Steaming Tips

To lock in a food's color, flavor, and nutrients, just add steam

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Sure, the physics behind steam cooking is fascinating—how liquid heated to the boiling point turns to vapor, which, when allowed to circulate around foods, transfers energy and heat to those foods to cook them. But it’s the tasty results that make the cooking method a wonder. The moist, indirect heat produces crisp-tender veggies, fluffy grains, and al dente dumplings, all while concentrating flavor. With no fat required to prevent foods from sticking and no liquid to leach nutrients out of ingredients or make them soggy, steaming keeps recipes naturally light and healthful too.

3 Easy Steps

For perfect results every time, take it step by step.

1. Fill large pot or wok no more than one-third full of water or other liquid—enough to come just below steamer —and bring water to a fast boil.

2. Fill steamer insert no more than halfway with ingredients. (If cooking larger amounts of food, steam in batches or in stackable inserts.) Set basket or insert with ingredients over boiling water.

3. Cover tightly, and steam for recommended time, checking occasionally to make sure water hasn’t boiled away and food is cooking evenly.

Beyond Basic Steamers remain one of the most inexpensive kitchen items around.  Basic perforated metal inserts can be found in any grocery store for under $10. Calphalon, Cuisinart, and other pan manufacturers sell steamer inserts with lids that fit snugly on top of their saucepans for about $35 to $70. Or think outside the box and consider one of these alternatives.

Joyce Chen 10-inch Bamboo Steamer Set Designed to be placed inside a wok, this three-piece Asian kitchen staple is pretty enough to use as a serving dish and large enough with its stacking baskets to accommodate big batches of vegetables or dumplings. $14.99;

Chef’n SleekStor 11″ VeggiSteam Made of heat-resistant silicone, this brightly colored, flexible insert fits almost any pot, and the flat design makes it easy to store. $19.99;