Food steamers have been used for centuries in the kitchen. As a healthy cooking method, it is not surprising that they remain popular among chefs and health-conscious individuals. You will enjoy nutrient-rich, savory, and moist meals. Modern steamers simplify the cooking process with preprogrammed cooking modes and quick cooking times.
If you want to cook seared food at home, you must know what to purchase. Understanding how a steamer operates, the different types, and the available features will help you choose a steamer that fits your cooking needs and lifestyle.
This guide will teach you what to look for and recommend the most popular steamers available.
What is a food steamer?
Using boiling water to generate steam, a food steamer is utilized for cooking meat and vegetables. Depending on its design and function, it may be a simple or complex appliance, but its only part is to cook food with the aid of steam by applying pressure to the lid.
A Pressure cooker also uses steam to cook food, but it requires a closed environment to maximize pressure levels and cook food at higher temperatures. A steamer only utilizes steam at normal pressures produced by boiling water. Steaming is more desirable than boiling.
Using steam heat allows the temperature of the cooking water to be maintained at a low level, preserving the food’s nutrients and preventing it from scorching while reducing cooking times relative to other methods.
How Food Steamers Work
Food steamers prepare food by surrounding it with hot water vapor. The lower compartment heats water to the point where it becomes steam. The rising steam cooks the food surrounding it.
This gentle cooking method allows food to cook quickly, retain nutrients, and remain moist. High-pressure steamers are the most effective type. This method speeds up the cooking process and better regulates the temperature. This makes using the steamer straightforward and straightforward.
The second type of steamer operates with low pressure. This method is utilized by traditional bamboo baskets, pot inserts, and certain types of electric steamers. As a result, steam can escape during the cooking process, as the lid is not sealed to the base. This requires water level and temperature monitoring to ensure even cooking. In addition, these steamers need more time to reach the proper temperature and cook food.
Types of Popular Steamers
Understanding the type of food steamer, you are utilizing is essential and beneficial in the long run. In general, two types of food steamers are employed.
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 quite 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 cook 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 still retain some firmness. Soggy vegetables indicate that they have been overcooked.
Steaming meat is somewhat more complex. When the fish is cooked, the thickest part should begin to flake. Chicken should always be cooked through to the center.
Electric Food Steamer
An electric steamer operates on the same principle as a steam basket, but it is a countertop-mounted cooking appliance designed to do the work for you.
You add water and vegetables to be steamed, close and lock the lid, and then 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 types you choose, all food steamers have advantages and disadvantages. Before purchasing any home appliance, it’s always a good idea to read the reviews.
What Foods Can Be Prepared Using a Steamer?
As a steamer owner or someone looking for one, it is vital to use it to its full potential. With your coffee maker, blender, and toaster taking up valuable counter space, you may wonder if it’s worth the investment. To summarize, a steamer can cook a variety of foods. We’ve compiled a list of foods that cook well in a steamer, which you can find below. We’ve divided the list into sections to make it easier to read and to allow you to skip over foods you’re already familiar with.
We’ll look at some of the different foods that can be cooked in a steamer to help you get the most out of your steamer.
The most obvious category is vegetables. Probably the most common reason to purchase a steamer is to steam vegetables. This is so popular because steaming vegetables is a healthier alternative to boiling. When vegetables are boiled, more nutrients are retained in the vegetables themselves instead of being lost in the cooking water.
These can be steamed to perfection in only two minutes.
including carrots, potatoes, fennel, and turnips can be cooked in a steamer. Due to their density takes longer to cook than other vegetables, but they retain significantly more flavor and nutrients. Carrots will take approximately ten minutes to cook, while potatoes can take up to thirty minutes.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale, respond exceptionally well to steaming, and some even believe it imparts a sweeter flavor. Cut the larger vegetables into smaller pieces and steam until crisp for approximately six minutes.
Pumpkin and squash
You can cut summer squash and pumpkins into cubes and prepare them similarly to root vegetables, or you can steam them whole. They are challenging to chop, so leaving them whole will save you prep time. Once they are cooked, you can scoop out the insides. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, steaming it whole could take up to an hour, but chopping it would be the more efficient option.
Steaming frozen vegetables is an excellent method for cooking them without causing them to become mushy. They will take only a couple of minutes in smaller portions.
2. Fish and Meat
Few people consider steaming their meat and fish in a steamer, but it works well because it retains more moisture than baking or roasting. You can also add herbs and seasonings directly to the food or steaming water to impart flavor.
3. Fish and Shellfish
Steaming fish is an excellent method for keeping the flesh moist. Always, cooking times depend on the size of the item being cooked. Fish is done when its flesh becomes flaky, shrimp are done when they turn pink, and clams and mussels are done when their shells are completely open.
