As I’ve discovered, microwave steamers vary radically with the efficiency of the steamer. At their worst, they leave your food dried out, colorless and tasteless (probably because all the steam evaporates rather than stay in the steamer. You can easily be burned by the leftover escaping steam as you remove the steamer from the microwave. And worst yet, they may be leeching potential carcinogens into your food every time you use the steamer. Not good!
In addition, it’s possible you’re being poisoned with the BPA in the steamer — I just checked, my lake steamer is made of reclyclable plastic #7 – one of the plastics noted in Mayo Clinics note below. The good news is the new microwave steamer I just ordered for the travel trailer fits all the criteria and more. I’m ordering two more – one for the lake house and one for the boat.
According to the Mayo Clinic, while all the research isn’t complete, it appears there may be a connection between certain types of cancers and BPA, an industrial chemical in use since the 1960’s in plastics and resins. Here’s the Mayo Clinic list of cautions:
- Seek out BPA-free products. More and more BPA-free products have come to market. Look for products labeled as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
- Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
- Avoid heat. The National Institutes of Health, advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
- Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers
The Steamer I use on s/v Winterlude had two big things going for it, or so I thought when I ordered it. It’s certified BPA free and two, because of it’s oblong shape, I could microwave fish. But fish dries out so much in a steamer, I’ve never had any luck with it and don’t plan to use it that way. I guess this steamer should be listed as #2 on my list since it is BPA free, but I hate it. The lid knocks off with every little bump on the side as the microwave carousel spins, it’s difficult to remove without being burned and most of all, I just hate it. It’s made with very cheap thin plastic. Plus it’s the same price as the new one that I love.
The steamer at the house that needs replaced for BPA reasons is a shame because I love it so much. It was originally made by Tupperware and no longer available. I guess that’s a good thing.
Drumroll … and the NEW steamer which I absolutely LOVE comes all the way from New Zealand and is a Sistema Microwave Product. They come in several sizes – I clicked on the Large version at the top of the page, but ordered the Medium. Why do I love it so much:
1. It’s available in several sizes, I got the medium with the deep basket — just over an 8″ square with a 2 1/2 deep basket. The basket has a lift handle in the middle to remove the yummy steamed veggies, but that doesn’t bother me, just makes it safer.
2. The lid locks in place so little to no steam escapes. I noticed immediately my veggies are brighter colors and just prettier than my other two steamers.
3. There are little turned up handles on the four corners for lifting the steamer out of the microwave without being burned – but still be careful, a small amount of hot steam will escape below these handles, although not enough to burn me.
Cooking Tips from Sistema:
Open the vent on the top when cooking in the microwave. Adjust the vent to allow more or less steam to escape while cooking and close it after removal if you want to keep the steam in.
Add water to the base below the colander so the food is not sitting in water.
If steaming a variety of veggies, arrange the tougher ones, like carrots, cauliflower, potato etc around the outside of the steamer, the more tender veggies such as mushrooms, peas etc around the inside. This will allow the veggies to be evenly cooked.
Make sure all the pieces are cut to a uniform size with spaces between them to all the steam to circulate.
Food continues to cook when removed from the microwave, so always take standing time into account.
Easy lift handles allow you to easily pick up the steamer after microwaving.
Obviously, unlock and remove the lid with care to avoid being burnt by the steam.
Sistema recommends spraying the container with a non-stick cooking spray to help reduce the risk of staining. If staining does occur, use a thick paste of baking soda and water, then rinsing it thoroughly. So far this has not been a problem and we prefer not to use the cooking spray.
Do NOT use the steamer in the oven, on the grill, on a hot plate or in any microwave utilizing the convection settings.
BTW, Sistema makes many different steamers – from a rice steamer, to different size plate steamers, a soup steamer … I’ve never used any of them, but if they work as well as the medium veggie steamer, they’d be great. Here’s a link to all the possibilities.
Any else have a microwave steamer you particularly love – please post a comment and let us know what it is and why you love it. I need to replace the one at the house and also the one on the boat. Right now I’m planning to get two more Sistema – size medium, but I might be convinced to try something else. I’d also be interested if anyone has had any bad experiences with the Sistema steamers.