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How to Steam

Steaming is the most gentle way to cook vegetables, chicken, and seafood because the food is placed over (and not in) boiling water in a covered pot or steamer. It's also one of the healthiest ways to cook because it does not require any added fat. It also does a better job than other cooking processes of retaining a food's flavor, shape, color, texture, and many of the nutrients.

What to Steam

You can steam a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, chicken, and shellfish. For added flavor, steam food on a bed of herbs, scallions, lemon slices, or greens. Leafy greens -- such as spinach or mustard greens -- and shellfish, such as mussels and clams, are terrific possibilities for steaming.

Methods & Equipment

There are several types of steamers available:

A collapsible metal steamer, which is great for vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Perforated metal inserts that fit into a pot or a pot fitted with a metal rack, which is ideal for cooking steamed pudding, for example.

You can stack a Chinese bamboo steamer that fits into a pot or wok and steam multiple foods simultaneously. You can also steam on a heatproof plate placed on a wire rack or in a shallow pan -- ideal for cooking quick and healthy meals, such as chicken breast with a side of green beans.

Tips for Steaming

To steam foods, make sure the ingredients are not immersed in the water. Over a pot of water, add a collapsible pot or Chinese bamboo steamer, then add the foods you want to steam. Cover, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cooking times vary, depending on the foods being steamed.

Recipes for Steaming

Now that you've learned how to steam, try today's featured recipes: Steamed Seafood Medley, with Ponzu Sauce, Creamy Curry Dipping Sauce, Citrus Dipping Sauce, and Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.

Then, once you've mastered steaming, make some of Martha's other favorite steamed recipes: Artichokes, Pork Buns, and Salmon and Peas.