Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The West Bend Steamer; What a healthy meal looks like

We have previously discussed the West Bend Vegetable Steamer.  It is wonderful and a real asset to anybody trying to adopt or maintain a whole plant food based diet.  It is particularly beneficial for anybody trying to lose weight.  Here is a picture of the unit.

The unit uses up to three large trays to hold what you would like to steam.  The three trays can be stacked as shown.   The water is placed in the bottom unit, where steaming starts in a matter of seconds.  The unit does not need to boil the entire reservoir before creating steam.  Although the trays will stack, they will not fit inside of one another.  The product therefore takes up quite a bit of real estate in operation or in storage - the only downside I can see.  Some people are concerned about the plastic, but I follow Jeff Novick's advice, who said in his McDougall forum that "I would be willing to make the case that the known benefit of the veggies far outweighs any potential harm caused by the plastic being heated."

There is a small vent on the top lid, which should always be in place.  The upper trays can be added whenever.  This enables Farley to give the lower tray (in the pictured case, potatoes) a head start, so that everything finishes at the same time.  The unit includes a plastic container used to cook things like rice or leftovers in the uppermost section.  The steamer works perfectly.

The electronics is what make this steamer special.  The unit is protected from overheating or running out of water.  In fact, the first unit we received incorrectly sensed that the water level was too low.  The manufacturer quickly replaced the unit with one that worked perfectly.

What makes the steamer convenient is the timer and auto-warm feature.  You set how long you wish to steam your food (a supplied manual has suggestions).  After steaming for the selected time, the unit automatically goes into a warm mode for up to an hour.  You can also delay the start of steaming for many hours.  This is useful, e.g., for lunch.  You can chop your food at breakfast time and set the timer so that the steaming is done for lunch . . . or dinner.  It is great to return home to healthy food that is warm and freshly cooked.

Let's face it, eating healthy is more work than going out for fast food.  This tool helps level the playing field.  We use it all the time with our rice cooker.  We set both to finish at the same time.

Another great thing about this product is that the three trays are quite large, as you can see.  When we used our second rice cooker to steam vegetables, we could not fit enough vegetables in there.  I could easily eat an entire rice cooker/steamer basket of vegetables.  I would guess that each of the three trays could hold at least three time the maximum amount of veggies in the rice cooker steamer basket - probably more.  The product is easy clean and the trays are safe in the dishwasher.

What makes this steamer so great for weight loss is that vegetables are typically very very low in calorie density.  You can stuff yourself with them and lose weight by doing so.  This allows a person to conveniently increase their vegetable consumption.  Further, steaming increases the water content of the food, and as nutritionist Jeff Novick [check out this guy on Facebook, he is a genius] teaches, water increases the satiety of a food.

It can also cook or warm rice, but we used it only for warming, which works great.   You can also use the warming tray for beans, or anything else you might want to eat with your vegetables.

I have never seen this product in the stores.  I found it by research, and then on amazon here:
The Amazon customer reviews are all quite positive for this product, and I agree with all those reviews posted to date.  The only disagreement is that one reviewer found that stacking the trays was inconvenient.  I am not sure what the problem was, since it is very quick and easy to stack them.

The cost was under $80, which seems a lot for your money considering that we have used it every day since we bought it for at least one meal.  [See below, it is available from Target.com for $55.]  In my next post, I will show a picture of a meal made in timer mode with the steamer and the rice cooker.  Farley can answer any particular questions in the comments, since she is the operator.  But it has made a large impact on how often and easily we eat lots of vegetables.
Marcela at the McDougall Board was kind enough to post a link to an aluminum steamer that holds even more than the West Bend.  It is also cheaper, and she has had great luck with it.  Here is the link: http://importfood.com/stacked_steamer.html
This lacks the timer and warmer and safety features, but would be a great option for those more interested in cost and/or capacity and simplicity.  Marcela's comments are below.
Nov. 20
Naomi confirms below that the same steamer is available from target.com for $55.


  1. I purchased a microwave oven last month to help with staying on plan (prior, I was a snobby slow fooder who had no use for such a device). Fast reheating of premade on plan food has helped immensely with my success. However, sometimes hubby and I don't want leftovers, no matter how healthy. Two busy DINKS with eldercare responsibilites, we are tired when we finally get home in the evening. Knowing fresh hot food is WAITING for us? Wow. I think I'm about to go shopping again. Thanks for the thorough review.


  2. Naomi, I know a bit about your goals and approach from the McDougall forum. I think that you would be really pleased with this product. It is great for people who are looking for more time and more veggies in their lives.

  3. Fabulous review! And the photo really helps. The only remeining question: Should I wait until Christmas so hubby or daughter can put it under the tree? This looks/sounds awesome! Perfect! What a great find, you guys!

  4. Don't wait Cyndy. I'd go for it now and start enjoying the rewards of another element of easing your time in the kitchen. Holidays are always hectic and anything to make them easier and healthier should be a priority. And then you can give them a hint on something else for a gift, LOL. I could think of a few for you:-)

  5. I also own this steamer but since I cook A LOT of veggies it got a bit too small for me and my husband. I cook a lot of steamed veggies in large batches so I did some research and found a Thai aluminum steamer online that works great! For those who want to steam lots of veggies at once the Thai steamer is another option. Here's the link you asked for Bob :-)


  6. The same west bend steamer is available from target.com for 54.99. I can confirm it's the same model number as the one sold at amazon.com.

  7. Thanks, Naomi. That is an awesome bargain.