The 7 Best Bamboo Steamers and 5 Tips for How To Use Them

Bamboo steamers may seem like a niche item, but they are actually an incredibly versatile, efficient and easy to use addition to the kitchen. Perfect for steaming foods like dumplings, buns and vegetables, bamboo steamers are also great for reheating foods, even including rice. 

The following list rounds up the absolute best bamboo steamers on the market, followed by some ideas on what to look for, tips for cleaning, and best practices for getting the most out of your bamboo steamer.

High End Pick

Thodd&Go Bamboo Steamer

My pick for the all around, best bamboo steamer.

Budget Pick

Helen’s Asian Kitchen Bamboo

My pick for the best bamboo steamer under $20.

Value Pick

15 Piece Bamboo Steamer Set

My pick for the best value for your money.

Price: 

$$$

Quality:

Bamboo Steamer basket Kit

This Bluerame bamboo steamer basket kit is pricey, but worth it.

This Bluerame 10 inch bamboo steamer kit is a fantastic combination of high quality construction and added extras. Although the bamboo steamer is not reinforced with metal, it’s still incredibly well made, and holding it in your hands, you can tell it’s solid. 

That high impact construction - difficult to achieve from 100% bamboo materials - is impressive alone. The fact that Bluerame throws in some quality extras on top of that puts this steamer over the top. 

The baskets themselves are 10 inches in diameter, which is fairly standard for most bamboo steamers available online, and made from 100% premium bamboo. The steamer also comes in a two tier design, meaning you can steam in two separate, stacked chambers. The lid is also made from bamboo, and nicely woven in a slight dome shape to provide ample space inside. 

The basket itself comes with a number of extras not conventionally included in a steamer kit, but still plenty useful. First on this list is a metal dumpling maker (operating on a hinge), which I haven’t seen in any other comparable steamer sets - very cool!

Additionally, this set includes a rolling pin (double sided, it kind of looks like those stone face rollers that have become all the rage among cosmetics buffs lately) and metal scraper. Now, the scraper is particularly cool, because it includes a ruler and measurement conversion chart.

This set also comes with bamboo tongs, which are really helpful for serving dumplings from the steamer set, and a set of chopsticks, also made from bamboo, and reusable. All in all, the whole set has great uniformity when it comes to design and materials, and is incredibly sustainable. 

When using bamboo steamers, it’s often a good idea to include liners between the food and interior bamboo trays. This will prevent food from sticking to the bamboo. You always have the option of using single use or reusable liners, and this particular set comes with 20 single use paper liners. 

These liners fit perfectly in each basket, and are perforated to allow hot air and steam to pass  through the basket evenly, ensuring that your food cooks evenly. On the downside though, I've never been a huge fan of single use liners, and consider them to be quite wasteful. 

That said, if you do end up going with this set - and it’s a fantastic option - you can always buy reusable liners to start using once you’ve exhausted all of the paper liners that come in the original set.

Pros

  • Made from 100% premium bamboo.
  • Two tier steamer, with a lid.
  • Includes 20 paper steamer liners.
  • Includes a metal dumpling maker, a rolling pin, metal scraper with ruler and helpful measurement conversion chart, bamboo tong and chopsticks.
  • Comes with a steamer brochure and instruction book. 

Cons

  • Steamer basket is not reinforced with metal.
  • Relatively expensive. 

Price: 

$$$

Quality:

15 Piece Bamboo Steamer Set

The Vallenwood bamboo steamer kit includes both large and small steamer baskets, and plenty of extras - a total steal for the money.

The Vallenwood 15 piece bamboo steamer set is the epitome of a value play - it comes with not one, but two steamers, as well as silicone, reusable liners, tongs, chopsticks, two sauce dishes and even a rolling pin. 

The larger steamer - which features a two tier tray design - measures about 10 inches in diameter, while the smaller steamer, also a two tier design, is about half as large, or 5 inches across. And when stacked, both steamers are just over 6 inches tall. 

Both steamers are made from 100% natural bamboo, but what sets them apart are the stainless steel bands that frame each tray. Made from 304 type stainless steel (food safe and rust resistant), the bands both reinforce the overall strength of the steamers, and also prevent sticking and reduce friction at the junction of the trays and lid. 

I’m a big fan of these stainless steel bands because they reduce swelling and prevent warping, two things that you always need to look out for when dealing with bamboo and steam. 

In addition to the bamboo steamers themselves, this set comes with a few handy extras, including two sauce dishes (to use for soy sauce, for example), two pairs of wooden tongs and a rolling pin, presumably for rolling out dumpling wrappers. 

