The 9 best bamboo steamers in 2021 for cooking dumplings, buns, fish, and more

  • Steam cooking is a healthy, fast, and gentle way to prepare a variety of foods.
  • The design and functionality of bamboo steamers, used for over 5,000 years, have stood the test of time.
  • We found a range of bamboo steamers in various sizes and constructions to best suit your needs.

Steam cooking is, in and of itself, virtuous. A method that requires no fat, minimal time, and allows the purity of the ingredients’ flavors to shine through while retaining maximal nutrients, this thousands-years-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. And even better, it’s a hands-off method since peeking leads to loss of steam.

Steaming food is easy enough with any pot and vented basket, but if your goal is pillowy mantou buns, juicy stuffed bao, tender dumplings in semi-translucent wrappers, flavorful whole fish, and tender-crisp vegetables in batches big enough to feed the family, a traditional Asian bamboo steamer is an affordable investment you’ll want to make.

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. For more info on bamboo steamers, jump to the bottom of this guide.

Popular Reviews

Best mattresses according to experts

Here are the best bamboo steamers

  • Best overall: Hcooker 3-Tier Bamboo Steamer with Double Stainless Steel Banding
  • Best starter kit: Prime Home Direct 10-inch Two Tier Bamboo Steamer Basket
  • Best eco-friendly set: Annie’s Kitchen Premium 10-inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer Basket
  • Best set with a steamer ring: Bisou du Nord 10″ Bamboo Steamer Basket Cooking Set
  • Best hand-tied rack: Mister Kitchenware 10-Inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer
  • Best stylish: Bamboo Steamer Basket 10-Inch Two-Tier
  • Best 6-inch: Joyce Chen 3-Piece Bamboo Steamer
  • Best 8-inch: REISHUNGER Bamboo Steamer Traditional 2-Tier Design
  • Best wood steamer: Hcooker Deepen 2-Tier Kitchen Wood Steamer with Stainless Steel Banding

The best overall

Handsome double-banded construction makes the Hcooker 3-Tier Bamboo Steamer a durable set you’ll have for years.

What we like: Steel reinforcements for fragile points, handcrafted, won’t warp or split over time

If you’re looking for a solid set of steamers that merges contemporary improvements with traditional craftsmanship, this triple-decker made of local-to-producer Moso bamboo will do the trick. Not only do its stainless steel bands look sharp, but they also provide function, sealing off the fragile top and bottom rims to keep them from splitting or scorching, respectively. They also support the form of the steamers so that they hold their uniform shape and nest perfectly and retain heat.

While bamboo steamer purists prefer versions without reinforcing metal due to the potential transfer of a metallic taste to the food, it’s of note that commercial dim sum restaurants often opt for models like this without any worry about negative impact on the quality of their dishes. Additionally, the Hcooker brand has been hand-making bamboo steamers since 1097 — so it’s pretty safe to assume they know what they’re doing. Plus, rare availability in marginally different sizes (7.1, 8.3, 9.4, and 10.6 inches at 1.5- to 1.7-inch depth) make it easy to find the right fit for your existing cookware.

The best starter kit

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.

What we like: Easy for beginners, includes extras like chopsticks and liners 

Novices itching to get started on their steaming adventure right away will find everything they need in this value-priced kit, which also makes this an ideal gift set for the foodies in your life. A generous 50-count of steamer liners means not having to think about placing another order before you clear 25 double-stacked meals. The set even comes with two sets of chopsticks and a sauce dish.

The versatile three-inch depth also gives you more wiggle room for things like buns and vegetables. In fact, it’s as much as twice as accommodating as other competitive models, which allows for more room for experimentation as you figure out what you’ll be cooking most in your bamboo steamer. Plus, its even, uniform slats are easy to keep clean.

Although we’re recommending this in the standard 10-inch size, this is also our top choice for the 12-inch for those who are ready to take on bigger batches.

The best eco-friendly set

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.

What we like: Everything in the kit sustainably made, environmentally friendly, reusable, comes with included extras

Bamboo steamers are already highly sustainable cooking tools, but this set kicks it up a notch admirably. Not only is this handmade, open-weave, two-tier basket made of ethically sourced bamboo, its bonus accessories are also earth-conscious. The four reusable cotton liners are unbleached and eco-friendly, and the dumpling press and spoon are made of wheat straw, a non-toxic plasticine material that degrades at a similar rate to paper when disposed of. Everything in the kit is BPA-free, and the steamer itself is free of glue, chemicals, and odor. Two sets of chopsticks complete the kit and get you dumpling-ready, from “make” to “ate.”