4. Beef and Lamb
Beef and lamb tenderloins can be steamed with excellent results that retain volume and moisture. However, tougher cuts of meat do not fare as well. However, even though the steam is not as hot as oven temperatures, it will cook the meat more quickly than dry air.
You can steam chicken breasts, legs, thighs, wings, or even the entire bird. It is helpful to have a meat thermometer on hand to ensure that the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit when cooking poultry.
For soft-boiled eggs with runny centers, it is necessary to steam the eggs for six minutes. To prepare eggs for use in salads and sandwiches, steam them for 12 minutes.
Other Steamer Applications
Additionally, you can use your steamer to defrost and reheat previously cooked and frozen meals. Always ensure that the food is piping hot throughout when reheating to provide safety for eating.
How To Use A Food Steamer
Steaming is an excellent method for cooking food without compromising its nutritional value or flavor. It is also one of the simplest methods for preparing vegetables after a long day. Despite the health benefits of steamed vegetables, many home cooks are unsure how to use a food steamer in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
The solution is straightforward: boil some water and allow the steam to cook the food.
Although it may sound simple and self-explanatory, mastering this cooking style requires some patience and practice. You will make mistakes and likely ruin a few dishes along the way, but this should not deter you. As you gain experience cooking with steam, you will quickly notice that your vegetables taste better, and the process becomes more straightforward.
To help you get started, let’s look at the various types of food steamers and some of our favorite tips for learning how to steam vegetables like a pro.
Step 1: Using a Collapsible Steamer Basket
Popular and inexpensive, collapsible steamer baskets are highly portable. Add half an inch of water to the bottom of the pot.
When using a steamer basket, it is vital not to allow the water level to reach the basket. Once the water reaches the top of the basket, the food will be ruined. You must continually check the water tank to prevent the pan from catching fire due to a lack of water.
Step 2: Add Veggies to the Steamer
Place within the steamer. Then, add vegetables; smaller pieces are optimal. Cover the pot and heat it over high heat.
Step 3: Bring to a Boil
Bring to a boil and allow to simmer. When is it done? It depends on you. Wait until they are tender or remove them earlier for a crunchier texture. Different vegetables require different cooking times. Check the specifics of your recipe.
Step 4: Using a Bamboo Steamer
A stackable bamboo steamer lets you experiment with advanced cooking techniques, such as cooking an entire meal in layers.
Step 5: Layer the Veggies
Add the bottom portion of the bamboo steamer to a pot containing about 2 inches of boiling water—layer in some veggies, like bok choy.
Step 6: Add Flavor
Add aromatics such as garlic and ginger slices or herbs. These seasonings will rise with the steam to flavor the top layer. It is a healthy and tasty method for imparting flavors naturally. Onions, garlic, herbs, ginger, and citrus zest are excellent aromatic ingredients.
Step 7: Add the Protein
Now, the topmost layer. This is an excellent spot for cooking meat or fish, and it makes it easier to determine when it’s done. Begin with a layer of lettuce, followed by the protein. It will facilitate the removal of ingredients from the steamer.
Step 8: When Is It Complete?
It will be opaque and firm to the touch when fish is cooked.
Step 9: Using a Makeshift Steamer
Additionally, you can create a makeshift steamer. Only a pot of boiling water and something to suspend food above it are required.
Step 10: Start Steaming
This handheld strainer performs admirably. Cover the pot and steam until desired.
Step 11: Enjoy!
Try these methods and steam your way to a healthier diet. Watch our instructional video for more information.
Tips For Using A Food Steamer
Now that you know the type of steamer you’ll 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.
When using a steam basket on the stove, you should first 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. Bring the Water to a Boil
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, 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. Don’t Steam For 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. Boost the Steam By Using Stock & 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. Add rosemary sprigs, sliced garlic, dill sprigs, or lemongrass to the water if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
There will be a hint of flavor, but it will be less than if the herbs were applied directly to the food. As you experiment, keep in mind that these variables may alter the time required to reach a boil, affecting the total cooking time.
5. Make Sure the Seal is Air-Tight
For food to cook correctly in a steamer, the steam must contact the food. A small amount of moisture will escape with a lid that does not fit tightly, making it more difficult to cook food.
In most cases, this may merely be an inconvenience that prolongs the processor and 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.
When using a steam basket on the stove, a loose fit will occur. When this happens, try placing a tea towel between the lid and the top of the steamer. If the lid of your electric steamer is loose, you should not use it at all.
6. Preparation Before Steaming
Preparing your food before cooking is another method for creating a delectable meal with steaming.
When cooking vegetables, you may wish to include herbs, spices, or garlic. 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.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Food Steamer
There are numerous food steamers on the market. Keeping in mind certain factors, such as those listed below, can assist you in selecting the most suitable option.
