Steaming food without a steamer: how to do it?

Updated on 25 Jul 2023
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One of the healthiest ways to prepare your food? Steaming! Your food cooks through the vapor of the water and not the water itself. When you steam foods, their valuable vitamins and minerals are retained. This is in contrast to cooking, which leads to dissolution of these nutrients in the water. In addition to being water-soluble, they are also heat-sensitive. This means that very little of the nutritional value remains after cooking. A second advantage of steaming is that the flavor of the food is well preserved.

It is often thought that to steam your food you need a special steamer. Although that is indeed a handy tool, you can do just fine without one. How do you do that? We have listed a few options for you.

Steaming using a sieve

You could, of course, use a steamer basket for steaming, but if you want to do it without any extra bells and whistles, you can also opt for a strainer. This is also much easier to clean. How do you proceed? You bring water to a boil in a pan. Once the water is boiling, place your food in a strainer, which you then hang over the edge of the pan. Make sure the sieve does not touch the water. Then cover the sieve with a lid and let your vegetables steam that way. Optionally, you could use a heatproof dish. However, the sieve is preferable.

Steaming with a bamboo or stainless steel steamer basket

If you do have a steamer basket made of bamboo or stainless steel, then of course you don’t need to reach for the strainer. You proceed here in a similar way. You again bring water to a boil in a pan and then place the basket on top. Again, it is important that the basket does not touch the water. The space between the water and the basket (as well as the strainer in the previous example) is a prerequisite for steam to form.

Steaming food using the microwave

Is a microwave oven part of your kitchen equipment? Then you can also use that handy device to steam your food in a simple way. You do this by putting your food in a microwave-safe container and adding a little water to it. Then you use aluminum foil or a plate to cover the whole thing. The idea with this method is to allow some vapor to escape. Depending on exactly what you want to cook, place the tray with your food in the microwave for up to 5 to 6 minutes.

This microwave method is best applied to potatoes and vegetables. For meat or fish, this method is again somewhat less suitable.

Steaming food in the skillet

It may sound strange, since a frying pan is usually used primarily for frying food. Still, along with some other tools, it offers a solution. Besides a frying pan, you also need a plate, a pan lid and some aluminum foil. What you do first is roll 3 or 4 small balls with aluminum foil. You place these in the skillet, then add a layer of water. On the aluminum balls you place the plate with the food. Then you turn on the heat and place a lid over the plate. Again, how long you steam this way depends on exactly what you want to prepare.

Steaming food in the oven

For steaming your food, you can also use the oven. You wrap your food well in aluminum foil. This keeps the heat from escaping. If you steam several foods, then wrap them separately. Officially, this method is called papilotte. Don’t happen to have aluminum foil at home? Don’t worry, baking paper will do the trick too.

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