The best set with a steamer ring

You don’t have to buy a new pot, pan, or wok for your steamer — an included steamer ring adapts what you have to accommodate the Bisou du Nord Bamboo Steamer Basket Cooking Set.

What we like: Easy to use, includes plenty of liners, anti-warp basket bodies, steamer ring adapter lets you use existing cookware

For those short on storage space or who may not have big cooking vessels, a steamer ring is a must-have. This set’s greatest value — notwithstanding the inclusion of 50 paper liners — is in the inclusion of a stainless steel adapter designed to fit seven to 10.5-inch pots. This rim handily holds your bamboo steamer tower well up above your cookware and the water bubbling merrily within, eliminating any risk of scorching the baskets and stinking up your food, as well as preventing the metal bands from scratching up any nonstick finish.

Like the Hcooker steamer above, stainless steel bands help protect these handmade steamer baskets from warping. The key difference is that the placement of them does not protect against layer separation at its vulnerable edges as the Hcooker version does. However, their exclusively external placement lowers the risk of any metallic flavor leaching in.

The best hand-tied rack

All-bamboo construction makes the Mister Kitchenware 10-Inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer a viable option for the stovetop or microwave.

What we like: Wide slats held together with bamboo thread, reinforced lid, efficient cooking

This handmade tower takes basic, traditional techniques and improves upon them from top to bottom. For the former, a tight weave and cross-dome reinforcement seals in even more of that powerful steam; for the latter, hand-tied slats in the base of each basket allow more steam to pass through than more contemporary smooth cut strips.

Best of all, because there are no metal components, you can use it in your microwave as well as on the stove. With a 2.5-inch depth, the capacity is more than generous for either use. Two pairs of chopsticks, a sauce dish, and 10 liners round out this steamer set, an accessory that’s extra important with hand-tied racks. Because they’re fastened with bamboo lashings, there’s more of an opportunity for food to get caught in them, so don’t be shy about using these liners up before switching to a (literally) greener option like cabbage or lettuce leaves.

The best stylish

A streamlined, contemporary exterior belies premium updates and sturdy construction in the Bamboo Steamer Basket 10-Inch Two-Tier.

What we like: Sleek design, classic elements with a modern twist, form and function 

Unique and distinctive, bamboo steamers are already often a conversation starter when brought to the table. However, this set ups the ante with its bold and modern take on the classic construction. In this design, traditional features get a premium, updated facelift, resulting in a handsome bamboo steamer that goes from kitchen stove to tabletop without missing a beat.

Its vertical slat façade is a departure from the double-tied or single strips, and sturdier, too, with less likelihood of splintering since they’re not thin and shaved down. They’re held together securely with stainless steel supports that wrap fully around the delicate top and bottom rims of the baskets. These serve double duty as reinforcement for the weakest points of bamboo steamers, increasing the longevity of your purchase. It comes with equally long-lasting, reusable silicone liners cut into a mesh design fine enough for you to even steam rice in.

The best 6-inch

If you’re looking to recreate that dim sum restaurant vibe, the Joyce Chen 3-Piece Bamboo Steamer is the one to get. 

What we like: Better made than its oversized counterpart, dim sum cart-sized, ideal for smaller households

Whether your goal is to set more small steamers with a bigger variety of food merrily vaping away a la dim sum restaurant or simply to feed fewer folks, cute six-inch steamers may be the right call for you. This is surprisingly more solid than the 12-inch big-batch version by this manufacturer, as that one is held together with glue and this is kept intact more durably with bamboo twine.

The lid is also well supported since it’s woven twice and tightly. Flat, uniform bamboo slats keep the cook surface smooth and even, which is important when you don’t have a lot of interior space to work with since you don’t want your food toppling over, especially when smaller dim sum specialties are often saucy and steamed in a shallow bowl within the bamboo steamer.

The best 8-inch

For something in between big and small, the REISHUNGER Bamboo Steamer Traditional 2-Tier Design’s eight inches is an ideal diameter, splitting the difference between the two standard sizes.