But perhaps my favorite among these extras are the silicone steamer liners. This set comes with four reusable liners - two of each size - and each is perforated to ensure that heat and steam travel freely through the set while in use. I much prefer reusable liners to the wax liners that typically come with bamboo sets, and these are definitely appreciated. 

Pros

  • Includes two separate steamers - a large, 10 inch steamer and a smaller, approximately 5 inch steamer.
  • Reinforced with 304 type stainless steel frames - food grade steel and will not rust.
  • Handmade from 100% natural bamboo, and bonded without the use of glues or adhesives.
  • Includes two, two tier steamers, each with a lid.
  • The set also includes four silicone reusable liners, two sauce dishes, two pairs of tongs and one rolling pin. 

Cons

  • Some loose bamboo ties at the base of the steamer. 

Price: 

$$

Quality:

Bamboo Steamer, MacaRio

The MacaRio bamboo steamer set is stunningly beautiful, and designed for convenience.

The MacaRio 10 inch bamboo steamer set is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of all the steamer sets on this list. But don’t be fooled, this steamer isn’t just about looks. The MacaRio also matches up to even the most solidly constructed baskets on the market, and includes some design features not seen elsewhere. 

Constructed from all natural bamboo, this steamer set, like the Vallenwood above, is reinforced with metal bands. And while the Vallenwood steamer is made with stainless steel bands, this MacaRio product uses aluminum, which keeps things light. 

The steamer is two tiered, and includes a bamboo woven lid, domed nicely to maximize internal space. But among the best features on this steamer set are the side handles, which come in real handy when handling a hot basket. 

Interestingly, these handles - which seem so obvious, so simple a design addition - are surprisingly absent on comparable models. 

In addition to the basket itself, this set comes with two green, leaf-shaped ceramic dishes for sauce, and four pairs of wooden chopsticks. The chopsticks themselves are really nice quality as well; they’re certainly a far cry from the simple, rough edged, disposable chopsticks that come with takeout. 

The MacaRio bamboo steamer set also comes with not 10, not 20, but 50 single use paper liners, which will last you for quite some time. I’ve mentioned elsewhere my preference for reusable liners, but you can always get those when you run out of paper. 

That said, I’d be surprised if you exhausted these 50 paper liners any time soon!

Pros

  • Made from natural bamboo, reinforced with aluminum banding frames.
  • Two tiers, with a woven bamboo dome lid.
  • Side handles for convenience.
  • Includes two, leaf-shaped ceramic sauce dishes, 50 paper liners, and four pairs of wooden chopsticks.
  • Excellent price for value.

Cons

  • Comes with limited utensils and instructions.
  • Paper liners are convenient but wasteful.

Price: 

$

Quality:

Helen’s Asian Kitchen Bamboo

Solid, simple and straightforward, this 10 inch bamboo steamer from Helen’s Asian Kitchen is one of those no frills, no surprises items.

Helen’s Asian Kitchen bamboo steamer is the one you want if you’re not looking for extras, like tongs, chopsticks or liners, or if you’ve already got those items in stock. If you really only need the steamer basket itself, look no further. 

Made from 100% natural bamboo, it’s a pretty standard what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of product - no surprises and no disappointments. 

The set includes two 10 inch diameter bamboo baskets - the classic two tier design - and a bamboo woven lid, domed and with a handle. The baskets have plenty of interior cooking space, and will fit all standard sized steamer liners, both single use and reusable. 

On the design front, this thing is pretty straight forward. The two tier design is standard, as is the size. But unfortunately, it doesn’t include side handles, which makes handling the hot basket tricky. 

Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this basket that hasn’t been covered - it’s solid, simple and well crafted. And it comes at a great price. This is probably the safest purchase you’ll ever make.

Pros

  • Made from 100% natural bamboo.
  • Includes two tiers and one, bamboo woven domed lid, with handle.
  • Excellent price.

Cons

  • Does not include any extras.
  • No side handles.

Price: 

$$$

Quality:

Thodd&Go Bamboo Steamer

The Thodd&Go 10 inch bamboo steamer basket is hands down the best steamer basket out there.

The Thodd&Go 10 inch steamer basket set is really the best bamboo steamer you can get - it’s incredibly tough, aesthetically pleasing, and designed to perfection. Not only that, but it’s not particularly expensive either.

First, let’s go through all of the positives when it comes to this steamer set. It’s made from 100% natural, organic bamboo, which is safe to cook with, easy to maintain and sustainable. 

