The Incredible Electric Steamer

Oster Electric Steamer

Info about electric steamers (and plenty of opinion) and a few rice recipes.

Today on a particular listserv that I follow, someone was giving away an electric steamer. I can’t tell you how many times I have come across someone giving away–or letting gather a layer of dust–one of these electric steamers. I just don’t get it, and here is why:

Electric steamers are awesome! There are hardly any kitchen appliances that I would recommend more enthusiastically. They’re not complicated, and once you get used to them they have tens if not hundreds of uses. Perhaps the problem is that no recipes call for their use? Is there an electric steamer cookbook out there? Because there should be. Alright, I looked. There appear to be two, both out of print.

Here is the skibby on electric steamers.

  • You’ll pay anywhere between $25 and $100 for one. I am most familiar with the Oster models (on the cheaper end), but there’s a slew of others. They all look very similar.
  • You can buy anywhere between a 1- and a 3-tier machine. The more tiers means you can add more courses to the steam part of your menu. For example, you can steam rice, fish, and vegetables at the same time with a 3-tier model. I don’t use the double tiers all that much, but it does seem useful. I suppose you can also make moreof something, but not a grain, unless you get extra
    Deni Electric Steamer

    steam bowls, too.

  • I’m sure they all come with directions. So that’s good. Some of them have indicators on their display for different foods, not just a time.
  • You really can’t overcook with a steamer, which is one of the best features. Set your timer long and then just forget about it.
  • The other best feature of the electric steamer: you pop in the ingredients, you walk away. You never give it another thought. The steamers are even equipped with timers, like a bread machine, so you can set the start time for later in the day. Go out and get a mani-pedi, come home to perfect rice.
  • You can cook the following: eggs, fish, poultry, ANY veggie you can think of, ANY grain you can think of, and I believe pasta and meat. For me, I cook a whole lotta jasmine, basmati, and brown rice, as well as quinoa.
  • Steaming is a healthy way to cook. It retains a lot of the vitamins and nutrients without adding extra fat or charring the food.

I am going to throw three rice recipes your way, since that is the what I use the steamer for multiple times per week. I rarely cook grains any other way.


This is useful with almost any Indian food. After you get the ingredients in the steamer, you are free to concentrate solely on your butter chicken or Masala Paneer or whatever. Omit the curry powder and use Jasmine rice and you could also use this for Thai food.

  1. In a large measuring cup, combine half a 15 oz can coconut milk with 1 cup water or veggie or chicken broth.
  2. In the rice steamer, combine 1 1/2 cups (brown) basmati rice, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 1-2 teaspoons grated ginger, 1-2 teaspoons curry powder, and salt to taste. Add the coconut milk mixture.
  3. Steam according to manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Serve, garnished with coconut, raisins, cilantro, and/or chutney.


Seriously, this is really, really good. When I was an exchange student in France, my “mom” made this dish and I could never get the simple tastes out of my head. After years of un-fulfillment, I have found a recipe that recreates this simple, weeknight family meal. The key is quality ingredients.

  1. Steam 1 1/2 cups (white) jasmine rice in 2 cups chicken (or ham) broth until light and fluffy, according to manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Near the end of the rice steaming (5-10 minutes), add a second tier with 1 cup frozen or fresh peas and steam until bright green.
  3. Meanwhile, cut 4 ounces thin-sliced, premium deli ham into small bite-sized pieces.
  4. In a large bowl, combine rice with peas and ham, 4 tablespoons butter, and salt to taste (plenty).


This would make a really easy side dish  for any Mexican or Tex-Mex meal, or even make a meal in itself by throwing it on the table with tortillas, warmed beans, and some chopped veggies (tomatoes, scallions, olives, lettuce, etc.) and optional grated cheese.

  1. Steam 1 1/2 cups (preferably brown) rice (I prefer short-grain) in 1 3/4 cup chicken or veggie broth and 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. That’s it. Taste for salt and stir in a couple tablespoons olive oil before serving.

One thought on “The Incredible Electric Steamer

  1. Hmmm. I’m one of the people letting my steamer sit idle, I’m afraid. Kinda forgot about it. But I’m having salmon tonight and I think maybe I’ll make that Mexican rice in the steamer and a cilantro and lime marinade on the fish. Thanks for the reminder about the steamer. You’re right, it is an overlooked kitchen tool, along with the slow cooker, my favorite. One recipe you could also have added here is the vermicelli rice dish you taught me last year. Yummy! But tonight I think I’ll go Mexican.

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