer.

Liners

Liners made of wax paper, parchment, or cotton are used on the bottoms of bamboo steamer baskets to keep the bamboo from absorbing food odors. This is particularly important when steaming chicken or fish. To use a liner, simply place it at the bottom of the empty basket and place the food to be steamed on top of it. Most bamboo steamers come with some liners to start you off.

Extras

In addition to liners, some bamboo steamers also come with additional items, including chopsticks and a recipe booklet. Some steamers also include a metal steaming ring, which supports the bamboo steamer over a stockpot or Dutch oven of boiling water.

EXPERT TIP

Clean your new bamboo steamer before you cook with it.


Staff  | BestReviews

Bamboo steamer prices

Inexpensive: Bamboo steamers start at less than $20. At this price, you’ll find simple bamboo steamers, usually with two tiers, that offer little in the way of extras. This price range also contains steamers that are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter.

Mid-range: Most bamboo steamers are in the $20 to $25 range. As the price increases, the quality improves, and you start to find extras, such as liners and chopsticks, included in the set, as well as more three-tiered steamers. Warranties for this niche average around 60 to 90 days.

Expensive: You can occasionally find bamboo steamers that cost $40 or more. Many of the most expensive bamboo steamers include extras like a steaming ring.

DID YOU KNOW?

One interesting use for a bamboo steamer is as a pie carrier. This can be quite handy if you need to transport two or three pies at a time.

Tips

  • Deodorize your steamer. If your bamboo steamer starts to smell like the food that has been cooked in it, you can clean it with a dilute mixture of water and white vinegar. Wipe the steamer with the vinegar solution, rinse, and allow it to dry. Make sure your steamer is completely dry before you store it. Mold can form on wet bamboo.

  • Cook meat in the bottom tier. Foods that take longer to cook, such as meat, should be placed in the lowest steamer basket so it’s closer to the heat and can cook faster.

  • Experiment with different flavors. Instead of using wax or parchment paper liners, try lining the baskets with banana leaves or corn husks. And don’t assume you’re limited to using water for steaming your food. Try chicken or vegetable broth, dashi, sake, or beer.

  • Monitor the water level when cooking. Letting the water boil away can wreck both your steamer and the pot or wok it’s sitting in. A simple trick is to add a coin to the pot. The coin makes a noise as it dances around in the simmering water. If the noise stops, you’ll know that the water has boiled away.

If you don’t have parchment paper or some other disposable material, you can use heat-resistant plates to line your steamer baskets.

FAQ

Q. How do I use a bamboo steamer?
A. Bamboo steamers are quite easy to use. Just follow these steps:

  • Set your wok or pot on the stove. If using a pot, be sure the bamboo steamer will fit snugly on it.

  • Add two inches of water to the wok and heat to a simmer or boil.

  • Place your liners in the steamer baskets and fill with food.

  • Set the steamer in the wok or on the pot and steam until the food is done.
     

Q. What is the difference between a metal steamer and a bamboo steamer?
A. Apart from the obvious — one is made from metal and one from wood — there are a number of differences between these two popular stovetop steamers. Because it retains steam better, a metal steamer tends to cook food faster than a bamboo one. A metal steamer lasts longer, and some cooks love the convenience of being able to clean it in the dishwasher.

Because it steams more slowly, a bamboo steamer is less liable to overcook the food. Sustainable bamboo is a more environmentally friendly material than metal. Some cooks also believe that bamboo imparts less of an aftertaste to food than metal. And many people just prefer the way a bamboo steamer looks.
 

Q. How should I clean my bamboo steamer?
A. While the daily cleaning of a bamboo steamer is simple, you should also take some time to thoroughly clean it when you first receive it. For the initial cleaning, wash the bamboo steamer thoroughly with hot, soapy water, rinse, and then soak it in hot water for an hour. Remove the steamer from the hot water, let it dry, and use it with your wok or pot to steam (empty) for a half hour. Once this is done, let it dry completely before storing it. Your bamboo steamer is sanitized and all set to be used to cook food.

For day-to-day cleaning, simply rinse the steamer under warm water and let it dry. If it needs a bit more cleaning than a simple rinse, try wiping it down with a damp cloth. As a last resort you can use a little soapy water.

Two additional notes on cleaning a bamboo steamer. First, never put it in the dishwasher. And second, read through the care instructions that come with the bamboo steamer. No two steamers are exactly alike, and you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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