How to Steam Food: Three Different Ways to Steam

How to Steam Food: Three Different Ways to Steam

Cooking with steam isn't a new method but there are a variety of ways to properly steam your food without sacrificing taste. There are a few different options when it comes to cookware, but it truly depends on what you're comfortable using in the kitchen.

Steaming food is a good alternative to heating up canned vegetables on the stove. Certain foods can actually be steamed for the sole purpose of adding bold flavors to a nearly finished dish. Most people aren't aware that there are a lot of different reasons which is what we're here for! To go over the reasons and methods of how to steam food.


What is Steam in Cooking?

Steam itself doesn't change while using it to cook, but the method broken down is the use of moist heat to create extremely hot steam that will then cook the food. The rising steam is the only moisture to touch the food, so you don't have to worry about it sucking up water like you do when you're boiling.

Even though steam is created by boiling water to the point of evaporation the food doesn't enter the water. There's also less chance that your food will accidentally burn due to the controlled heat of steam.

Why Steam Food?

When food is steamed all the nutritional value such as minerals, enzymes and vitamins remain inside the food versus boiling. When food is boiled it is not as nutrient-rich because the water sucks it out into the pot. Steaming food cooks it differently too, especially vegetables.

Steaming will break apart the tough fibers that can be hard on the digestive system. Easier digestion means your body can absorb all the necessary and healthy nutrients without extended effort. This is an extremely important benefit for anyone who has a sensitive or weak digestive system.

What Foods are Suitable for Steaming?

Did you know you can steam more than just vegetables? You'll see steam-ready veggie bags in most big chains and local grocery stores but delicious veggies aren't the only food that benefits from being steamed versus boiled.

Poultry is a big one! Chicken is a great source of vitamins and proteins but when it's boiled or cooked in a slow cooker a lot of those nutrients get sucked out, but not many people are aware you can steam chicken to avoid that from happening! Other favorites are traditional veggies like peas, carrots, green beans and corn.

Less traditional vegetables that taste better steamed are pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash for those cold months when warm food is going to be a great dinner option. Fish is another option for the protein that can be steamed rather than baked.

Love hard-boiled eggs? Steam them instead of the boil! Delicious greens like spinach, kale and bak choy are chalked full of flavor that can be a great garnish or flavorful addition to a cooked meal.

What Equipment do you Need for Steaming Food?

A big part of learning how to steam food is knowing what cookware is needed. You don't necessarily need any fancy equipment to properly steam food. Just a stovetop, a pot, and a steamer basket. The pot doesn't even have to be brand new! Just deep enough to boil the water without it touching the food in the basket.

There are other items, that are meant specifically to steam food such as a bamboo steamer, a traditional steamer, a microwave steamer, or an instant pot. 

Various Ways to Steam Food

The concept of steaming food remains the same no matter what you're using but there are different ways to use each steamer. Depending on how much you're steaming the cookware can make a really big difference.

Some foods are steamed better with specific cookware but it's not necessary. If you want to really up your steaming game or want to stick to steaming specific foods consistently certain cookware may be a better option, that a stovetop.

How to steam food with a bamboo steamer

1. How to Steam Food with a Bamboo Steamer

Did you know bamboo steamers have been around for five thousand years? Originating from China these steamers have been modernized but they're a great way to steam bread, veggies, rice, buns, and dumplings.

They're a good beginner steamer if you're just now learning how to steam food. To use this great tool first put water into a large pan or wok then fill until it is enough to pass the first line of the basket.

Line the steamer with the baskets it came with but if you're steaming something directly on it like buns use parchment paper between the steamer and the food. 

Place the bamboo steamer in the pot, preheated water or not, and let the steam rise. You may need to add more water depending on the time needed just make sure it's hot water!

2. How to Steam Food with a Stainless-steel Steamer

Stainless steel steamers come in a few different versions. There is one that looks just like two large pots stacked together, some have three, and others are a pot with a steam basket.

The double-stacked steamers are good if you want to ensure your food doesn't touch the water at all. They're all easy to use so really it just depends on your personal preference. With double and triple stacked steamers, you fill the bottom pot with water then set the other pot inside it, but the bottom has tiny holes acting as a steamer basket.

The steam rises from the bottom pan up through the holes. Place on the stove and viola! Freshly steamed food.

Steamer baskets are pretty simple. They come with a wide but shallow pot to fill with water and a matching steamer basket. What's great about these is you won't ever have to worry about making sure the pot you have will fit the basket. Steamer pots are made with coordinating steamer baskets!

Three-tiered steamers are meant for multifunctioning and can steam in different settings. Learning how to steam food can be a process so you don't need to overstress yourself if you're not ready for a multitiered steamer.

3. How to Steam Food Without a Steamer

You can still steam food without a fancy steamer pot. While cookware made for steaming is beneficial in the consistency of steaming food it is not necessary. Steamers make it easier since they are made for regulating the amount of steam that comes through, but it is possible to get the same outcome without one.

How do You Steam on the Stove?

If you have a deep enough pan you can use a shallow colander as a steaming basket. Start off with a small amount of water and test out how high you can get before it gets close to the food.

When steaming there is a good chance, you'll have to refill the water once or twice. Starting off small is going to be best when you're starting out learning how to steam food. You can put the colander or steam basket on when the water is already boiling or beforehand.

If you're testing it out for the first time it’s better to place the pot on before it's hot to gauge if there's too much water in there or not.

Steamed Food and Steamers

Using steaming as a method over boiling has good benefits. Nutrient-rich foods are kept intact as is the flavor and it’s a break to your digestive system to have softer fibers to absorb. Learning how to steam food just takes a little bit of patience and experimentation but it can be done without the use of fancy steamers. Give steaming a try! The results may surprise you.

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Theresa Lori

Hi, I'm Theresa. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill what always I share on So, in two words you can call me a BBQ lover.