Lean, Mean, Steam Machine
A healthy meal of fish, meat and veggies ready in 10 minutes? Yes, please! cooked pomfret, RACHEL XIE chicken and broccoli in these electric food steamers.
1 NATURAI ULTRA HIGH SPEED FOOD STEAMER MFS223 $159, from Mayer Size of each tier: 26 x 31 x 12cm. Water tank capacity: 2 litres
DESIGN The three-layered steamer has detachable bases to allow more vertical space, but I found the heartshaped baskets awkward for fitting long fish and whole poultry in.
EASE OF USE The water tank is beside the steamer baskets instead of beneath and is the easiest to refill. The tank is also the largest and has a clear panel with markings so I can tell if I need to top it up.
THE 10MIN TEST It took less than 1min for steam to permeate all three tiers – the fastest of the steamers tested. The broccoli and fish turned out soft and moist, while the chicken was juicy and tender.
ACCESSORIES A container for steaming rice or soup in.
VERDICT The shape is limiting, but this steamer is the most userfriendly and cooks the fastest.
3 BRAUN MULTIGOURMET FOOD STEAMER FS20 $99, from major electrical stores Size of each tier: 37 x 24 x 12cm. Water tank capacity: 1 litre
DESIGN The smallest of the lot – it has only two layers while the rest have three. Long ingredients fit into its oval shape, but the tiers’ bases are non-detachable, so it doesn’t lend itself well to steaming larger items.
EASE OF USE There’s no water level indicator for the reservoir at the steamer’s base so I can’t tell when a refill is needed. There’s no inlet either – I had to remove the steamer baskets to top up the reservoir.
THE 10MIN TEST It took just 90sec for both tiers to steam up. All ingredients were cooked through, but the fish and chicken turned out drier than in the other steamers.
ACCESSORIES While the other steamers have only one drip tray below the lowest tier, this has an extra tray under the upper steamer compartment. It also has two black containers, for use with rice and foods like carrots that may stain the white baskets.
VERDICT It’s the most affordable and cooks quickly, but I wish it were more user-friendly and versatile.
2 PHILIPS AVANCE COLLECTION STEAMER HD9150 $169, from major electrical stores Size of tiers: 23, 24, 25cm (diameter) x 6.5cm (height). Water tank capacity: 1.1 litres
DESIGN This circular, three-tiered steamer with detachable bases is the most handy for steaming – it’s the only one where a round dinner plate can fit into each foodholding compartment. But I had to cut off the pomfret’s tail as the round baskets couldn’t accommodate long ingredients.
EASE OF USE The water tank is at the steamer’s base, but an upward-facing spout at the side makes refilling easy; a refill indicator lights up when it needs topping up.
THE 10MIN TEST It took 3min for all the tiers to steam up. The fish and chicken were cooked through and remained juicy; the broccoli had the most crunch.
ACCESSORIES A unique aroma infuser dish for herbs and spices fits below the bottom tier; using it can enrich the flavour of the food.
VERDICT It steams slightly more slowly but is the most spacious.
4 TEFAL STEAM N’ LIGHT VC3008 $139, from major electrical stores Size of each tier: 35 x 23 x 14cm. Water tank capacity: 1.2 litres
DESIGN The three tiers come with detachable bases, allowing you to cook ingredients that need more vertical space, like a whole spring chicken. The oval shape takes longish items like fish, but may not accommodate a large chicken.
EASE OF USE This has a slider knob with six settings for fish, hard vegetables, soft vegetables, meat, rice and cake. Each setting has a recommended steaming time that can be adjusted with up and down buttons – a bit fussy, but as easy to use as the timer dials on other machines. The water tank at the bottom has an inlet at the side, but it’s hard to pour water through the flap; a light indicator signals when a refill is needed.
THE 10MIN TEST It took 3min for all three layers to steam up. No complaints about the food, which all turned out tender and juicy.
ACCESSORIES A muffin pan for making steamed cakes and a container for cooking rice and eggs in.
VERDICT It’s not the fastest steamer, but it cooks well and the accessories make it versatile.