How to Steam Foods?
Assemble all ingredients and
preparations for steaming -
Additional or optional items for flavoring,
finishing, and garnishing
Sauce or items necessary to prepare sauce
Items to be steamed should be naturally
tender and of a size and shape that will allow them to cook in a short
amount of time. Cut the main item into the appropriate size, if necessary.
Fish is generally made into fillets, though there are some classic
presentations of whole steamed fish. Poultry breast is often made into a
boneless skinless piece. Vegetables and fruits should be handled
appropriately. Remove tough skins that could slow down cooking. Cut them
into even, regular shapes, so that they will all finish cooking at the
same time. Leave shellfish in the shells, unless otherwise indicated.
Relatively few grains are appropriate for
steaming, although two exceptions come to mind. Couscous, not a true
grain, is often steamed over a flavorful stew, or prepared on its own over
simmering water. Short grain rice may also be steamed. The length of time
required to steam raw rice is considerable, however.
Any liquid may be used for steaming. Water
is the most common. If you want to serve the steaming liquid as a
flavorful broth along with the steamed food, you may prefer to select from
other more highly flavored items: broths or stocks, wine, beer or court
bouillon. Adding aromatic ingredients to the liquid will also boost the
flavor of the liquid, as well as adding flavor to the food being steamed.
Herbs, spices, citrus rind, or ginger root, garlic, or mushrooms could be
Stuffing or fillings, marinades or wrappers
can all be used in preparing steamed foods.
Assemble all equipments necessary for
cooking and serving -
Steamer, steamer insert, or other equipment
Steamer racks, pans or inserts
Tongs, spoons and spatulas
The quantity of food being steamed will
guide you to the correct equipment. Small amounts of food can be steamed
using a small insert. Larger quantities, or foods that require different
cooking times, are better prepared in tiered steamers. Remember that it is
important to allow enough room for steam to circulate completely around
foods as they cook. This will encourage even and rapid cooking.
Convection or pressure steamers are good
choices for steaming large quantities of foods. They allow the chef to
have steamed foods prepared in appropriate batch sizes throughout a meal
period, or to handle the more intense demands of a banquet or
institutional feeding situation.
In addition to steamers, you will also need
to have on hand the necessary tools for handling foods, transferring them
from the steamer to serving pieces, containers to hold sauces, spoons,
ladles and other serving utensils.
Bring the liquid to a full boil in a covered
Add enough liquid to the bottom of the
steamer to last throughout cooking. Each time you need to add more liquid
to the pot, you will lower the cooking temperature, and affect the overall
time necessary to prepare steamed foods. If you need to open the lid
during cooking time, remember to tilt the lid away from your face and
hands, so the steam will not burn you.
Add the main item to the steamer on a rack
in a single layer.
To ensure even cooking, foods should be
placed in a single layer, not touching one another, so that the steam can
circulate completely. Foods may be placed on plates or in shallow dishes
on the rack in order to collect any juices that might escape.
Replace the lid and allow the steam to build
It is a good idea to adjust the heat to
maintain even, moderate cooking speed. Liquids do not need to be at a
rolling boil in order to produce steam. Rapid boiling may cause the liquid
to cook away too quickly. Once the food is in the steamer and the cover
has been replaced, avoid removing the lid unnecessarily. The drop in
temperature can be significant. This makes it a little more difficult to
gauge how long foods need to cook, so it may be a good idea to refer to
some standard cooking times. Most recipes will include some information
about how long specific foods take to steam to the correct doneness.
Still, it is important to check the foods, starting at the earliest point
at which they might be done.
Steam the main item to the correct doneness.
Steamed foods should be cooked until they
are just done. Since steaming is used as a preliminary cooking technique
in many cases, remember to stop cooking earlier for par-cooked foods.
Foods that are to be pureed once steamed should be cooked until they are
easy to pierce with a kitchen fork or paring knife, so they will mash
easily. In general, check steamed foods for doneness, taking texture,
color, consistency, shape and aroma into account.
Serve the food immediately on heated plates
with an appropriate sauce, as desired or as indicated but the recipe.