Steam cooking requires no fat, minimal time, and allows the ingredients’ flavors to shine through while retaining maximal nutrients. This thousands-year-old technique works by enveloping your ingredients in a cloud of vapor and gently bringing it up to temperature in what is, essentially, a moist oven. This results in a faster cooking time without loss of tenderness.
Steaming food is easy enough with any pot and vented basket, but if your goal is pillowy mantou buns, juicy stuffed bao, flavorful whole fish, and tender-crisp vegetables family-style batches, a traditional Asian bamboo steamer is an affordable investment.
While purists and microwave steamers prefer all-bamboo construction, there is also a case to be made for bamboo steamers reinforced with stainless steel. The standard size for bamboo steamers is 10 inches, but smaller and larger ones are available. You’ll need a large pot, deep-pan, or preferably a wok to insert your bamboo steamer into unless you also buy a steamer ring.
Here are the best bamboo steamers
Best overall: Hcooker Bamboo Steamer – See at Amazon
Handsome double-banded construction makes the Hcooker 3-Tier Bamboo Steamer a durable set you’ll have for years.
Best starter kit: Prime Home Direct Bamboo Steamer Basket – See at Amazon
A great value, Prime Home Direct 10-inch Two Tier Bamboo Steamer Baskets come with everything you need to start steaming but the food itself.
Best eco-friendly set: Annie’s Kitchen Handmade Bamboo Steamer Basket – See at Amazon
Organic bamboo is only the start of Annie’s Kitchen Premium 10-inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer Basket that comes with a dumpling maker, reusable liners, and more.
Best hand-tied rack: Mister Kitchenware Handmade Bamboo Steamer – See at Amazon
All-bamboo construction makes the Mister Kitchenware 10-Inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer a viable option for the stovetop or microwave.
Best wood: Hcooker Deepen Kitchen Wood Steamer – See at Amazon
For a visual profile more luxurious than bamboo but just as carefully handcrafted, try this Chinese cedar design from Hcooker.