Kitchen Appliance Advice

Steamer Buying Advice

A steamer is one of the most versatile cooking tool in the kitchen. It is a must for almost every kitchen now. More and more people started to pay attention to the healthiness of their food. They want freshness and character. And they mention steamed food when they talk about how they enjoyed the meal.

Probably the best cooking way to obtain the best results with vegetables is to steam tit with a steamer. It's ideal for cooking all types of veggies. The finished product, whether it starts as fresh produce or frozen, comes out with better color, a firmer texture, a more piquant flavor than it would if it were boiled, baked or micro-waved. And, best of all, little of the vitamins and other nutrients are lost through steaming.

There are various models you can select according to the food amount you would cook. Some models range from countertop units to large, floor-mounted tiers of stacked steamer chambers. There are models that will fit just about any operation from a small fast-food stand to a giant hospital kitchen, which turns out thousands of meals a day. And there are many types in between too. But most people who have not worked with steam do not realize that a steamer is one of the most versatile, if not the most versatile, pieces of cooking equipment in the kitchen. It is more efficient than a microwave in terms of thawing frozen foods. It can speed the cooking of fish, meat and poultry. It prepares "skinless" custards, puddings and mousses. And it makes great scrambled eggs. Best of all, two or more different foods may be cooked at the same time in a steamer - with no intermingling of flavors. And most steamers can handle large quantities of food.

Steamers can be classified into one of three types: pressure-less, low pressure and high pressure. Each has its favorite buyers, and each has certain specific characteristics that make it different from the other two. For pressure-less steamers, the steam is under no pressure and passes through the cooking chamber and is vented. Some people call such steamers open-vent because the steam is constantly vented in pressure-less steamers, especially in convection units, energy costs may be higher than for pressure steamers. The 212-degree (Fahrenheit) temperature steam in a pressure-less steamer actually transfers more heat to the food being cooked than would boil water of the same temperature.

Low-pressure steamers operate at an internal pressure of about 2 pounds to 5 pounds per square inch. The temperature of steam increases as the pressure increases. The average temperature of the steam in a low-pressure steamer is 227 degrees.

High-pressure steamers generally maintain a pressure of 15 pounds per square inch. The temperature of the steam is about 250 degrees. It's obvious that the higher the pressure, the faster food should cook. However, in actual practice, many pressure-less steamers cook just as rapidly as high-pressure models. The reason is that a growing number of pressure-less steamers are convection steamers.

In a Convection Steamer a fan circulates the steam through the cooking chamber. In that way an insulating blanket of cooler, moisture-laden air is not allowed to build up around the food as it does in most high-pressure steamers. Such a "cold zone" slows cooking. The result: The lower temperature steam of a convection pressure-less steamer cooks at about the same speed as higher temperature steam in a passive high-pressure steamer.

Buying Tips:
For most home steamer buyers, it's important to get a steamer with a timer alarm that can be heard in a busy kitchen. This feature would alert you the time to get the food out of the steamer when that timer goes off. Food overcooks swiftly in a steamer. However, if you're concerned with the chance to add things to the steamer during the cooking cycle or take out one food that cooks faster than other foods in the unit, you should consider the pressure-less steamer. The door can be opened while the cooking cycle is in progress. Things can be stirred, turned, seasoned, tested for doneness, inserted or removed. If you're concerned with high volume output, a pressure steamer may be the answer. It will generally cook the largest loads of all. Just insert the food, set the timer and remove the food when the timer goes off.

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