Food is life. After all, one of life’s greatest pleasures is to have good food on the table. Oftentimes, people are confronted with the choice of having to eat healthy or having to eat something that is satisfying to the palate. With steamed food though, having to choose between eating healthy and eating something delicious need not be a problem.
Steaming is a cooking technique that is used quite often for a number of ingredients and recipes. With steaming, food is kept as fresh as possible and they don’t end up getting overcooked. Minus the oil, one can be assured that one’s healthy is not compromised when steaming food. Flavors are preserved and food remains to be enjoyable, all while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Many steamers are now available in the market. From very simple ones to electric programmable steamers, there is now a wide variety to choose from.
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What kinds of steamers are there?
There are many kinds of steamers that one can choose from. They range from very simple ones made from materials such as bamboo, to more complicated ones that are electric and even programmable.
Electric steamers are usually made of materials such as plastic. They come with a heating element as well as a base. Water is placed in the base and the heating element starts to work enough to cause the water in the base to produce steam.
Containers with perforated bottoms are stacked on top of the base and on top of each other. The food is placed inside these containers so that the steam produced gets to cook the food.
Electric steamers usually have times that can be set to the preferred cooking time. Some even come with pre-programmed settings so one can set everything according to preference while leaving the food to cook.
Electric steamers are a popular choice among many due to their good seal, as well as their wide trays that can accommodate large amounts of food at one time. What makes these steamers popular though is the convenience that they offer. These types of steamers can be left alone to cook since they automatically shut off once the timer shuts down.
Basket steamers are less elaborate. They can be stacked on top of each other and are usually placed on top of a pan filled with water. These operate on the same principle as the electric steamers but these don’t offer the convenience that comes with electric steamers. A separate timer needs to be used when cooking with basket steamers, unlike electric steamers.
Pan steamers are made of stackable pans with holes at their bottoms. Just like electric steamers, the base of these steamers is another separate pan without perforations that is big enough to hold water. Water is heated to produce steam needed to cook the food.
The advantage of these pans is that they can be quite versatile, removing the need for multiple pans. With these kinds of steamers, one can even cook pasta or use the pans for boiling. All these can be done simultaneously while food that needs to be steamed is placed on the topmost level so that the cooking process isn’t stalled.
As the name says, these steamers are made from silicone and are usually placed on top of pans that serve as their base. Some may even fit inside pots so that lids can be placed to speed up the heating process.
These steamers can be rolled or folded for easy storage so that they don’t take up too much space.
The advantage of foldable steamers is the same as silicone steamers. They come in different sized but can be folded and packed away for easy storage.
When in use, they can sit around 3 cm above a pan or pot’s bottom, which gives enough space to accommodate water needed for the steaming process.
Bamboo steamers are what are often seen in Chinese restaurants, especially when ordering dim sum. These are bamboo baskets that can be stacked on top of each other. These are usually placed in woks which serve as their base. A piece of parchment paper is placed at the bottom of each basket that will prevent the food from sticking to the basket’s bottom.
Bamboo steamers are usually recommended for Asian, especially Chinese, cooking.
Looking at the many kinds of steamers that there are, it isn’t a surprise that one can get pretty confused as to what one should buy. There are, however, points to consider when choosing a steamer that is meant for one’s lifestyle.
Are they easy to clean?
Steamers are probably one of the easiest cooking tools to clean. Unlike frying pans and pots which make use of oil. These steamers do not accumulate grease, nor does the food end up burnt. Cleaning is made simple with the use of dishwashing liquid, water and a sponge. There are even some steamers that are dishwasher safe. For steamers that are made of stainless steel, these can be cleaned with the use of stainless steel cleaners.
The more, the merrier!
The number of tiers or trays count a lot when using steamers. Being able to cook using trays stacked on top of each other means more cooking space. This also means that you can cook different kinds of food and ingredients simultaneously, thus saving you a lot of time.
How much food can you cook in a steamer?
Food steamers can accommodate large capacity of food, starting from 1 quart (1 liter) to 10.5 quarts (10 liters). It can cook small amounts of baby food and meals, but it can also accommodate large amounts food as well. This is perfect for those who are used to having large dinners or family gatherings. Keep in mind though that larger steamers means bigger storage space.
Cooking Time Matters
Cooking time can greatly affect the quality of what is being cooked. This is especially true for steaming. Electric steamers have built-in timers or even pre-programmed settings with automatic shut off systems. This is a great way of making sure that the food is cooked within the recommended cooking time.
The one disadvantage of manual steamers is their lack of built-in timers. Although separate timers can be bought or used to keep track of cooking time, the use of manual steamers means constant monitoring. The lack of an automatic shut off system means that you will have to be on guard to quickly shut off the stove when the cooking time is up.
When It’s Time To Pack Away
Steamers, especially large ones, can take up storage space. This is where foldable steamers have an advantage. Silicone steamers and steamers which can nest on top of each other are easier to pack and store away. They take up less storage space, which is a good thing when space is a problem in one’s home.
Look for steamers with a water gauge so that you can monitor the level of water needed to create the steam. The last thing needed in steaming is for the water to go below the necessarily level for it to produce the necessary steam, or even worse, for the water to dry out during cooking.
Steaming, when done right, is a great alternative for healthier, home-cooked meals. Knowing what to use and how to use, along with getting the best equipment, means better food quality for your and your family to enjoy.
Questions and Answers
Is steaming food healthy?
It is, by far, one of the healthiest cooking techniques. Steaming doesn’t make use of fat, oil, or charcoal, all of which are controversial to use.
Which is quicker? Steaming or boiling?
Electric steamer take less time to heat up so they definitely are quicker to use than boiling. Traditional steamers, however, need time for the water to boil in order to produce steam. In this case, boiling is quicker than steaming.
How long should it take to steam vegetables?
It really depends on the type of vegetable and how cooked you want it to be. On an average, it takes around five minutes to steam asparagus and eight minutes to steam carrots, for example.
Can rice be cooked in a steamer?
Yes. Special rice steaming bowls are available for use with steamers in order to cook rice.