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Steaming Foods

Steaming Foods

Steaming is an efficient and highly effective way to prepare naturally tender foods. It is unfortunate that, to many minds, steaming has become synonymous with the bland foods suggested by diet plans for patients on a low-fat, low-cholesterol, and low-sodium regime. It is true that this technique has many properties that make it an admirable choice for those concerned with healthful cooking methods. That does not mean that steamed foods are, or need to be, tasteless and uninteresting.

Foods that are steamed include such standard offerings as steamed lean fish, vegetables, poultry breasts, and some fruits. It also includes more exotic and unusual fare such as tameles or dim sum. The success or failure of any steamed food rests upon the same criteria as that applied to sauteed or roasted foods. Is the dish moist, flavorful, appealing from both a visual and textural stance? Are the flavors fully developed? Have the accompanying seasonings, garnishes, and sauces been selected with care and prepared with the same attention to detail as the main item?

Steamed foods are cooked by surrounding them with a vapor bath in a closed cooking vessel. Tiered aluminum or bamboo steamers, small inserts, couscoussieres, gas or electric pressure or convection steamers can all be used to steam foods. The food should not come into direct contact with the liquid used to create the steam, and the container should stay closed until the food is properly cooked.

To add more interest to steamed foods, they may be stuffed, wrapped in aromatic leaves, marinated, or sauced. There is no excuse for serving uninteresting steamed vegetables, when the judicious application of some simple seasonings would make all the difference.

Overcooking foods in a steamer is a common problem. Once foods have gone from properly cooked to overdone, they become as dry and uninteresting as a roast that was left untended for too long. Properly steamed foods do not generally lose much of their original volume, and they are exceptionally plump, moist and tender. Just as a roast will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven, so will steamed fish or poultry after they come out of the steamer. This makes timing of great importance.

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