Dorie Greenspan, author of Bon Appétit magazine's "Tools of the Trade" column and numerous cookbooks, loves to steam foods because the technique requires little equipment and the resulting flavors are pure and fat free. She recommends these options when selecting steaming equipment:
1. A covered saucepan or pot and a collapsible metal steamer basket: This simple combination can get you started. The collapsible basket, made of eighteen folding perforated sections, fits into large or small pots, is inexpensive, and widely available.
2. Bamboo steamers: These come in a variety of sizes, but the most common and useful is large and fits inside a wok. These clever contraptions can stack, enabling you to steam several foods at once, and large ones can accommodate a dinner plate. Inexpensive.
3. A large, heavy, covered stockpot with a generously sized perforated insert: This combination is Dorie's favorite setup, allowing steaming of larger quantities of foods and even a snapper wrapped in parchment. Good brands include Demeyere and All-Clad, but they don't come cheap. Both require a considerable investment but will last a lifetime.
4. Electric steamer: This clever appliance has a water reservoir in the base and two stackable oblong steaming trays above. Steam comes up quickly and generously and the automatic timer and shutoff are convenient features. Look for the Oster Designer Food Steamer reasonably priced at about $50, or the bells-and-whistles Cuisinart Turbo Convection Steamer TCS-60 for twice the price or more.