You could steam food using a pot of water, a pressurized steamer, or a pressure-less steamer. My favorite way is to use a bamboo steamer, which is a traditional Asian method of steaming food.
You’ll use a series of baskets placed over one another with food inside them. These are made from very tough bamboo, and underneath them, you place a pan or wok of steaming hot water. The steam rises up through the basket to warm and cook the food, making it moist and tasty.
Bamboo basket steaming may look complicated because it involves a number of baskets, but I want to show you how to use a bamboo steamer basket and how to steam without using a wok at all.
You might think that having a bunch of baskets in your kitchen is a waste of space and that there are simpler and less time-consuming ways to cook your food. I love this traditional way of cooking, and it is an effective method to cook your food in a way that preserves a lot of nutritional value while retaining flavor and texture as well.
You can’t get all of that with every other steaming method. Some of the other ways may be more convenient, faster, and simpler, but I think you will appreciate the traditional basket steaming method and its benefits as well once you give it a chance.
If you’re unsure whether this might be kitchen equipment you would use or not, then you may want to borrow a set of bamboo steamer baskets from someone you know. Testing them out can help convince you one way or another.
Bamboo Steamer- How to Use
Let’s go through the step-by-step process on how to use bamboo steamer basket sets for cooking food.
1. The steamer needs to be placed into a wok or a large pan that is fairly shallow. Whatever dish you use needs to be wide enough to accommodate the steamer baskets. Fill the wok with as much water as it takes to cover the bottom rim of the steamer basket with about a half inch of water.
You want to make sure your water isn’t so high that the water as it bubbles touches the food inside the steamer. It has to be high enough, however, to cover the steamer’s bottom rim.
When discussing how to use a bamboo steamer for the first time, it is important that we stress the water level, since that is where most people will make a mistake.
2. The steamer baskets need to be lined to keep the food from sticking to the bamboo. Napa cabbage leaves are soft and large and work very well as liners, but you can also use parchment paper, lettuce leaves or cheesecloth. There are some liners made specifically for bamboo steamers, like perforated parchment paper, silicone liners and reusable cloth. Be sure your liner is porous so that steam can get through it, cooking all of the food evenly.
Also make certain that you have enough liners for your entire series of baskets. The most common number of baskets to have for a steamer set is three, but yours may vary.
You may need to place a bowl into your steamer basket instead of a liner. This would be necessary if you want to collect juices and sauces from your meats, for example.
3. Next, place your food into the steamers but be careful of overcrowding. That’s especially true of dumplings, buns, and shumai. They will get bigger as they begin to steam and they need some room to grow. Give them abut 1 inch or 1 ½ inches on all sides.
4. Preheat the water to get to steaming. You can place your baskets while the water is cold if you like, but don’t bother putting any food in yet. Warm up the water in the wok slowly, increasing the temperature as needed.
It is usually safer to place the steamer into the wok when the water is cold, just to keep from burning yourself or causing other issues. If you have never used the steamer basket, you may have trouble setting it up at first. It’s best to use cold water for that initial setup so that there is less room for error and less risk.
5. Place your food in the steamer baskets. It’s okay to put frozen food in, as the steamer will thaw them out safely without burning them and will cook them all the way through. Of course, you want to use a low heat to thaw anything frozen, like veggies or dumplings.
6. As your water heats up, it will start to evaporate. Keep an eye on the water level so that you don’t run out and add water as necessary. Only add boiling water to keep the simmering process going. It’s best to keep a pot of boiling water going to use when needed while you are cooking with the steamer baskets.
7. Check your food every so often to ensure it does not overcook. You can turn off the steam and remove the food from the baskets once they are done steaming.
How to Use a Bamboo Steamer without a Wok
You can use a steamer basket without a wok, if you don’t have one handy or your wok isn’t the right size for your baskets. The wok is definitely the best tool to use, but a large pot can work as well.
The wok is thin, so it allows you to boil water quickly and then regulate water temperature easily. The wide rim makes it ideal for fitting all sorts of different steamer basket sizes.
A large skilled works too, though, and even a pot will be fine if it is big enough. Just be sure that whatever you use is flat and level and will allow your steamer baskets to sit flat as well.
One of the most important things to remember about bamboo steam basket how to use it is to keep it flat at all times. Any tilting can result in scalding water getting on you and your food ending up on the floor.
How to Use a Bamboo Steamer to Cook Rice
Most people will use their steamer basket to make rice. It’s such a lovely, traditional way to prepare rice, and I just adore how the rice comes out all puffy and fluffy and oh, so nice. Here is how to use a bamboo steamer to cook rice.
1. Prepare your steamer baskets by setting them up in the wok and adding your water. Be sure to add the right amount of water and line the basket. You could spray down the sides of the basket with a cooking spray instead, if you wish.
2. Use about two or three inches of water in your wok and heat the water on the stove. Make sure the baskets are flat in the steamer and the steamer is above the water line instead of in the water. Make sure the steamer fits tightly inside the wok so that no steam can escape.
3. Steam your rice for about 45 minutes and be sure to add water as needed to the wok when it starts to evaporate. You should turn the rice over occasionally using a wooden spoon or spatula. You may need to take the rice and baskets off the wok to turn over the rice without burning yourself. When the rice is done, it should be tender yet firm.
4. Take the steamer out of the pot and set the rice onto the counter and spread it out. To keep the rice from drying out until it is ready to serve, form it into a lump with your spoon. Cover the container it is in with a moist cloth.
What Foods Can You Steam?
Here are just some of the foods you can use the steamer to cook:
The steamer rehydrates them introducing moisture back in. This plumps them out and makes them tender and juicy. It’s a lot healthier way to cook your foods than frying because there is no oil involved. It is also much healthier than microwaving, since it retains the nutrients better and does not affect the taste negatively.
In fact, steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook your food, especially if you want all the vitamins and minerals the food is supposed to have to go into your body and offer tons of benefits.