How to Steam Vegetables

March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of the easiest ways of preparing food, especially vegetables, is by steaming. This is not my favorite method of cooking, because you don’t get the depth of flavor produced by roasting or the ability to layer flavors produced by sautéing. However, steaming is hands down the easiest, quickest and healthiest way to prepare food. Since this blog is about breaking down cooking to it’s most basic components, I figure this is a great technique to write about.

First, you will need a steamer basket to suspend food above boiling water. You can find either a metal, plastic or bamboo basket that has small holes or slits in the bottom. This allows the steam to cook the food, instead of submerging food in water, as with boiling or blanching, so you don’t lose nutrients into the cooking water. Metal steaming baskets are common in any grocery store that sells kitchen supplies, and you can find them on-line for right around $10. You can also find bamboo steamers at an Asian market or on-line for about the same price.

To steam your vegetables, find a pot that can accommodate the steaming basket, insert the steaming basket, and add about ½ a cup of water. You don’t want the water to come above the basket, or  you’re just boiling the veggies at the bottom of the basket. However, you also want to have enough water so that it won’t evaporate during the cooking process. Otherwise you’ll scorch your pan and your vegetables will taste burnt.

Heat the pot on high, covered with a lid. When the water under the steamer comes to a boil, add the veggies to the basket. This means that steam will have built up in the pot, so the veggies will cook as quickly as possible. This will help keep them crisp and fresh.

They should only take about 3 to 4 minutes in the steam pot. They’re done when they’re tender but firm. Make sure the other parts of the meal are ready as soon as the broccoli done. Steamed veggies don’t stay warm long out of the steamer, and get mushy quickly in the steamer.

Here’s a recipe for steamed broccoli to walk you step by step through the cooking process.

1 large head broccoli
½ tsp salt
½ tsp granulated garlic (not to be confused with garlic powder)
1 tsp soy sauce

Heat a covered pot with a steaming basket and water on high heat. While the pot is getting hot, cut the broccoli into spears. I like to cut close to the stem for long spears. This means you waste less and, with bigger pieces, the broccoli stays crisper while cooking. Cut the large florets into smaller pieces. Put the chopped broccoli into a large mixing bowl, rinsing thoroughly under cold water, and then drain.

When the water has been drained off, sprinkle the salt, granulated garlic and soy sauce over the broccoli. Toss several times in the bowl, so that the broccoli is evenly coated in the seasoning. If you start getting broccoli everywhere tossing it in the bowl, you can also use your hands to mix.

When the steamer pot is at a full boil, add the broccoli, pouring any seasoning in the bottom of the mixing bowl over the veggies. Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes. When the broccoli is bright green, check for doneness by using a toothpick or biting one of the stems. It should be tender, but still have some crunch to it. As soon as the broccoli is done, transfer to a plate and serve.

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