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