10 Reasons Why Steam Cooking Is Good For You

Steam cooking or steaming is lots of fun and it's easy too.
Steam cooking or steaming is lots of fun and it's easy too.

Steam Cooking Or Steaming Saves Time, Energy and Money

We all know that eating healthy is part of healthy living. But many of us forget that cooking wisely is also part of the equation. So don't let all that dieting, slimming exercise, jogging and gym workout go to waste by eating unhealthy and oily food that we so very often cook at home or 'take away" from the fast food outlets.

Easy Way To Cook Nutritious Food

A delicious and nutritious mix of minced fish meat, broccoli, carrot, sweet potato, egg and wolf-berry steam-cooked in a rice cooker.
A delicious and nutritious mix of minced fish meat, broccoli, carrot, sweet potato, egg and wolf-berry steam-cooked in a rice cooker. | Source

Steam Cooking or Steaming Is Beneficial and Fun

What Is Steam Cooking?

In steam cooking or steaming, the steam or hot water vapor does the cooking - the boiling water never comes in contact with the food. Heat from the steam is considered to be gentle and uniform as it slowly diffuses through the food and let the food cook in its own juice thus minimizing loss of nutrients and retaining its texture, color and flavor.

Steam cooking is one of the easiest and all-purpose method for cooking meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, and pasta.

A Single Tier Steamer

This simple single tier steamer has an enamel surface and I've been using it for more than 35 years.
This simple single tier steamer has an enamel surface and I've been using it for more than 35 years. | Source

Versatility of Steaming - Various Methods of Steaming

Steaming is one of simplest cooking method where you can steam almost all kinds of food. You can also steam food that are prepared in so many ways.

You can steam frozen food that is just taken out from the fridge. You can steam food that is freshly prepared without any additional ingredients or you can steam food with one of the many methods mentioned below.

One of the favorite methods in steam cooking is to wrap and seal the food in foil or greaseproof paper. Alternatively, you can put your food into a bowl or dish and cover the top with foil or cling wrap. This method is used for marinated food recipes and allow the food to adsorb all the flavors in the marinade and cook evenly inside the wrapping or wrapped dish.

Food Cooked In Bamboo Leaves

Glutinous rice with meat, mushroom and beans wrapped in bamboo leaves and steam cooked to perfection.
Glutinous rice with meat, mushroom and beans wrapped in bamboo leaves and steam cooked to perfection. | Source

A variation to this is the use of natural wrappings such as bamboo leaves, banana leaves, lotus leaves and corn husks which impart its own unique flavor to the steamed food. You can also use delicious edible leaves such as cabbage or lettuce to wrap meat, fish or cut-up pieces of various vegetables.

Chinese Dim Sums

Dim Sum or poetically translated as "heart's delight" are delicious little morsels of stuffed savory meat or sweet dumplings.
Dim Sum or poetically translated as "heart's delight" are delicious little morsels of stuffed savory meat or sweet dumplings.

"Heart's Delight" and Ravioli

Many of the classic Chinese dim sum and ravioli recipes are wrapped in dough of some sort. The common ones are the basic yeast dough for steamed buns, egg noodle dough, rice noodle dough, wheat starch dough and glutinous rice dough.

You can also use large fruits such as papaya or coconut, and gourds (melons, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, luffa) as containers or bowls to hold the food to be steam cooked. Just removed some of the fruit's inner sections and use the outer sections as a shell or container to cook your food. Your steamed food is now infused with some of the fruit's delicate flavor and you can eat the steamed fruit too. Nothing is wasted.

Instead of plain water to produce steam, you can add aromatic herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables to infuse some of these fragrance to the food you are steaming. You can use lemon grass, screwpine or pandan leaves, cinnamon sticks, ginger, citrus or lemon leaves/rinds, etc. You can also substitute the water with stock and use it later to prepare your soup or add it to the marinade.

Almost All Kinds Of Food Are Suitable For Steam Cooking

Steam cooking or steaming  vegetables, meats, seafood, fruits , pasta, cakes and desserts.
Steam cooking or steaming vegetables, meats, seafood, fruits , pasta, cakes and desserts.

