Why Is My Food Steamer Not Working?

If you’re a food lover, then chances are that you own a food steamer.

A lot of people use it to cook rice, vegetables, and other healthy foods.

As with any kitchen appliance, you’re bound to experience failure.

Your food steamer might not work due to several reasons. First, the water level in your pan might be too low or too high, your steam basket might be dirty from old cooking residue or it a section might be broken or even not plugged in.

The problems vary from one product to another. The majority of the problems occur in electric food steamers.

No need to worry though, there are solutions to every issue you may encounter with your steamer.

We’ve compiled a list of common issues and how to solve them.

Food steamer parts

14 Common Food Steamer Problems and How to Fix Them

It is not unusual for a food steamer to break down.

There are many different reasons why this may happen, but here are six of the most common problems with steamers and how to solve them.

1. The Steamer Does Not Produce Steam

There might not be any water in the tank.

Also, your food steamer may have a faulty cut-off switch that automatically turns it off if there is no more steam being produced.

This will also cause an error message on the front of your appliance to appear.

Ensure that the water levels are appropriate.

Also, set up the steamer correctly so that the components work as they should.

2. The Power Does Not Turn On

The fuse or circuit breaker could have blown.

If the fuse goes, it’s usually because there is too much power flowing through your appliance or because of a short circuit in the machine.

A bad switch will also cause this problem to happen and needs to be replaced immediately before you can use your food steamer again

3. The Timer Does Not Work

It may seem like an easy fix, but the timer switch may be broken.

If it is not working then you won’t have any way of knowing how long to cook your food for.

Have the timer looked at and replaced if broken.

Oster food steamer timer not working

4. The Water Doesn’t Heat Up

It could mean that there is no power getting through to the appliance or that something has gone wrong with the heating element in your machine.

This is likely the cause if you have checked that there is water in your tank, and it’s even possible for this to happen after just one use.

Test the heating element using a multimeter to determine if there are any breaks in the coil. If there are no breaks, the element is in good condition.

5. The Appliance Leaks

There are a few common reasons why an appliance might leak or overflow during use which could be easily fixed.

If it’s leaking from underneath then there may not be enough water in your tank.

This is likely if you are trying to steam for a long time or cooking dense foods like potatoes.

It’s important to have enough water underneath the plate.

Monitor the behavior of the steamer and check on the water level indicator to avoid having the levels running low.

6. Food Gets Stuck Inside

This usually happens when the steaming plate isn’t properly in place or it is not sitting securely on top of your tank.

It’s also possible for food to get stuck inside if you are cooking too much at once.

This can be avoided by only filling up your machine halfway and checking that it sits flat before turning it on.

7. Plastic Burning Smell

It may be that your food steamer is overheating as a result of being left on for too long or it could mean that there is plastic inside the appliance which needs to be checked and removed.

This smell can come from other parts of the machine even if they are not made out of plastic, so make sure you check everything thoroughly.

Read: What Does a Food Steamer Do?

8. Mold In the Steamer

Mold forms in the steamer if food particles are left inside the appliance. It’s important to thoroughly clean the food steamer after every use.

Also, don’t leave steamed food sitting in the machine for long. Mold creates a foul smell and creates unhygienic conditions for cooking.

If this starts to happen regularly there is something wrong with your appliance.

This needs sorting out as soon as possible or else all of your future food will be contaminated too.

9. Limescale

Water from your tap contains lime, which will build up in the steamer. This can be rectified by using distilled or bottled water to fill it instead of tap water.

You can also clean the steamer with vinegar to eliminate the discoloration.

10. Steam Doesn’t Rise

The most common reason for steam not rising is that the steamer is too full.

Ensure you are only using the recommended amount of water. Also, position the food in an elevated manner to avoid blocking the bottom tray.

Utilize all the food steamer baskets necessary and ensure that you arrange the items in order of cooking times.  

11. Bacteria

If you haven’t correctly cleaned and dried out the unit after use then bacteria could accumulate inside.

To keep things hygienic, ensure that you always clean and dry the steamer thoroughly after use.

Ensure that you also store the appliance carefully. Keep it in an area free of moisture, dirt, and dust that may affect its operation.

Do you think food steamers are worth it? Read the article to find out

12. Steam Escapes from the Side of the Steamer

This may be because your water level is too high, or food is blocking steam vents on the sides of the cooker.

Also, check that nothing has come loose inside and clogged up vents.

You can also try using more liquid to see if this resolves it- just remember not to fill the steamer right to the top.

Food is undercooked or overcooked

If your food looks boiled, not steam cooked it may be that you have chosen a cooking time that was too long for what you were trying to cook.

Remember that vegetables need less time than meats and fish so always check this before choosing a cooking time.

If the food is overcooked, it might be that you have chosen a shorter cooking time.

13. Food Smells like Burnt Plastic

This could indicate a problem with either the steamer or its power supply. As such it would be best to unplug the appliance.

Examine the components carefully for any damage before using the appliance again. If the problem persists, consult a professional.

If you’re looking for a food steamer, check out the Hamilton Digital Food Steamer.

14. Steamer Getting Too Hot

Many electric food steamers will get hot at the bottom due to their heating element.

If this is a problem, ensure that you place it on an oven mitt or trivet when in use.

Make sure there are no flammable materials nearby that could catch fire if they come into contact with the steamer while it’s turned on.


If you find that your food steamer is not working properly, there are several potential reasons for this issue.

By troubleshooting these common problems, you can often resolve the issue and restore your food steamer’s functionality.

However, if the problem persists despite your efforts, it is advisable to consult the manufacturer or a professional for further assistance or potential repairs.

Remember, regular maintenance and proper usage are key to ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your food steamer.


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One Comment

  1. shaun clutterbuck says:

    On the tefal steam cuisine model VC100130 i am missing the plastic collar that sits around the element.

    Is this likely to give me any problems as the steamer still seems to work ok, unfortunately there are no longer any spares available that i can find!

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