Steaming is universally known as a healthy method of cooking because little fat, if any, is needed in the process. One of the oldest known methods of cooking, water vapor produced during steaming is even hotter than oven heat because steaming transfers heat so efficiently. It’s also one of the quickest cooking methods at our disposal.
Two Types of Steaming
Water vapor is a classic method of steaming that utilizes a basket made of either metal or bamboo placed atop a saucepan containing a small amount of water or stock at the bottom. Suspended over simmering liquid, hot vapor cooks the food inside of the basket which is covered with a lid.
Oven steaming, also known as ‘sweating’, is normally done by wrapping food in foil or parchment paper and oven cooked. Moisture evaporates during the cooking process as well as any juices and fragrance from aromatic herbs and spices on the food.
Foods ideal for steaming include fish, poultry and vegetables, all of which should be cut thin to ensure they are cooked thoroughly. A thick piece of boneless chicken, for example, will overcook the top without cooking the interior first.
Tools to Use in Steaming
Metal baskets and colanders with small holes prevent food from falling through when steaming and are ideal for this type of cooking. Collapsible baskets that fit into various sizes of pots as well as those that are shaped specifically to come with large stock pots are most commonly used.
Bamboo Baskets, typically used in Asian cuisine, come in a variety of sizes and are easily stackable. The largest basket sits on the bottom with food that has the longest cooking time, stacking baskets of food upward with shorter cooking times.
Parchment paper is disposable, non-stick paper often used to wrap foods for oven steaming.
Aluminum foil is also used to wrap foods for oven steaming.
Any way you choose to steam, it’s a relatively fool-proof method of cooking with minimal effort. After all, it’s pretty hard to burn food this way.