If you’re at all into healthy eating, or even if you just happen to have flipped through the pages of a healthy eating magazine at some point in the past few years, you’ve likely heard all about food steamers. Because they eliminate the need to cook with oils or unnecessary additives, they’re said to be the bee’s knees when it comes to healthy cooking. So, given the fact that bathing suit season is right around the corner and I’ve recently launched myself into an epic mission to get in shape and slim down in record time, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to review the Breville Health Smart Steamer.
Impressively light steamer
The first thing that struck me when I received the Breville Health Smart Steamer was how light the box was. For no reason other than an assumption made on my part, I expected it to be much heavier. When I began removing all the pieces from the box though, the reason for its light weight became clear–all of its components are made of plastic. My first reaction was one of confusion: “but, like, won’t the steam, like, melt the plastic?” Not my smartest moment and thankfully, and not surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.
The steamer base and all the steamer baskets are oval in shape, and when all three baskets are in use, it stands a little over a foot tall (15 ¾” to be exact). With only four buttons–Set, Hours, Minutes, and Power–and an easy-to-read LCD display, the control panel on the base is very straightforward.
Breville Steamer features & specs
The Breville Health Smart Steamer comes with a stainless-steel looking base that serves triple duty as a base, a control panel, and a water reservoir; a removable drip tray that serves as a conduit for juices; three stackable steamer baskets with removable bases; a rice/sauce cooking bowl; a basket divider that can be used to split one basket into two; and a lid. All told, when unpacked, I was looking at 11 pieces. When assembled though, those 11 pieces come together to form a three-tiered steamer that doesn’t take up as much room as you would think. Plus, all the pieces stack together quite nicely so when not in use, you can easily store it in a cupboard.
The three stackable steamer baskets are labeled from I to III where I fits snug on the reservoir/base and III sits at the top. The baskets must be stacked in that order for the steamer to work properly, but even if they weren’t labeled, the order of stacking becomes pretty clear when you try and put III on the very bottom. It doesn’t work.
The steamer also features a water-level indicator that shows you when the water in the reservoir is running low so you can add to it via a pull out spout before the “Boil Dry” protection feature kicks in and automatically turns off the element before it runs dry. The indicator shows you when the water level is at its max, when water is low, and when water needs to be added.
There is also a “keep warm” function built in to the steamer that automatically activates after your timer has gone off, which keeps your food warm for up to an hour.
Testing the steamer
If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you might know that I tend to take great joy in diving into them with only a cursory glance at the instructions, if any glance at all. With this review though, I thought I should perhaps read through the manual; after all, food + steam + hot water + electricity + a giant klutz could potentially be a serious hazard. So I was a good girl and followed the instructions step by step.
Step one was to wash 10 of the 11 pieces (the base/water reservoir didn’t need washing). Step two was to place my steamer somewhere in my kitchen where it wouldn’t be next to a gas or electric element, or close to a wall. Considering I live in an apartment with a small galley kitchen, well, that was a little difficult. So it sat smack dab in the middle of my counter, which is usually where I do all my cooking prep. For those with a larger kitchen, finding a suitable space will not be an issue.
Steaming a Three-Tier Meal
Once everything was washed and dried, and my steamer situated away from any hazards, I was ready to cook my dinner of brown rice, a chicken breast, and broccoli. I filled the reservoir and read the Instruction Guide to see how long each item needed to be steamed–the rice needed 60 minutes, the chicken 20-25 and the broccoli 10. I put the rice in the rice bowl and set the timer for 40 minutes. When that time was up, I put the chicken in, but accidentally set the timer to 30 minutes instead of 20. That’s when I learned that once the timer starts going, you can’t change it, but you have to power the steamer off and back on to reset your time.
When the buzzer buzzed to let me know my meal was ready, I unassembled the three tiers of steamer baskets and first checked the broccoli, which was cooked to perfection. Then I checked the chicken, which was perfectly cooked as well, although a tad on the pale side since I didn’t season anything before steaming. Unfortunately the rice hadn’t completely absorbed all its water, so wasn’t exactly to my liking, but I was ravenous and dug in. Topped with a little salsa for flavour, my meal was delicious.
Steaming One Tier
Once I had eaten, I decided to toss some raw prawns into the same basket that had previously held my chicken so I could prep my lunch for the next day. The guide says that shelled prawns take 5 minutes to steam, however, because the timer is pre-set to 20 minutes, to get to 5 minutes I had to “minute-up” all the way to 59 and then to 5, which was a little annoying but no big deal. After 5 minutes, my prawns were perfectly pink and ready to add to my salad.
At this point I had steamed rice (almost), veggies, meat and seafood, but the Instruction Guide also had times associated with poaching, scrambling, or “boiling” eggs. My curiosity got the best of me, so the next morning for breakfast I set about to make the perfect poached egg, which has eluded me to this day. After two failed attempts, I have still not perfected a poached egg. Perhaps I’ll try scrambled tomorrow.
When I first unboxed the Breville Smart Steamer and saw how many components there were to it, I knew clean up wasn’t going to be fun. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t horrible, but when you only have two small sinks, all those pieces pile up pretty quick. You might think: “why didn’t you put everything in the dishwasher?” Well, because in big capital letters next to an even bigger warning icon, the Instructions say “do not wash any part of the food steamer, including steamer baskets, rice/sauce cooking bowl or drip tray, in a dishwasher.” Damn. To the right you can see what post-cleaning looked like in my kitchen. It was also a little difficult to get the drip tray out of the steamer and into my sink without spilling water everywhere, and by everywhere I mean down the front of my sweatpants.
My evaluation of the Breville Steamer
The Breville Health Smart Steamer is easy to use, and I think with practice coordinating cooking times for multiple items would become a non-issue. Even though there were quite a few pieces to the steamer, clean up is very easy and all the steam baskets stack into themselves, so storage–even in a small kitchen like mine–is a breeze.
I also liked the fact that I could cook an entire meal with one device, and then turn around and use a steam basket I had just used to prep food for the next day. Normally for a meal of chicken, rice and steamed vegetables, I would have baked the chicken in a dish in my oven, used one pot for cooking rice, and another for steaming my veggies.
The Not So Good
To start steaming your food, you have to hit the Set button, which is automatically set to 20 minutes. While you can use the Minutes and Hours buttons to change the steam time, you can only “minute/hour up” but can’t “minute/hour down” which I think is a bit of a design flaw. Similarly, if you’ve started steaming but realize you’ve set the timer incorrectly, you need to power the steamer off and then back on to reset the timer, which isn’t ideal.
Another “not so good” is the fact that when you dismantle the steam baskets, they leave water everywhere, so you need to place them on another dish, or in the sink if you don’t want water all over your counter. It’s also worth mentioning that the plastic components that make up the Breville Health Smart Steamer are not BPA free.
I definitely think the Breville Health Smart Steamer has a place in the kitchen. Personally, I can see myself using it on grocery day when I prep all my food for the week ahead. I could steam ample veggies, rice, chicken, and fish and pre-portion everything for the week’s lunches and dinners. I can also see it being a great tool for larger families (with larger kitchen) so they can cook a decent size dinner without using every pot and pan in the house … and because all the pieces are nice and light, the little ones can easily manage clean up.