What we like: Just right for dinner for two, 100% bamboo, handmade

Six inches can feel too small and 10 is the dimension needed to make a family meal. Those are the most common sizes, but one size clearly doesn’t fit all. The two inches you gain or lose can make a difference in terms of eyeballing an appropriate batch size, proper packing density of ingredients, and storage when all is said and done. This basic set fits perfectly in the middle, a happy medium. It’s also held together with bamboo twine, as opposed to copper wire or metal bands, making it microwave-safe.

It comes with two breathable, reusable cotton cloths to use as liners, with a weave fine enough to allow you to use one tier to cook rice without losing a grain.

The best wood steamer

For a visual profile more luxurious than bamboo but just as carefully handcrafted, try this Chinese cedar design from Hcooker.

What we like: Remains true to its heritage with regionally specific material and construction technique, available in nine sizes

This riff off our best overall pick (also by Hcooker, whose makers boast over a thousand years of expertise in steam cooker manufacture) is a bold choice for its use of fragrant Cryptomeria fortunei, a cedar-type derivative of the cypress family. Handmade in 81 steps, same as its bamboo counterparts, this version has a lovely rich, darker color not naturally found in bamboo. Because they’re created to preserve this natural hue, you may luck out and get a two-tone batch for even more visual interest.

However the inside base is still bamboo, which is unfailingly the best platform for steam cooking, as is the lid, which is reinforced with a double-deck weave. Other practical details include a stainless-capped edge that protects the top only and helps with flush stacking; a deeper capacity than their standard model, which does not have the metal trim; and nine available diameters in up to three-tier bundles.

About bamboo steamers

What is a bamboo steamer?

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese dim sum restaurant, you’ll know exactly what we’re referring to: those straw-colored round baskets, darkened with varying levels of absorbed moisture stacked precariously one atop the other in carts filled with hot water. Most of all, you’ll need no convincing as to why this kitchen tool has enjoyed over 5,000 years of popularity without much evolution. To this day, they’re made with skinned bamboo that’s softened into pliability then shaped into a circle and held permanently in place with bamboo nails or lashings. The bases are slatted to allow steam to rise and cook the food, the containers nestling into each other until you reach the top level — however high you choose to make it — where a dome-shaped, tightly woven lid seals the vapor in.

Why you should use a bamboo steamer

Although fast-cooking metal steamers are commonly available, many Asian cooks still choose the old-fashioned models due to their ability to absorb moisture — which reduces the problem of condensation dripping down and making your dish soggy — and to avoid imparting any metallic taste or overcooking due to higher heat retention. And while rice cookers also provide a steam function, the ability to stack bamboo steamers and effortlessly batch cook also keep folks loyal to the old ways, even if these baskets don’t last as long. However, they’re environmentally friendly, highly sustainable, and inexpensive, reducing the footprint of their replacement on the earth and your wallet.

How to use a bamboo steamer

To use a bamboo steamer, you don’t need much: just something to line it with and cookware large enough to accommodate it and a couple of inches of water with enough clearance that boiling bubbles won’t touch the base. Any wide, deep pan or pot will do, but a wok is best if you have one—the curve of its bowl will hug the steamer and keep the bottom from scorching, as is more likely in a pot of pan due to the base’s prolonged direct contact with it. As for linings, you can buy specially made perforated liners cut to typical bamboo steamer sizes; parchment, wax, or baking paper; or cabbage, lettuce, lotus, banana, or pandan leaves, the latter three of which may also impart their flavors.

What to consider when buying a bamboo steamer

When purchasing, be sure to choose BPA-free high-quality bamboo and look for wider slats for better steam flow and hand-woven lids, which often boast a tighter weave for better steam entrapment. You’ll also want to veer toward models joined with bamboo wick or stainless steel strips, and not glue, which may melt, or copper, which can corrode. All of our picks fit these construction criteria.

As for size, two tiers in a 10-inch diameter is typical and will serve the needs of most households for many years with proper care. That means allowing your steamer to properly air out for at least two days before storing it, and avoiding contact with strong odors it may absorb, such as dish soap or a scorched base.

Sign up for Insider Reviews’ weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.

You can purchase syndication rights to this story here.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected].

Source: Read Full Article