How to Use a Bamboo Steamer to Steam Your Food

There are different ways of steaming food, but using a bamboo steamer is a more satisfying method for Asians, and I bet you will want to try it too. Steaming is a cooking technique that employs heated moisture without added fat, preserved nutrients maintaining the natural flavors of the food. It's quick, efficient, and unique. You can steam almost everything using the bamboo steamer: starting from poultry, grains, vegetables, bread to dumplings.

This article provides you with a guide on using a bamboo steamer to avoid feeling left out in this amazing technique. But, first, if you don't know what a bamboo steamer is, let us define what it is.

What is a bamboo steamer?

A bamboo steamer is a traditional Chinese cooking material made of interlocking bamboo baskets stack on each other with a snugly fitting lid. It is traditionally used in steaming vegetables, fish, and dumplings. The bottom of the baskets comprises lattice-weaved bamboo strips that allow the hot steam to cook the food inside when placed over a wok of simmering water.

You can not only enjoy steamed buns and dumplings with a bamboo steamer but also bread, vegetables, rice, proteins, cakes, and other desserts. Steaming is alternative to and rt it because all that steam below it introduces moisture to your food. It's a good way to keep your food fresh again.

The unique part of the bamboo steamers is that their lids don't collect condensation that would drip back to your food in the bamboo steamer basket, thus altering the texture, taste, or appearance of your food. Your food retains its originality.

Chinese cooks have practiced this steaming art greatly, and if you are ready to explore this idea, then the following are steps to guide you through.

How to use a bamboo steamer

1. Fill your wok/another pan with water.

Place the bamboo steamer basket into your wok; if you don't have a wok, you can use a wide-rimmed, shallow pan, like a wide skillet. Fill the wok with water reaching just above the bottom rim of the steamer by about a quarter to half an inch.

To prevent scorching, ensure the water is high enough to submerge the bottom rim of the bamboo steamer basket and low enough that the heated water should not be in contact with the bottom of the inside bed of the steamer and the food sitting on it.

For a brand new bamboo steamer basket, soak the bottom rim of the steamer for 30 minutes to prevent it from scorching. Ensure to dry the steamer baskets completely after using to prevent them from forming mold.

It is advisable to use a wok in conjunction with a bamboo steamer because it is thin, making it easier to boil and regulate the water temperature. Furthermore, its rim is wide enough to accommodate different sizes of bamboo steamer baskets.

2. Line the bamboo steamer

On achieving the right water level, line your bamboo steamer baskets. Bamboo steamer baskets can have many water levels depending on how much food you want to steam.

To prevent food from sticking on the bamboo steamer bed, you have to line it. You will use large, soft napa cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves, layers of cheesecloth, or squares of parchment paper. Please make sure you use porous material inlining the bottom of your steamer baskets and circulate the material around them to allow it to cook completely. The porous materials are parchment paper or wax paper cut in the round form to allow steam to pass through while cooking. 

 Silicone mesh will also work (but needs to be cleaned), and some steamer baskets come with reusable cotton liners. Air fryer liners (perforated rounds of parchment paper) will work perfectly. With stainless steel steamers, the lining is not needed.

You can skip this step if you are steaming marinated meats or vegetables, which you can use heatproof plates to collect sauces or juices.

3. Place the food in your bamboo steamer.

Space dumplings and buns in the steamer baskets to prevent overcrowding, as their size increases when they cook. Always leave an inch between dumplings and a half an inch between larger buns to create room for expansion.

If you steam a small amount of food in a bowl or a plate, do not line the steamer but instead use a heatproof plate directly in the steamer basket. Make sure the lid still fits on top. Leave enough space around the dish to enable steam to rise, circulate the food, and heat it. The plate too should have a rim to ensure more flavor is collected that may have settled on the dish.

4. Place the bamboo steamer in pot/wok.

You can choose to preheat your water for it to simmer before you place your bamboo steamer baskets into the wok, or you can place the bamboo steamer into the wok when the water is cold and adjust the heat to a safe temperature.

Unless otherwise specified, this is a better option–placing the steamer. For example, if you are steaming food such as frozen dumplings, there's no need to wait for them to unfreeze; you can place the dumplings in your steamer and start the steaming process.

Alternatively, you could place a bamboo steamer directly on top of a smaller pan if you don't have a wok. Then, instead of the entire basket fitting inside the pan, it simply rests on the rim of the pan. The only downside is that you need to lift the entire steamer every time you add water.

5. Allow food to steam while checking the water level.

If simmering starts to occur, evaporation will occur, meaning the food has started to cook. Allow the food to cook with the timings of its recipe while adding boiling water as specified. Adding cold water will stop the simmering, thus interrupt the cooking process.

How to take care of the bamboo steamer

When cleaning your bamboo steamer baskets, wash them with a sponge and mild dish soap and rinse thoroughly. If you have to use dish soap, make sure it is very mild because the bamboo steamer will absorb the scent of the dish soap. The only sure way to ensure it's clean is through scrubbing in hot water and air drying. Ensure its dry completely before putting it away to prevent the growth of mold on the bamboo.

Let the steamer dry out in the air for at least two days before storing to prevent mold.

Avoid putting your bamboo steamer in the dishwasher or soaking it in water for more than 5 minutes.

Do not put your bam

Advantages of Bamboo Steamers

The advantage of when you use a bamboo steamer to a metal steamer is that it is lightweight. In addition, it is stackable, enabling you to steam two foods at a go. This technique helps steam two foods that have different cooking times. You place the food with a longer cooking time at the bottom tier; while it cooks, you can add the one with a short time cooking on top afterward.

Metal steamers also offer stackable features, so you won't find the need to use bamboo steamers not unless you are in for the beauty of the bamboo steamers. There's satisfaction in serving Chinese dumplings directly from the basket. 

Disadvantages of Bamboo Steamers

Bamboo steamers absorb odors; that is why it is advisable not to steam in foods that will leave an odor, such as fish or vegetables with strong scents like broccoli. If you use it to steam such foods, expect it to retain that smell.

In the principle of reduction of sauces, you try to eradicate the remaining food scents and smells by steaming with flavored liquid without adding flavor to the food itself since water evaporates, leaving the concentrated flavor in the liquid behind.

Although steaming does vaporize some volatile flavor compounds that end up settling in the porous bamboo, you might try using a flavorful, steaming liquid, but it won't help your food much but leave your bamboo steamer smelling too.

Bamboo steamers are less durable and hard to clean than other steamers. In addition, if you burn food inside them, the food is likely to have a bamboo taste and smell.

There are several ways to remove smells from scorched bamboo, such as steaming lemon slices or tea bags, soaking the steamer baskets in vinegar and water.

Buying a Bamboo Steamer

When shopping for a bamboo steamer, be sure to look for a big size. The size of the steamer should be relative to that of the wok or the pan you are using to steam food. In addition, a wider steamer will accommodate more food than a smaller one.

Some bamboo steamers have stainless steel bands on their edges that make them more durable than others. However, these bands prevent them from being used in the microwave, which is not a traditional method but a means for steaming. A bamboo steamer can be the best streaming device you can try out.

Leave a Comment