I particularly appreciate the fact that the two tier design is reinforced with extra 304 type stainless steel bands (that means it’s food safe and resistant to stains, rust and corrosion). These metal bands both keep the baskets from expansion and warping - both of which you really need to look out for when cooking with steam and bamboo - and cut down on friction at the joints between baskets and lid. 

Next, the liners included in this set (four in total) are made from silicone, which allows them to be reused. The silicone liners are also perforated, allowing for steam and heat to pass through while in use, ensuring even cooking. 

As I’ve stated elsewhere, reusable silicone is definitely the way to go when it comes to liners - they are far less wasteful, and in my opinion, they just work better. 

But the coolest thing about this set is the 11 inch adapter ring that it comes with. The ring is designed to support the weight of the bamboo steamer as it sits on your pot, preventing both the steamer from scratching your pot (or pan or wok, if that’s the case) and keeping the bamboo out of the boiling water. 

The adapter ring thus preserves the life of the steamer basket itself, and keeps water from ever touching your food. It really is a fantastic addition. 

There are really very few downsides to this steamer set. I suppose it doesn’t have handles, and that’s too bad, but it can still be held relatively easily with a towel. And I guess it doesn't come with extras, like tongs or dishes or chopsticks. But we’re here for a bamboo steamer, and a great bamboo steamer you get. 

Pros

  • Made from 100% natural, organic bamboo and reinforced with 304 type stainless steel bands.
  • Two tier design with a tightly woven bamboo dome lid. 
  • Includes an 11 inch adapter ring to prevent scratches to your pan, and to keep the basket from sitting in boiling water.
  • Comes with four reusable silicone steamer liners.
  • Comes with a 30 day satisfaction guarantee.

Cons

  • Does not include any extras.
  • No side handles.

Price: 

$$

Quality:

Premium 10 Inch Handmade Bamboo Steamer

When it comes to bamboo steamer baskets, i-Playloft offers more options and greater versatility than any other brand out there.

i-Playloft bamboo steamer baskets offer incredible range. Each steamer basket is two tiered, and in making your selection you can choose from either the eight inch or ten inch options, and between standard and extra deep baskets. 

The baskets themselves are made from 100% premium quality bamboo, and you’ll notice right away that they’re already quite deep, even in standard depth. Although there are no metal bands at the junctions, these baskets still fit together quite well. 

The top basket is tightly woven with bamboo, and you can tell when running your fingers across it that the craftsmanship is top notch - the weaves are tight, there are no stray bits of bamboo, and everything holds together really nicely. 

The set comes with two sets of chopsticks, a sauce plate (for soy sauce) and 20 wax paper steamer liners. Again, these wax liners aren’t my favorite, but you always have the option of investing in reusable liners once you exhaust this initial supply. 

Options, options, options - that’s what sets i-Playloft bamboo steamers apart.

Pros

  • Made from 100% premium quality bamboo - two tiers with a woven, bamboo dome lid.
  • Variable size and depth options, from 8 inch to 10 inch diameters, and from standard to extra deep tiers. 
  • Includes two sets of chopsticks, one sauce plate, and 20 wax steamer liners.

Cons

  • No steel reinforcements and no side handles.
  • Wax steamer liners are convenient but wasteful.

Price: 

$$

Quality:

Prime Home Direct Bamboo Steamer

The Prime Home Direct 12 inch bamboo steamer baskets fit together oh so perfectly.

Finally, we come to Prime Home Direct and their line of steamer baskets. Offering both ten inch and twelve inch options, these baskets, like those made by Thodd&Go, are made from 100% organic bamboo. 

Just handling these things, you can tell that they’re well constructed. The two tier design includes two lower baskets, each approximately three inches deep, and a tightly woven bamboo lid. 

Each piece fits together snuggly, and when fully constructed the steamer set rises to be just over six inches tall. The basket is about eleven and a half inches wide on top, and exactly twelve inches across at the base. 

I really like how compact this thing is, and how easily it stores. Each piece fits together perfectly, and there is of course ample room inside to keep the included extras (more on that below) when not in use. 

Speaking of extras, both Prime Home Direct options come with two sets of chopsticks, one sauce dish, and 50 single use, wax paper steamer liners. As I have mentioned now ad nauseam, wax paper liners can be incredibly convenient, if somewhat wasteful. 

And you always have the option of buying replaceable liners after going through these initial 50. 

On the downside, this is an entirely bamboo construction, which is to say there are no stainless steel reinforcements. And while that is technically the more traditional design when it comes to steamer baskets, it will warp if you don’t care for the product as you should.

