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Food Steamer

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Enjoy good food sans the fear of gaining calories - use a food steamer. Also known as steam cooker or cooking steamer, a food steamer helps cook lean and nutritious food utilizing steam as the agent for cooking. Cooking food with steam retains valuable nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Most foods lend themselves easily to steam cooking.

The good news about food steamer is that you don't have to get cooked in the kitchen while cooking your food. Food steamers do not heat the kitchen as much as ovens do. Steamers are gaining popularity with people as the world has woken up to healthy eating habits. Generally steamers are used to cook vegetables, but they can also be used to steam fish, shellfish, crab, rice and meats.

Benefits of a food steamer

Food steamers employ steam to cook food. They have trays with slots that can be placed over water in a pot. Once the water boils, the steam escapes through the holes in the tray to steam cook food.

  • Food steamers help retain the vital nutrients of food. Sautéing or boiling results in heavy loss of essential nutrients while steaming preserves the natural nutrients of the food.

  • Food steamers offer easy and swift cooking, fast cooking helps in preserving the essential nutrients of the food.

  • No fatty oils are required to steam food thus cutting down on calories consumed while holding back nutrients lost in the oil.

  • In general steamed food can not be overcooked, another important aspect in retraining the nutrients of the food.

  • Steamers consume negligible energy thus saving on your energy bills.

Types of food steamers

Bamboo steamers: Bamboo steamers can be used to cook any type of food though they are a popular choice for cooking Asian food. Bamboo steamers are very effective in steaming vegetables and rice. These steamers are easy and simple to use and are available in different sizes. Bamboo steamers are usually used with a wok or a pot. People who wish to cook food the natural way can use bamboo steamers. These steamers should be cleaned thoroughly and stored in a clean and dry place. These steamers should be washed with mild soap and warm water. They should be dried thoroughly before storing them.

  • Pour 1 or 2 cups of water into the wok or pan. Bring the water to a boil.

  • The steamer is placed into this wok or pan for steaming the food. Holes in the bamboo steamer pass the steam upwards to cook the food.

  • Food to be cooked should not be kept directly on the steamer surface as bamboo absorbs the flavor of the food and cleaning the surface also gets very difficult.

  • Parchment paper, lettuce or any fresh leaf can be used as a layer over the steamer surface; food to be cooked can be placed over this surface.

  • Food should be cooked in separate layers as bamboo tends to absorb the flavor of the food being cooked. E.g. fish, vegetables and meat have to be cooked in different and separate layers.

  • The extra moisture formed on the lid while steaming is absorbed by the bamboo thus preventing overcooking or sloppy food.

  • The stacking option available in bamboo steamers is unique and very useful. Multiple steam trays that are arranged one over the other help to cook different kinds of food simultaneously. A single burner can be employed to cook food stacked in multiple steamers. Two and three tier bamboo steamers are very common.

  • Both fresh and frozen food can be cooked using bamboo steamers

  • Food can also be re-heated using these steamers.

  • These steamers cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher.

  • Cleaning the steamer is a tedious process.

Electric food steamer: Electric food steamers are no doubt the quickest method of steaming. They consume very little time to cook your food. All electric food steamers are fitted with timers. Electric food steamers should be assembled as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

  • Pour 1 or 2 cups of water into the bottom compartment, bring to a boil.

  • Put the food to be cooked on the container with holes, set the timer as required.

  • The timer will beep once the food is cooked and ready. Each food item will need different cooking time based on the texture of the food.

  • At the bottom-most layer, put the food that requires to be steamed the most. On the top-most layer, put the food that requires the least steaming.

  • They are available in a variety of sizes and can be chosen as per requirement. Single tier, two tier, three tier and four tier steamers are common.

  • Fast and efficient cooking of food in multiple layers is the unique feature of this steamer. Thereby you save a lot of time.

  • These steamers are more expensive than other steamers.

Stove top steamers: Stove top steamers have a steamer tray on which the food to be cooked is kept. This tray is inserted into a pot that has water filled at the bottom. These steamers are available in different shapes and sizes. Stove top steamers are best for cooking vegetables and can steam small and large quantities. The cooking time required is a little longer when compared to electric steamers.

Food steamer inserts: Collapsible/expandable metal inserts can be used to steam food. The food can be placed on the open top portion of the steamer insert and the insert can be seated on the bottom of the saucepan. These inserts will be in an elevated position from the bottom; water is added to the bottom of the saucepan to facilitate steaming of the food. Food cooked should be checked repeatedly else it might get overcooked. These steamers are inexpensive and can be used in your existing pots or saucepans. The cooking time required is a little longer when compared to electric steamers.

Microwave steamers: Microwave steamers are a healthy and quick way of steaming vegetables. These steamers have a microwave safe bowl along with a steamer insert and lid. These steamers are dishwasher safe and are easy to clean too. These steamers are not used as much as other types of steamers. Microwave steamers are very useful for small families who don't require huge quantities of food to be steamed at the same time.

  • The bottom container is filled with water; food to be cooked is placed in the top container.

  • Place the lid and stack the containers in the microwave.

  • Steam rises up from the bottom container and cooks the food in the top container.

  • Food in microwaves get steamed within 5 minutes, time can be adjusted based on the texture of the food to be cooked. Two tier microwave steamers are also available.

Food Steamer Recipes

Quick rice cake

Milk 1 ½ cups
Sugar 1 cup
Bisquick 2 cups
Eggs 2
Vanilla 1 tsp
Baking powder 1 tbsp
Coconut 1 cup

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Pour into cup cake moulds. Steam for 15 or 20 minutes until done

Steamed vegetables

Cauliflower ½ head
Broccoli 1 or 2 bunches
Corn 1 can
Carrot 3

Chop all vegetables in even size and shape. Place them in the steamer container and steam until they get tender. Serve with butter

Steamed chicken with asparagus

Skinless and boneless chicken breast halves 2, large
Fresh asparagus 500 g, trimmed
Rosemary to taste
Thyme to taste
Garlic to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Add water to the steamer pot and bring it to boil. Rinse chicken; apply salt pepper, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Place the chicken and the asparagus next to each other on the steamer rack and lower it into the pot. Steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. The chicken should be just done and the asparagus crisp. Add salt and pepper to the asparagus. Serve with brown rice

Vegetable steamers

Vegetable steamers are available in a variety of designs. Popular ones include:

Pot shaped steamers with an insert similar to a colander is common. The insert is designed such that it fits into the top part of the pot. Water is filled in the pot while vegetables to be cooked are placed on the colander insert. The pot is placed on a range top or heating element. Water gets heated up gradually and the steam generated cooks the vegetable.

A steamer pot assembly has a pot, a steamer basket and a lid. The pot has a vertical projection at the top rim where the lid can be fit. A perforated steamer basket that fits inside the pot is used to hold the food to be steamed.

Few other vegetable steamers have an in-built heating element. These electric steamers are simple to use. Just plug in the vegetable steamer and set the timer as required. The timer beeps once the vegetables are cooked. This is a perfect option for steaming vegetables and to retain the original flavor.

Food steamer inserts

Collapsible/expandable metal inserts used to steam food are called steamer baskets or steamer inserts. The food can be placed on the open top portion of the steamer insert and the insert can be seated at the bottom of the saucepan. These inserts will be in an elevated position from the bottom; water is added to the bottom of the saucepan to facilitate steaming of the food.

Food cooked should be checked repeatedly else it might get overcooked. These steamers are inexpensive and can be used in your existing pots or saucepans. The cooking time required is a little longer when compared to electric steamers.

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