“ Brand: Wilkinson / Type: Steamers „
My previous steamer wasn't broken, but just damaged through general wear and tear, when we happened upon this one. We were browsing the hardware store Wilkinsons looking for something specific at the time, I forget what, but it wasn't a streamer I know that much. My partner 'thinks' he can spot a good deal at a thousand paces and when he offered to buy it to replace our other one, and without me having to twist his up his arm up his back too, I grabbed it and ran to the checkout. There was absolutely no research into our purchase, and as a new item to the store's range I didn't expect to find any reviews or the like either. This is why I write my review now, to explain the pro's and con's so other people can make an informed decision.
~~~ The Steamer ~~~
The Wilko's steamer is more or less as one would expect, it looks similar to my old one, and performs more or less the same. There are a few aspects to this 'own brand' appliance that really surprised me, and I hadn't seen on another streamer before. My old one was about five or six years old, so I'm not saying that other steamers don't have similar specs, just that as I hadn't done any research into my purchase, I hadn't seen any.
~~~ Storage ~~~
This streamer has three stackable tiers and holds and 8kg capacity, so it's ideal for a family of up to five depending on ages etc. Two adults and three kids would be perfect, but this is most definitely not suitable for five adults. When not in use, the baskets sit inside each other, and are able to be stacked upon the main base (called the hub in the instructions), so it takes up minimal cupboard space. I like this feature, and it's one I would have had on my list of 'must haves' if I had put proper care and attention into the purchase. The bases to each tier are universal and each one will clip into either basket, be it the smallest or largest. The baskets are numbered so you can see which goes where. I'm glad of this, as there is only a slight difference in size. One sits inside two, etc. and to stow away, you invert the baskets over the hub, and place the lid on the stack to complete the process. The power cord isn't able to be stored on the appliance, but at roughly 75cm long, it doesn't get in the way too much.
~~~ Water Capacity ~~~
In use, you plug in and add water to the reservoir. This water chamber holds a capacity of one litre, however there is no need to measure this out as the maximum level is clearly defined on the inside, and there is also a clear water indication window on the front of the appliance for easy checking while performing the cooking process. My bugbear though, is that the steam collection tray, which I collect the vegetable juices in for making gravy, holds a maximum of 400ml. When the maximum is reached, the cooking juices overflow into the water reservoir. The instructions inform me to empty this container every 35 minutes or so to prevent this happening, but I need to do it more often than that.
~~~ Instructions ~~~
The instructions are clear but extremely basic. There's some information that is needed to operate the functions but isn't included, and you are left to muddle through. This machine isn't the easiest or most intuitive to operate from the off, so I do recommend taking some time to familiarise yourself with both the instructions and the machine before use and hopefully you will understand them more than I did. There is a distinct lack of detail and it causes confusion and anger. I'm not an angry person, far from it, but this steamer really gets me cross.
~~~ Programs ~~~
There are three different cooking styles featured on this machine:
1. Automatic Programs - there are seven of these plus a manual setting. Rice, chicken, fish, eggs, fresh shellfish, fresh vegetables, and fruit. Upon switching on, you are asked to choose your selection, set the time and press start. The timer will count down a recommended amount of time (180g of rice = 33 mins, 6 eggs = 23 mins, 700g fresh veg = 35 mins etc) until the time is up and then cooking will finish.
In theory, it sounds simple enough but I beg to ask the question; why if it's an automatic program to I need to select the time I want it to cook for? Also in the instruction booklet there is no mention how to do this. Like a watch, you simply use the left and right buttons (+ and -) to move to the next digit, and the up and down (set and start/off). Easy when you know how.
2. Manual Programs - There are the same 8 cooking programs as before (7 plus a manual setting). Rather oddly the instructions for this are exactly the same as with the Automatic Programs. Which is again why I ask, what is the point?
3. Pre-set cooking. This is great if you need to go pick the kids up from school etc. at the same time as you should really be putting the steamer on. Simply plug in, the first Zero on the screen will flash, and set the time required (as mentioned before), press set, and then select your program. The green 'wait' light will illuminate, and as the clock counts down, when it reaches Zero, the steamer will come on at the correct setting.
I do recommend with all of these features, that the item of food that takes the longest to cook is placed in the bottom tier, probably potatoes, and carrots (we like them soft in our house), and in the next, chicken, salmon or other vegetables, and maybe green beans or broccoli that only need a matter of seconds/minutes at the top.
To tell the truth, this steamer is such a confusing little beast, I now pre-set the steamer to come on in one minute, if I need it straight away. There doesn't seem to be an option to just switch it on and go. I love technology, but it hates me. I tend to love anything quirky and the more features etc. the better, and that's why I was pleased when my partner pointed this out. I thought that having the extra features would enable me to get better results, not that the ones before were bad, but just better.
~~~ Advantages ~~~
I love the look of the steamer, the satin stainless steel and sleek black finish appeals to me, and fits well within my modern kitchen setting. I do think that this would look good anywhere though. I like that the baskets are dishwasher proof and even if you haven't got one, all they need is a quick dip in soapy water and the food simply washes away, no elbow grease required. The transparent baskets/tiers are great as they enable you to see the food within, and check on the cooking process without actually disturbing the food and letting the all-important steam out.
I love the way that you can see what the steamer is doing and when - when it's plugged in, the power light comes on; when it's waiting, has a program set or is warming up to produce steam I know that too, by little green illuminated lights along the top. I like the red illuminated buttons to press even though they aren't solid and feel like bubbles; along with the red illuminated water indicator window and that it lets me see at a glance if more water is needed. I quite enjoy the blue display screen, as it's big and bright and clear. It looks well matched with the other red and green lights, it brightens up the appearance and makes an otherwise boring item look fun.
~~~ Disadvantages ~~~
At £25 this is rather expensive for a non-branded steamer. I had hoped that if it performed well, I'd have got a bargain by paying that price compared to the high end brands. The little drawer where you add more water during the cooking action is so incredibly small. It's about the same length as a matchbox and half the width. It's of practically no use, as it holds so little water and it doesn't drain away quickly enough, that it's much easier to remove the baskets of food, and add the water to the main reservoir. The water/juice collection tray is a little on the small size, and needs to be emptied often. I would love to see a lip or spout on this too, to make pouring the fluids into a jug or saucepan much more easier. Saying that, I haven't scolded myself doing that with this steamer yet, and on my old one it was a weekly occurrence.
I dislike the lack of information on the instructions - the fact that there are no guidelines on how to set the clock, such a basic task, but an important one to all three functions, is a major flaw for me. The most disappointing feature for me though, is that there isn't a simply start and stop function. The pre-sets and automatic functions are all well and good, but for someone who is lacking on time or just wants something easy to use, will be seriously annoyed with this, as am I. I've owned this streamer for five or six weeks now, and it's used religiously at least twice a week and I'm still confused with how to use the settings; I have to refer to the manual every time I use it, and that's not much help either.
~~~ My thoughts ~~~
I like the compactness of this steamer, and its overall looks; I did so want to love the functions it performs, but they don't work too well. The auto and the manual functions are more or less the same thing and as such, one of them seems a little redundant. The fact that I have to empty the water collection tray after twenty minutes or so, means that I can't just set it to do its thing and come back to it when I hear the 'ping' that announces my food is prepared, is really annoying. Lately the whole thing has just got on my nerves and I'm considering taking it back for a refund. There are some branded steamers in the current Argos sale at the moment, so I'm tempted to buy one of those. I SHALL be doing my research before I rush into anything though, that's one lesson that I've learnt.
I can't in all honesty recommend this electric steamer, and I can only award it two stars. I do feel even that is being generous.