Food steamers are so versatile and simple to use. It is inexpensive to operate and opens the door to a wide range of dishes you can cook at home.
Steaming food is fast and easy. It retains food texture, color, and flavors better than boiling. There is also very little intervention required during cooking.
Because of how consistent the moist even heat can penetrate and cook foods without drying them, restaurants often make use of steaming for dishes before making final touches with just garnish and sauce.
If you own a food steamer with tiered trays and a built-in timer, you can even get multiple dishes ready within minutes while also not having to deal with oil splatters.
It is a convenient and healthy alternative to frying or grilling since you don't need to add as many fats or seasonings. Nutrients are also more intact with steamed dishes.
What Can You Cook in a Food Steamer
With that said, there are many kinds of foods you can prepare at home with just a steamer.
Here are some ideas of what food you can cook with a steamer.
Shrimps and Meat Dumplings
Be it frozen or freshly made, steamed dumplings make a quick juicy snack.
You can have them ready within 10-12 minutes even when they came straight from the freezer.
Just make sure you line a layer of Napa cabbage at the bottom or coat a thin layer of oil to prevent sticking.
The skins will be a little stretchier and firm compared to boiling.
While steaming, there is enough time to make a quick Korean or Chinese dipping sauce.
Chinese Steamed Pork Patties
This traditional Southern Chinese dish is sometimes referred to as steamed meat cake.
It may not usually appear in restaurant menus, but they're really easy to make and delicious.
The minced meat is steamed along with some preserved vegetables or salted fish, aromatics like garlic, chopped ginger, scallions, and light soy sauce.
You can even substitute with minced chicken.
It only takes about 15 minutes to steam and goes very well with white rice.
Just remember to drizzle some sesame oil when it's done for more elevated flavors!
Steamed Herbal Chicken
Steaming herbal chicken will usually sound a little intimidating at first.
But this simple, soul-comforting dish is so easy to make. It is a very flexible dish.
You can choose to use only one type of Chinese herb or as many as you can find from your local stores.
For a simple version, all you need is some sliced angelica root and a few chicken drumsticks or breast meats.
If you have some goji berries or jujube at home, they will add a sweeter taste to the dish.
Simply rub and marinate the chicken pieces with either soy sauce or small pinches of salt and white pepper.
Leave them to marinate for a short while. Before steaming, scatter the sliced herbs on top of the chicken and straight into the steamer they go.
You will have a succulent chicken dish in 30 minutes. The heart-warming soup is good to go along with a bowl of steamed rice.
Fish and Seafood
Most fish tend to have very delicate flesh that can easily flake or break with more aggressive cooking methods.
While seafood like shrimps, scallops, and calamari become tough and rubbery when overcooked.
Steaming allows them to be cooked perfectly, with their natural flavors, and without damaging the textures.
It can be as simple as lightly drizzling some oil and salt. Or adding some lemon slices and aromatic herbs to further enhance the freshness from the sea.
Steamed fish and seafood are celebrated around the world, in cuisines ranging from Japan to Italy to Nordic countries, and can embrace any flavor profile you prefer.
Vegetables are another favorite for steaming, and not just because it preserves their nutrients.
Steamed vegetables maintain their vibrant color and exciting flavors, as well as their delicate vitamins and minerals.
It is one of the most common reasons that people get a food steamer.
When steaming vegetables, remember that you can be creative; toss them in herbs and spices before cooking for an added burst of flavor, or stir perfectly steamed vegetables into the wok just at the end of cooking for a perfect Asian stir-fry dish.
We all agree that we need to eat more vegetables, and steaming is the best way to do it.
Rice and Grains
Cooking rice with a steamer is a lot easier than using a pot or rice cooker.
It is also less likely to become mushy since they're not agitated by boiling water.
All you need is a bowl of washed rice with a 1:1 ratio for water and 20 minutes of steaming.
Lightly sprinkle with some salt before steaming so you end up with a sweeter bowl of rice.
Other grains like quinoa for example, also work perfectly well with steaming.
If you love Japanese Chawanmushi, you can make them with a food steamer.
Steamed eggs deliver delicious, perfectly cooked eggs time after time.
The temperature from steam is more gentle and even. Which in turn make some soft and creamy egg custards.
Be sure to strain the egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl before steaming.
This little trick will ensure silky smooth custards that many people miss during their first attempt.
When they are done, sprinkle with chives, sliced mushrooms, or bonito flakes to your liking.
It is a perfect, creamy, single-serving egg dish for any time of day.
You can also steam eggs to a soft boiled or a hard-boiled consistency, and they peel perfectly.
Bread and Buns
Steamed buns are a staple of many Asian cuisines, and these buns are tender and delicious.
They are the perfect option when you have leftover BBQ or roasted meats laying around from previous meals.
You can also steam wheat bread and banana bread so they come out moist and tender.
Steaming works particularly well for carrot and zucchini bread.
The results are moist bread with excellent texture while the vegetables in the dough retain their fantastic color and flavor.
Meats and Poultry
We often don't think of cooking meat and poultry in a food steamer, because we so often want the delicious meat browning associated with grilling and roasting.
However, steaming meat has the same effect as braising, where the meat is exceptionally moist and tender.
It is also healthier because fats drip off the meat into the steaming liquid.
With this method, seasoning the meat well ahead of time is important.
Consider using garlic, herbs, or citrus juices to add extra flavor.
If you do want the browning, just spend another minute on the frying pan after steaming.
This way, the meats don't end up overcooked and dry. Best of both worlds.
Steaming food is an ancient practice with thousands of modern applications.
Many health-focused diets, like CRON, Okinawa, and Macrobiotic, encourage the use of steaming as the preferred way to prepare food.
Nutrients are more intact when compared to boiling. It also retains the texture, color, and flavor of foods.
Food steamers are more versatile than you may have thought.
Many home cooks are experimenting and finding more ways to use steaming in a variety of cuisines.