My old roommate left this in my kitchen before moving out. I can't remember what it is or used for. Is this part of a grill? Does it go in my sink to trap things that shouldn't go down the drain? What is it used for?

Photo of the object

  • 10
    They are a mechanical contraption used by ninjas... if you are a young boy with a very active imagination lurking around his mother's kitchen.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 4:11
  • 2
    open the leaves, it's a steamer or strainer
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


It's a steamer basket.

If you pull the leaves apart it will look like this:

Steamer basket

Then you put it into a saucepan like this:

Steamer in saucepan

You put water into the saucepan (the legs at the bottom keep the bottom of the basket clear of the water). Then you can use it for steaming vegetables, dumplings, etc. You put a lid onto the saucepan to keep the steam in.

  • 1
    I have one of those. The little stem in the middle with the ring attached can be screwed out for use in pans with less room.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 9:46
  • 3
    ahhh!! I've always just used it as a strainer, I didn't realize that it was for this! This is so much better!!!
    – Sensoray
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 15:29
  • 1
    @RedSonja: My mom has one of those, which looks exactly like this photo. Except it has a string tied to the ring, so you can lift it out of the pot while it's hot. (Leave the string hanging outside the pot, past the lid). Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:58
  • 1
    I always thought it was a multi-purpose tool, that you can use as a sieve too.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 14:16

That is a steamer basket. Put an inch or so of water in a pot and drop that in (other way up). Add some veggies (or other food), and cook until done.

  • 21
    Use it oriented as shown, the 'petals' move outwards to fit the size of the pan
    – remco
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 19:02
  • 5
    It doesn't just "look like" a steamer basket, that's definitely what this is.
    – user428517
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 21:47
  • 1
    I've had that exact steamer for years. The legs give a little clearance to hold the food up out of the water, so don't put too much water in (less than the height of the legs). You don't want to boil the food, you want to steam it.
    – MPW
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 15:44

It does look like a steamer basket as the other answers mentioned.

If the need comes to take it out from the pan/pot after the water is boiling, I'd personally suggest to use a tool with a hook, e.g. a soup ladle:

Soup ladle with a hook

  1. connect the hook to the center ring of the steamer basket;
  2. lift it off a few centimeters over the water;
  3. let it drain for a few seconds before attempting to move its contents to a new recipient/container (or taking it out completely).

If the steamer has no ring to attach the hook to, you may use the soup ladle and a spoon to scoop out its contents (to prevent overcooking), avoiding to push down the basket petals.

A couple of other possible usages:

  • rinse light food with water (similarly to a light strainer) if placed in a large pan/container as Nick depicted (the rinsing water can be saved for other purposes, e.g. for watering plants);
  • cook large pasta (e.g. fusilli or conchiglie) with it, i.e. similarly to a pasta cooker:

Strainer pasta cooker

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – CPHPython
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:06
  • 3
    @narrowtux the pasta cooker model shown here will actually work pefectly fine as a steamer - the clearance is as high as the glossy part of the insert. But that’s actually way out of the scope of the original Q/A.
    – Stephie
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:32
  • 5
    The folding petals of the steamer basket aren't that sturdy. They're full of holes to let steam through, so you could easily bend them if you aren't careful when using as a strainer; I wouldn't recommend it unless you have nothing else and you're prepared to be careful while using and while washing it after if necessary. Your pasta strainer looks much sturdier. Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 17:02
  • 4
    As far as I can tell, this is an answer, just one that people have a lot of concerns about (advice that may not work, or may even be unsafe, and a picture of a pasta strainer pot is a bit of a non sequitur in the context of the question). So it can stay here if you like, but don't be too surprised about downvotes.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 17:38
  • @Cascabel I added to my answer a few suggestions on how to use the steamer, in particular, how to remove it safely from a pan (avoiding using tongs or direct hand contact as someone previously mentioned).
    – CPHPython
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 8:33

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