Which Microwave Steamer Is Best?

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!

Almost ready for the initial trial.

Almost ready for the initial trial.

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:

I dearly love this steamer and have been searching everywhere to buy another ... until I found that it's not BPA free and in fact has the recycle

I dearly love my old steamer at the house and have been searching everywhere to buy another … until I found that it’s not BPA free and in fact has the recycle “7” which Mayo Clinic says is likely to be high in BPA

  • 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

    PrepWorks from Progressive International.  Not recommended.

    PrepWorks from Progressive International. Not recommended.

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.

Older stuff may not be BPA free as I found out on my favorite microwave steamer.

Older stuff may not be BPA free as I found out on my favorite microwave steamer.

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.

The Sistema ready to go steam some veggies for dinner.

The Sistema ready to go steam some veggies for dinner.

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.

Love that the four side locks click down so solidly - push down until you hear a loud click.

Love that the four side locks click down so solidly – push down until you hear a loud click.

The locks in place and secure.

The locks in place and secure.

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.

The corner handle allowing me to carefully remove it from the microwave without being burnt.

The corner handle allowing me to carefully remove it from the microwave without being burnt.

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.

Vent is in the open position for microwaving.

Vent is in the open position for microwaving.

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.

The Sistema Microwave Steamer ready to go, locks down, steamer on top open.

The Sistema Microwave Steamer ready to go, locks down, steamer on top open.

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.

Comments

  1. Hello,

    Great to read your review. I’m definitely thinking about the medium size steamer.

    0Having had it a few months now, how are you finding it? Is the size suitable for two people? I’m trying to eat more veggies so I thought this size would be suitable for me (more veggies!) or for two people (smaller portion size.)

    Thanks!

    • Hi Laura! After a few months, I still love the Sistema steamer. It’s far superior to the other two steamers I have – one on the boat, one at the lake – I may need to replace the lake & boat steamers. 🙂 Cheers!

  2. Just wanted to say thanks so much for this! Its the only good review I’ve found online – off to buy the Sistema steamer now!

  3. Mary Carouba says:

    Thanks for the review. I was trying to decide whether to get this product or not, and your review was very helpful. I’m going to order the large and medium. Thanks for taking the time!

  4. Jay Hirschson says:

    I am looking for a new steamer to replace the one we’ve used for years, which I fear is the same as your old favorite one, with all its BPA!

    Can you tell me just how much of a horror show you found out your old steamer to be..?

    Thanks,

    Jay

    PS — Gonna go with Sistema!

  5. Sistema containers, purchased from Lakeland, for soup and “PORRIDGE TO GO” are unfit for purpose. After a few months weekly usage the red plastic becomes pitted revealing a white rim where the surface of the porridge touches the plastic.
    On the other hand, the Sistema containers with inner baskets show no signs of deterioration.

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