This is a method of cooking food by using moist heat that results from the steam from boiling water.
The food only comes in contact with only the steam and not the water.
In order to start the process of steaming, the water should have reached a temperature of about 38 degrees Celsius.
Since water boils at 100 degrees Celsius, this is the highest temperature that the food can be cooked via this method.
Types Of Steam Cooking
- Direct steaming: This is achieved when the food comes into direct contact with the steam, for example, when steaming fish on a rack with holes over boiling water.
- Indirect steaming: This is achieved when the food is placed in a steamer insert, for example, and placed inside another vessel of boiling water.
What Foods Are Best Steamed
The type of foods that are most suitable are those that require moisture to be soft rather than achieve a crispy and brown nature.
Below are some of the foods that are best cooked through steaming:
- Vegetables, mostly the leafy green ones, e.g., cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and shellfish
- Chinese dumplings
Below are some of the tools you can use for steaming your food:
Bamboo Steamer Basket
The bamboo basket is mostly placed over boiling water in a wok.
Furthermore, the bamboo wood adds flavor to the food, and moisture does not accumulate when the steam cools down.
Stainless Steel Steamers
These steamers have similar prices to the bamboo baskets, and they take lesser space compared to them.
Moreover, they are portable depending on your pot sizes since they fold accordingly.
If you can’t afford a steamer basket, you can use your very own microwave. However, for these, you will require a microwave steam insert/basket.
Instant Pot Steamer Basket
Instant Pots are great for steaming tough foods that don’t soften fast enough, for example, artichokes.
For these pots, you require a steamer insert that elevates food in the pressure cooker.
Other steaming tools include a universal steamer with a lid.
How To Steam
- Pour some water at the base of the cooking pot/vessel you are using.
- Place the food you are steaming in the steamer basket/insert.
- Place the insert inside your cooking pot cover and let the water boil enough to produce steam.
Vegetables are steamed in about five minutes.
When they pass the seven to eight minutes threshold, they lose their green color and are less appealing.
As for meat and fish, it will steam in about three to ten minutes.
Ways To Avoid Over Steaming
Avoid Overcrowding Your Steamer Basket/Insert.
Steaming requires the free flow of air around the food, but when it is crowded, the food cooks unevenly, leaving the food with some parts over steamed more than the others.
Cut the food pieces into equal sizes
To ensure each piece cooks evenly at a similar duration of time.
Avoid using too much of the liquid used for steaming
It is advisable to use just a tiny amount of water that will be just enough to produce enough steam to cook your chosen food.
You should also avoid opening the lid frequently since this lowers the boiling temperature.
Ensure you wait for the water to boil. Don’t rush the steaming process.
In order to add flavor to your steamed food, it is highly advisable to season the steamed food with salt and pepper, vinegar, or even spicy herbs.
Can Steaming Overcook Food?
Since steaming requires cooking at a relatively low temperature, the food turns out evenly cooked compared to cooking with direct heat at a very high temperature which easily leads to overcooking.
Advantages Of Steaming
Steaming has a lot of advantages, as noted below:
It is healthy. Steaming food ensures you maintain the nutrients in the food compared to when frying or boiling the food. Furthermore, you don’t require to add any fat or oil when cooking hence reducing the amount of cholesterol in the food.
The food maintains its tasty flavor since none of the food juices is maintained through steaming compared to direct heating or boiling.
The steaming equipment is cheap and easy to use. The steaming baskets are not very expensive, and you do not need further assistance to use the equipment.
Steamed food is characteristically soft. The food resulting from steaming is soft and easy to digest. They are therefore good for children, the sick, or the elderly who have weak digestion.
Food does not get overheated//overcooked . Since steaming does not require a very high temperature, the food is not prone to get overcooked as when cooked through other methods.
Steam cooking is quick and tidier. Steaming food is a quick process since you start cooking without waiting for water first to boil and allows you to cook more than one food simultaneously; hence, you will use fewer cooking pots.
Steam cooking uses less energy. This cooking method is energy efficient in that you are not going to use more heat energy, for example, to first boil water for cooking, thereby saving energy.
Steam cooking is versatile. This cooking method applies to fruits, vegetables, meat, and starches, for example, potatoes.
Disadvantages Of Steam Cooking
Steaming is not compatible with some foods. Although steaming works well with vegetables, fish, and poultry for food like pork and beef, more heat is required to cook them due to their tough nature.
It takes a lot of time to cook. Since high temperatures are not required for steaming, it takes longer to cook than other cooking methods.
The steam may burn your hands when handling the food. You have to be careful when handling your steaming equipment to avoid burning yourself since the steam cooking temperatures are not low at all. When opening the lid of a steam vessel, open it with your face away from the mouth of the vessel.
If less than the required amount of boiling liquid is used, it may fully evaporate hence causing the container to burn even without the steam having served its purpose of cooking the food.
Lack of visual appeal. This applies mainly to steamed meat that does not have that appealing caramelized look, let say from when it is grilled. Furthermore, no gravy is produced from steaming meat or fish.
Requires constant attention. When using this method, you must constantly check whether the boiling liquid is replenished and whether the liquid is boiling or not.
In conclusion, steaming food has its advantages and disadvantages, which are quite a few.
Therefore, you should consider giving this cooking method a try depending on your priorities at the moment without discarding the option entirely since it has a lot of benefits.