How to Use a Steamer: What Every Cook Needs to Know About Steaming Vegetables
Steaming is an excellent method of cooking that preserves both the nutritional value and flavor of food. After a long day, this is also one of the easiest ways to prepare vegetables. Despite the health benefits of steamed vegetables, many home cooks are unsure how to use a food steamer in their busy lives.
The answer is straightforward: bring water to a boil and allow steam to cook food.
This cooking style requires patience and practice to master, despite its apparent simplicity and intuitiveness. You will likely make mistakes and ruin a few dishes, but this should not discourage you. As soon as you learn to cook with steam, you’ll notice that your vegetables taste better, and the process becomes more straightforward.
To help you get started, let’s take a closer look at the various types of food steamers and some of our favorite tips for learning how to steam your vegetables like a pro. Six Useful Hints for a Food Steamer
Choose Between an Electric and Stovetop Steamer
Before learning how to use a food steamer, it is necessary to have a general understanding of its type. Below is a brief overview of two food steamers you will likely employ.
Vegetables are most steamed in a steamer basket. This simple household item is directly inserted into a pot or pan before being used on the stove or microwave.
The concept is simple; add a small amount of water to the pot, place the vegetables in the basket, and cover the pot. The steam will remain contained as the water boils and cooks the vegetables.
The total cooking time for vegetables depends on the type and quantity being prepared. Typically, you’ll want the vegetables to be soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork but retain some firmness. Soggy vegetables indicate that they have been overcooked.
Steaming meat is more complex. When the fish is cooked, the thickest part should begin to flake. Chicken should always be cooked through to the center.
An electric steamer operates on the same principle as a steam basket but is a countertop-mounted cooking appliance designed to do the work for you.
Add water and vegetables to be steamed, close and lock the lid, and select the appropriate setting on your appliance. That is all. Like other small kitchen appliances, there are numerous types of steamers from which to choose. Some food steamers have multiple tiers that allow you to prepare an entire meal within a single appliance.
Others are smaller and can only prepare a single item. The most prevalent instance is the electric rice cooker. No matter which type you choose, all food steamers have advantages and disadvantages. Before purchasing any home appliance, it’s always a good idea to read the reviews.
6 Tips for Steamer Use
Now that you know the type of steamer you will be using, here are some general tips to help you learn how to use the steamer and create the most delicious dishes possible.
1. Don’t Add Too Much Water
First, water is the most critical component of steam cooking. Adding the proper amount of water is, of course, crucial. Using a steam basket on the stove, you should fill the pot with about one or two inches of water. Once the steamer basket is placed in the pot, you do not want the water to rise above it, as this is one of the quickest ways to ruin the meal.
However, you should not add too little water, as this could cause the pan to catch fire if the water boils before the food is done cooking.
2. First, Boil the Water
When learning how to steam vegetables, it is common to want to throw everything into the pot at once and turn the heat on. However, you may find that the final dish is improved if you bring the water to a boil before adding the vegetables or other ingredients.
Once the water is boiling, add the vegetables, cover them, and allow the steaming process to commence. You may also wish to experiment with increasing or decreasing the heat while the food is steaming.
3. Avoid Steaming Too Long
This is where things begin to become problematic. One of the most challenging tasks for a home cook is to get everything on the table simultaneously while keeping everything hot and delicious.
Vegetables that are steamed require only a few minutes to prepare, so they are an excellent last-minute task. Nonetheless, there are times when you may find that your vegetables or other food have finished steaming before you are ready to consume them.
In this circumstance, simply turning off the steamer or heat source will not be sufficient. Instead of leaving them in the pot to continue cooking and become soggy, place them in a bowl filled with ice water. This will help your vegetables remain crisp.
4. Improve Steam by Adding Stock and Herbs
Although the most common way to steam food is with water, you are not limited to this method. Be inventive. Infuse your food with an alternative flavor.
Try using chicken or vegetable broth in place of plain old water. Consider adding salt or lemon to the water before it begins to boil. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, add rosemary sprigs, sliced garlic, dill sprigs, or lemongrass to the water.
There will be a hint of flavor, but less than if the herbs were applied directly to the food. As you experiment, remember that these variables may alter the time required to reach a boil, affecting the total cooking time.
5. Ensure that the seal is airtight.
For food to cook correctly in a steamer, the steam must meet the food. With a lid that does not fit tightly, a small amount of steam will escape, making it more difficult to cook food.
In most cases, this may merely be an inconvenience that prolongs the process or slightly alters the flavor of the food. In more extreme circumstances, such as cooking chicken, you may end up with undercooked food. A meat thermometer is the most effective way to avoid serving undercooked food.
A loose fit will occur when using a steam basket on the stove. When this happens, try placing a tea towel between the lid and the top of the steamer. If the cover of your electric steamer is loose, you should not use it at all.
6. Prepare Food Before Steaming
Preparing your food before cooking is another method for creating a delectable meal with steaming. You may wish to include herbs, spices, or garlic when cooking vegetables. Instead of simply scattering the herbs in the pot, roll the vegetables in a bowl containing olive oil and herbs. You may also sauté garlic and olive oil and add them at the end to the vegetables.
You can also cook fish and chicken in the same manner. You may also wish to consider marinating the meat for a brief period.
The Bottom Line on Steam Cooking
Once you’ve learned how to use a food steamer, steaming is a simple cooking method. As with any new appliance, it may require some experimentation to master. Once you get the hang of it, however, you’ll be able to prepare a flavorful bowl of vegetables or a succulent chicken breast without breaking a sweat, all while preserving the complete nutritional profile of the food.
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