There are many ways to cook food. You can broil it, boil it, fry it, bake it, poach it, steam it, microwave it, or even barbecue it. Some of the best restaurants use a variety of methods depending on the type of food, but did you know that not all cooking methods are created equal? Some are better able to keep in nutrients and help the food stay together than others, and steaming is one of these methods. Read on to see why you should steam and how to do it.
Steaming food is easy. All you need is a standard pot and a basket, which is usually made of metal or bamboo and fits inside the rim of the pot. With water in the pot and food in the basket, the pot can be brought to a boil without the food being immersed. Once the water starts to evaporate, it will cook the food in the basket with the rising steam. This is called compartment steaming and it is by far the most popular method. Another method of steaming which is often used with meat and on the barbecue is to wrap the food in foil and let it steam in its own juices.
So why is steaming so great? Well, when you boil food, the nutrients and flavors tend to leech out into the water. With steaming, this doesn't happen because the food is not actually in the water. In fact, you can use steaming to turn your ordinary food into restaurant quality dishes by adding broth, stock, or wine to the water, which will infuse the steamed food with spices and flavor rather than taking taste away.
Some foods also tend to be very delicate, which can make them prone to getting mushy and falling apart when cooked in the oven or on the barbecue. With steaming, the food never comes into contact with the heat source, so it cannot be scorched or burned. It is never immersed in water, either, so it cannot be infused with so much water that it gets mushy. You can overcook steamed food, but your chances are better of coming out with a delicious product when you use steaming.
If you're not the world's best steamer but you would like to have steamed veggies and meat for supper, you can always buy a programmable steamer. These small kitchen appliances require you to simply add water and choose the setting for the food you are cooking and the steamer will automatically cook it to perfection while you are busy with something else.
Image of a traditional food steamer:
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