10 Reasons Why Steam Cooking Is Good For You

Ten reasons why steam cooking is the perfect cooking method for a healthy lifestyle
Ten reasons why steam cooking is the perfect cooking method for a healthy lifestyle | Source
Water boils at 100'C and becomes steam
Water boils at 100'C and becomes steam | Source

Chinese Wok Steamer

A Chinese wok , a pair of wooden or bamboo chopsticks and a dome-shaped cover - an all-time favorite for those in need of a steamer in a hurry.
A Chinese wok , a pair of wooden or bamboo chopsticks and a dome-shaped cover - an all-time favorite for those in need of a steamer in a hurry. | Source

Steam Cooking Cooks Almost All Types of Food

You can cook almost all kinds of food with steam cooking. Steaming vegetables is easy and fast, and they retain their color, flavor and texture. With proper preparation, thin slices of meat and seafood can be steam cooked in a couple of minutes.

Steam cooking is the best method for the health-conscious because you do need not use oil or fat to cook your food. You can prepare delicious, light and healthy meals in minutes. And the best part is that cleaning up is a breeze as there is no oil, no smoke and no mess.

Steaming Simplicity: A Chinese Wok and Chopsticks

The Chinese wok is a versatile kitchen utensil not only used to cook vegetables and meat but can be used as a steamer as well. You just add water and a pair of chopsticks as a rack and the dome-shaped lid. If the food you are going to steam is dense and heavy and you are worried that the chopsticks would roll away, you can use two pairs of chopsticks and tie them into a frame similar to a tic-tact-toe frame for better balance.

If you don't have a wok, you can use any cooking pot that has a good fitting lid. Just add an inch or two of water into the pot and place an up-side down heat-proof bowl into the water. The exposed section of the bowl should be about 2 or 3 cm (about an inch) above the water surface. You want steam to cook the food, not boiling water splashing into your food.

Steaming Platforms or Rigs

Platforms or rigs to place the steaming dish for steam cooking
Platforms or rigs to place the steaming dish for steam cooking | Source

Ancient Chinese Bronze Yan Steamer

 Shang Dynasty Bronze Yan Steamer with Inscription. Bronze working is believed to have developed in China without  the influence of outside cultures around 2000 B.C. This cooking vesseI was produced during the Shang, or Yin (18th–12th  century BC),
Shang Dynasty Bronze Yan Steamer with Inscription. Bronze working is believed to have developed in China without the influence of outside cultures around 2000 B.C. This cooking vesseI was produced during the Shang, or Yin (18th–12th century BC), | Source

Back To The Basics

Steam cooking is not something new but has been around for centuries.It is one of the most popular cooking method in the East especially China, India and some parts of North Africa.

The Chinese chopsticks originated in ancient China during the Shang Dynasty which ruled the Yellow River valley during the second millennium BC. The first chopsticks were probably used for cooking, stirring the fire, serving or seizing bits of food, and not as eating utensils. A pair of chopsticks and a covered pot is all you need to make a simple steamer.

It is also believed that the Chinese were the first to use bamboo steamers and bronze cooking utensils including this beautiful Shang Dynasty Bronze steamer for cooking food.

The Classic Dim Sum - Steamed Food Delicacy

Dim Sum - different kinds of dim sum in bamboo steamers at a restaurant in Beijing
Dim Sum - different kinds of dim sum in bamboo steamers at a restaurant in Beijing | Source

Steam Cooking Is Fun

Why not start on a fresh note today and go back to the basics and rediscover the benefits of steam cooking.

You do not need any elaborate and expensive utensils such as micro-wave ovens, pressure cookers or electric steamers because steam cooking can be done with just a covered pot placed over a heat source and the benefits you get is good for you and for your health.

Stacking In Steam Cooking

This is an inexpensive 2-tier steamer made of aluminum. The stainless steel steamers are expensive. The bottom unit holds the boiling water which produces the steam.
This is an inexpensive 2-tier steamer made of aluminum. The stainless steel steamers are expensive. The bottom unit holds the boiling water which produces the steam. | Source

Steam Cooking Saves Precious Energy, Time and Effort.

One of the biggest benefits of steam cooking or steaming is that you can simultaneously cook various food items on different perforated tiers using the same steam thus saving precious energy, time and effort. This is known as stacking.

Keep The Steam From Escaping While You Cook

Use moistened clean kitchen cloth and place them firmly around the steamer, covering the gap between the steamer cover or lid and the wok to keep steam from escaping.
Use moistened clean kitchen cloth and place them firmly around the steamer, covering the gap between the steamer cover or lid and the wok to keep steam from escaping. | Source

More Tips On Steam Cooking!

