10 Essential Tips for Choosing a Quality Bamboo Steamer

When selecting a bamboo steamer, consider size, durability, weave quality, natural materials, tiers, fit, maintenance, price, and where to buy for optimal cooking results.

dim sum in bamboo basket in chinese restaurant in flushing

When it comes to cooking with steam, a bamboo steamer is a classic tool that brings both efficiency and tradition to your kitchen. To ensure you choose a quality bamboo steamer that will last, consider these essential tips before making your purchase.

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1. Understanding Bamboo Steamers

Bamboo steamer set, chinese kitchenware on wooden table, top view. Empty traditional asian bamboo steamer for steamed dumplings Dim Sums. Top view.

Bamboo steamers have been a staple in Asian cooking for centuries, primarily used for steaming vegetables, dumplings, fish, and more. They consist of one or more stackable layers with a lid, designed to fit snugly over a wok or pot of boiling water. The bamboo material allows for excellent steam circulation, cooking food evenly and retaining moisture without being soggy.

2. Selecting the Right Size

Chinese bamboo basket isolated on white background

The size of the bamboo steamer you choose should match your cooking needs and the size of your cookware. If you’re cooking for one or two people, a smaller steamer around 6 inches in diameter may suffice. For larger families or entertaining guests, consider a larger steamer, which can be up to 12 inches or more. Ensure the steamer fits snugly atop your pot or wok to prevent steam from escaping.

3. Checking for Durability

Bamboo steamer set, chinese kitchenware on grey paper, top view

Durability is key when selecting a bamboo steamer. Look for steamers made from mature bamboo, which is harder and less likely to crack or warp over time. The steamer should feel sturdy in your hands, with no loose parts or splinters. A well-constructed steamer can last for years with proper care.

4. Assessing the Weave Quality

Chinese bamboo steamer top view. Isolated on white background.

The quality of the weave directly affects the steamer’s functionality. A tight and uniform weave ensures that steam is distributed evenly, cooking your food thoroughly. Inspect the bottom and sides of the steamer baskets; they should be closely woven without large gaps, which could let steam escape and prolong the cooking time.

5. Opting for Natural Materials

A lot of bamboo steamers of steamed dumpling

For a traditional and authentic experience, opt for a bamboo steamer made from all-natural materials. Avoid steamers that use glue or chemicals in the construction, as these can release harmful substances when heated. Natural bamboo is not only safer for your health but also imparts a subtle flavor that can enhance your dishes.

6. Considering Steamer Tiers

Traditional dimsum bamboo steamer boxes in Hong Kong restaurant

Bamboo steamers come in various tiers, allowing you to cook multiple items at once without mixing flavors. A two-tier steamer is quite common and practical for most home cooks. If you frequently cook larger quantities or a variety of dishes simultaneously, consider a steamer with three or more tiers.

7. Inspecting for a Tight Fit

chinese kitchenware

A tight-fitting lid and tiers are crucial for efficient steaming. Check that the lid sits flush against the top of the steamer basket, and each tier fits neatly on top of the other. Any gaps can allow steam to escape, which reduces cooking efficiency and can lead to unevenly cooked food.

8. Maintenance and Care Tips

Proper maintenance is essential to extend the life of your bamboo steamer. After each use, clean it with warm water and a brush to remove food particles, and then let it air dry completely before storing. Avoid using soap as it can break down the bamboo fibers and leave an unwanted taste. Occasionally, you can rub vegetable oil on the steamer to maintain its natural shine and prevent drying out.

As Cooking with Eddy Tseng explains in the video –

  1. Unpack and wash new bamboo steamers to remove chemical coatings.
  2. Boil water and steam bamboo to open pores and release smells. Be careful of hot steam.
  3. Coat steamed bamboo with vegetable oil to seal pores while still warm.
  4. Let oiled bamboo steamers dry overnight before first use.
  5. Always store bamboo steamers flat to keep their shape.
  6. Wash with clean water after use and let dry completely open.
  7. Re-oil bamboo steamers after washing to keep sealed.
  8. Use oven at low temp (100°F) for 20 mins to fully dry bamboo.
  9. Proper care makes bamboo steamers last for years.
  10. Avoid bending bamboo pieces to keep them fitting and functioning properly.
Cooking with Eddy Tseng

9. Comparing Price and Value

Special shrimps dim sum with chopsticks in bamboo steamer

Bamboo steamers are generally affordable, but prices can vary based on size, quality, and brand. Don’t automatically opt for the cheapest option; a slightly higher investment in a quality steamer can save money in the long run by avoiding frequent replacements. Compare features and read reviews to determine the best value for your budget.

10. Where to Buy Quality Steamers

Prime Home Direct Bamboo Steamer Basket 10-inch | 2-Tier Steamer for Cooking | 50 Liners, Chopsticks & Sauce Dish | Dumpling Steamer, Food Steamer Baskets for Cooking - Rice & Vegetable Steamer Pot

Quality bamboo steamers can be found in Asian markets, kitchenware stores, and online retailers. Specialty stores may offer a wider selection and staff who can provide knowledgeable advice. Online, you can compare different models, read customer reviews, and often find the best deals. Always check the retailer’s return policy in case the steamer doesn’t meet your expectations.

Choosing the right bamboo steamer can elevate your cooking experience and provide you with a tool that lasts for years. By following these essential tips, you’ll be well-equipped to select a quality bamboo steamer that suits your needs and brings the art of steaming to your kitchen with excellent results.

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