Pros

  • Comes in variable size options, including 10 inch and 12 inch diameter models.
  • Made from 100% organic bamboo.
  • Dynamic, two tier design, each with 3 inch depth.
  • Includes two sets of chopsticks, one sauce dish, and 50 single use wax paper steamer liners. 

Cons

  • No steel reinforcements and no side handles.
  • Wax steamer liners are convenient but wasteful.

What to look for when purchasing a bamboo steamer online

When searching for the right bamboo steamer online there are a number of things to look for, factors to consider, and things to avoid. There are plenty of bamboo steamers out there - more than 300 on Amazon alone - so selecting the right one can be a challenge. 

Obviously, we’ve got a pretty great list to select from above. But if you want to do more research, or you’re even looking at bamboo steamers in stores, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:

  • Metal rim vs no metal rim - Which is better? Although traditionally, bamboo steamers do not have metal rims, I’ve come to prefer the steamers that are lined with either stainless steel or aluminum. 

    These metal reinforcements keep the steamer from warping, and ensure a snug fit between pieces. 

  • Avoid steamers made with glues and adhesives - This should be obvious, but you want to avoid any bamboo steamer that is held together with glues or potentially toxic adhesives. You’re more likely to find these substances in cheaper models, because it’s much faster and less costly to glue, rather than weave bamboo together.                                                                                 .
  • Look for quality extras - Many bamboo steamer sets come with extras, like dishes, chopsticks and tongs. I find the tongs to be particularly convenient, and use them in a number of situations, even when I’m not using my bamboo steamer. 

    But beware, not all add ons are created equal, and a lot are thrown in to sets to justify an unwarranted price hike. Take a close look at what you’re getting, and if it doesn’t look like something you would consider buying separately anyway, move on.

  • Paper vs silicone liners - This is really a matter of preference, and one on which I’ve already made my case for silicone, time and again. I personally think that silicone liners work better than paper, not to mention the fact that they’re more environmentally friendly, since they’re reusable.                                                                                                                                                                                 .
  • Side handles - Not a lot of bamboo steamers come with side handles, and that’s a shame, because they’re super convenient, especially when handling hot wood. If you find a bamboo steamer with side handles and the rest of the construction passes the test, go for it. 

What are bamboo steamers used for?

You’ve probably heard of using bamboo steamers to cook dumplings, or even steamed buns (baozi). But steamers are also great for reheating foods, like vegetables and even rice.

Bamboo steamers are versatile tools that are most often used in east Asian cuisines to prepare items like dumplings, buns, shrimp, fish and vegetables. But the truth is, these baskets are incredibly convenient, and great for preparing or reheating really anything typically cooked with steam.

How do bamboo steamers work? 

Bamboo steamers are made from a series of baskets stacked on top of one another, topped with a woven bamboo lid. The baskets are then placed above a pot of simmering water, allowing steam to rise up through the baskets and cook the food inside.

The cool thing about bamboo steamers, as compared to western style metal steamers, is that they allow for steaming different foods in separate compartments all at once. Because the baskets are typically layered one on top of the other, bamboo steamers allow you to heat food separately - for example, rice in one basket, vegetables in another. 

While you can place food directly in the bamboo basket itself, most people opt for either paper or silicone inserts that line the bottom of the steamer and prevent sticking. Alternatively, the bottom of the basket can be lined with lettuce, or large sections of napa cabbage, as you often see in restaurants. 

How to clean a bamboo steamer

The best way to clean a bamboo steamer is by hand washing with a sponge and mild dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and allow the steamer to dry completely (usually for at least two days) before storing.

Bamboo steamers should not be placed in the dishwasher, nor should they be allowed to sit in water for more than five minutes at a time. Submerging the steamer in water can cause swelling and/or warping, and damage the physical integrity of the bamboo.

No dishwasher.

It’s also incredibly important to let the bamboo dry out completely before storing, because wet bamboo is prone to developing mildew if stored when still wet. Just like wooden cutting boards and wood handled knives, bamboo is subject to bacterial growth if not dried thoroughly.

Can bamboo steamers sit in water?

Bamboo steamers should ideally sit above, but not in simmering water. Letting bamboo steamers sit in water for longer than five minutes can lead to swelling and/or warping of the steamer baskets.

The point is to let steam cook the food, rather than water. If you find that your steamer is too small to fit over the mouth of your pan, wok or pot without sitting in the water, consider investing in a steamer adapter ring.

Alternatively, the Thodd&Go steamer above comes with one such ring, the perfect tool to prevent your steamer from sitting in water.

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