Choose a tried-and-true brand. There are numerous brands on the market. Issues with quality and after-sales service may arise if you purchase steamers from a less-familiar manufacturer.
Several other materials are also utilized in the production of steamers. Glass and ceramic are widespread. However, both are fragile and susceptible to cracking, breaking, or chipping. They may also not conduct heat as efficiently as their metal counterparts.
The traditional material is bamboo. The natural materials will look exquisite as you display your meal in the steamer. However, bamboo requires extensive maintenance and may not be as hygienic as alternative materials.
Polypropylene and silicone are contemporary materials that are occasionally used. Be cautious about purchasing only a steamer made from these materials. Less-durable containers may also leach harmful chemicals into your food.
Storing and portability
The most common capacities for food steamers are 3, 4, 9, and 10 liters. Choose one that accommodates the size of your family and can prepare a variety of foods. Although most steamers can be used to cook various foods, some steamers can cook a greater variety of foods than others.
Examine the quality of the steaming bowl. Typically, a food steamer has two to three tiers of steaming bowls. Examine whether it has a drip tray and whether it is easy to handle.
Do not make purchasing decisions based solely on price. The least expensive and most expensive options are not necessarily the best. Invest in a high-quality steamer made from durable materials and numerous user-friendly features.
Your food steamer should make your life healthier and more convenient. It should be more efficient and user-friendly.
Choose a steamer that is large enough to cook the entire meal. It would be best if you did not overfill or cram the food container. This will prevent the steam from cooking the food effectively. Traditional baskets are typically limited in size, necessitating the purchase of multiple baskets. Other steamers attempt to conserve space for compact storage, but at the expense of cooking capacity. A steamer that can fit a whole fish will be adequate for cooking your entire meal.
The ability to add tiers to your steamer increases its utility. This allows you to cook multiple types of food at once. You could prepare two varieties of vegetables. Alternatively, you could prepare vegetables on one tier and meat on another. You could prepare both the main course and dessert as separate courses for those with a sweet tooth.
If you are considering electric food steamers made of stainless steel, consider the functions they can perform. While you’re concentrating on the steaming capability, some units are capable of so much more.
Easy to maintain and clean
Choose a steamer that is simple to maintain and clean. Most steamers include detachable and washable components. Once completed, it can be reinstalled.
For an electric food steamer, put approximately 1 inch of water in the steamer tank before adding food. If using a stovetop steamer, bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a pot or kettle before placing the steamer basket inside. Make sure that the water level does not reach the basket.
Electric food steamers come in various shapes and sizes, including stackable tiers and trays with one to three levels. The foods are cooked by adding water to the tank and heating it to generate steam.
Add 1-2 cups of water to the water tank at the bottom of the electric cooker.
Steaming fish is a newer method for maintaining the meat’s moisture content than roasting or frying. You can add seasoning directly to the meat before cooking or add it to the water used for steaming. Only steamed meat is tender.
Consider collapsible tiers if space is limited, and make sure they’re dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup. There are even electric food steamers with pre-programmed cooking functions and timers and ‘delay start’ and ‘keep warm’ features for effortless meal preparation.
A food steamer can be used to cook vegetables such as broccoli and carrots, seafood such as fish fillets and crab legs, and even rice. Using the microwave as a steamer or cooking on the stovetop, steamer recipes effectively prevent the breakdown or loss of nutrients during cooking.
Although not strictly a kitchen necessity, electric steamers are indispensable for some. Frequently, steamers are purchased for health reasons, as steaming is believed to preserve more vitamins and nutrients than boiling. It is a significantly gentler cooking method than most, preserving the flavor and texture of all foods.
I describe the experiments I conducted to determine how much energy was consumed when boiling or baking potatoes in my book. (The oven finished six times more power than the stovetop.)
Depending on the vegetable, it can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes to steam frozen vegetables. Typically, roasted frozen vegetables require 20 to 25 minutes, with a flip halfway through. Grilling frozen vegetables usually take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the vegetable.
The chicken can be steamed using a traditional steamer that fits atop a saucepan, a rack that sits at the bottom of a tightly covered pan and suspends the chicken above the water, or an electric steamer.
To the Peak of Perfection!
The answer to the question of what can be cooked in a steamer is virtually anything! Steaming is an excellent method for cooking food to perfection. It preserves nutrients and moisture that would otherwise be lost during boiling or roasting.
Not only is steamed food healthier, but you can also steam an entire meal using a multi-layered steamer and adding each layer according to its cooking time. Remember that every time you open the steamer, you will lose a significant amount of heat (and steam), so try to do so as little as possible. Ensure that there is sufficient water in the bottom of your steamer to prevent it from drying out.
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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