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Collapsible Steamer Baskets

A bad steamer basket can be a hot mess. Could we find a good one?

What We Learned

Steamer baskets allow you to cook your food quickly, consistently, and efficiently. Boiling as little as ½ inch of water under one of these perforated platforms can produce enough gentle, humid steam to cook meat, vegetables, and other foods. Steamer baskets come in different styles, but we generally prefer collapsible versions, which are easier to clean and can be folded down after use for more compact storage. Since we last tested steamer baskets, our winner, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Extendable Handle ($17.95), was slightly redesigned. Curious to see if the new version held up to the competition, we pitted it against six other collapsible models (three metal, two silicone, and one plastic) priced from $8.41 to $28.52. We used each to steam broccoli and dumplings, hard-cook eggs, and poach chicken.

Size Matters

All the steamers fit into the same array of pots and pans (we tested with a 10-quart stockpot, 7.5-quart Dutch oven, and 4-quart saucepan) and were capable of producing evenly cooked food. Unfortunately, some were just too small to make very much of it. The two silicone models had bases of less than 30 square inches, so they held only two to three chicken breasts or five to six dumplings; the other models, including a spacious two-tiered steamer, fit four chicken breasts and up to 26 dumplings. And while we could technically fit 1½ pounds of broccoli (enough for four people as a side dish) in the silicone models, we had to pile the florets on top of each other in so many layers that steam couldn't penetrate to the center, leaving the innermost ones undercooked. We preferred bigger steamers: Those with at least 60 square inches of usable area gave us plenty of space to position and cook a full recipe in one go.

You've Steamed the Food—But Can You Get It Out?

Other design flaws made certain steamers harder to use. All four of the metal steamers had looped or rod-like handles that stemmed from their centers, but at less than 3 inches high, the handles on three of the models weren't tall enough to grasp securely with tongs or an oven mitt. That meant that as we tried to remove them from a hot pot, these steamers often tilted and spilled food back into the water.

Still, height wasn't everything. The two silicone steamers had longer handles stemming from the outer edges of the baskets. These interlocked and were easy to grab, but they sprung a little too high in some pots, preventing the lid from closing tightly and allowing steam to escape. Another downside to these models was that their floppy sides didn't always do a good job of containing food. They pitched outward when eggs or dumplings slid agai...