Important Things To Do

  1. Do ensure you keep all the steam in the steamer. It is the steam that carry the heat to the entire surface of the food being cooked to ensure even cooking. Make sure your steamer has a tight-fitting lid and there are no gaps between the steaming trays. If there is an opening, cover it up with a moist kitchen cloth to keep steam from escaping.
  2. Do keep an eye on the cooking time. Steam cooking is all about time. Recommended cooking times are just guides. Different food requires different cooking time- the denser and larger the food, the more time it takes to complete the cooking. Lighter and smaller pieces of food cooks fast and can be easily over-cooked.
  3. Do try steaming different food and be familiar with the various periods needed to cook each type of food. Steam cooking can be lots of fun.
  4. Do be careful when handling hot steaming utensils and always watch out for the steam. Hot steam can cause painful and serious steam burns.

Keep Your Hands Safe

An oven glove, a rubberized finger glove or a moist kitchen keep your fingers from getting steam burn
An oven glove, a rubberized finger glove or a moist kitchen keep your fingers from getting steam burn | Source

Things To Avoid In Steam Cooking!

  1. Do not let the boiling water touch the food you are cooking. The steaming tray should be 5 or 10 cm from the water surface. There should be lots of space for the steam to circulate freely.
  2. Do not let the water or stock boil dry. Boiling water is required to produce steam and steam can escape from a steamer. It is a good practice to check the water level every 15 to 20 minutes and top up with water or stock as required.
  3. Do not leave food in the steamer after cooking. Even with the heat turned off, the food will continue to cook in its own heat. Over-cooked food looks dull and soggy.
  4. Do not use your fingers to lift hot steaming trays or dishes. Use proper kitchen tools that are designed for that purpose. Avoid getting steam burns.

Hot Bowl or Dish Holders

Hot Bowl or Dish Holders are useful kitchen utensils to help you remove hot bowls or dishes of steamed food from the steaming trays
Hot Bowl or Dish Holders are useful kitchen utensils to help you remove hot bowls or dishes of steamed food from the steaming trays | Source

Quick Conversion Table

Quick conversion table for dry ingredients, liquid and lenght
Quick conversion table for dry ingredients, liquid and lenght | Source

Steamed Crabs With Beer

Steamed crabs with beer
Steamed crabs with beer

Steamed Crabs With Your Favorite Beer

Ingredients:

  • 2 pcs crabs (about 1 kg)
  • 1 piece of onion (sliced)
  • 1 can of your favorite beer
  • 1 egg york
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • a dash of pepper powder
  • 1 stalk coriander (minced)
  • a few drops of sesame oil
  • 1 stalk spring onions (shredded) for garnish

Method:

  1. Clean the crabs and cut into halves or quarters.
  2. Heat up cooking oil and fry the onion until fragrant.
  3. In a steamer saucepan, add the fried onion, crabs, beer and the rest of the ingredients. Steam for 10 minutes.
  4. Top with shredded spring onion and serve.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ready To Serve: 40 minutes

A Useful Chart On Steaming Times

Please note that the steaming time chart provided below is only intended as a guide  – the actual cooking times may differ considerably due to personal tastes (some   people like their veggies harder and crisper) and due to differences in the water
Please note that the steaming time chart provided below is only intended as a guide – the actual cooking times may differ considerably due to personal tastes (some people like their veggies harder and crisper) and due to differences in the water | Source

Steamed Fish With All Its Flavor And Texture Intact

Steam cooking locks in the fish's vibrant colors and natural flavors
Steam cooking locks in the fish's vibrant colors and natural flavors

Steamed Fish

You can just use light soy sauce to steam cook your fish and then garnish it with spring onion and celery.

Here is a more elaborate and delicious recipe for steamed fish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-size fish (cleaned and washed)
  • 1 thin slice fresh ginger (cut into strips)
  • 2 black mushrooms (soaked in warm water to soften & shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • dash of sesame seed oil
  • dash of oyster sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 stalk spring onion (sliced)

Method:

  1. Place fish on steaming tray and season with salt and pepper,
  2. Mix sesame seed oil, oyster sauce and light soy sauce together,
  3. Heat a pan with a little vegetable oil and stir-fry the mushrooms,
  4. Pour in mixed sauces and stir,
  5. Dish out and pour over fish,
  6. Sprinkle sliced ginger over fish,
  7. Put tray in a steamer, cover and steam for about 10 minutes. (Water should be boiling when you put in the tray)
  8. When fish is cooked, remove from steamer and garnish with sliced spring onions and serve while hot.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ready To Serve: 40 minutes

Steamed Fish - A Simple And Delicious Dish

The Chinese love to eat steamed fish with just some light soy sauce and garnished with chopped spring onions and celery.
The Chinese love to eat steamed fish with just some light soy sauce and garnished with chopped spring onions and celery.

Steam Cooking

Steamed Cake or Kuih

Steamed cake  or kuih is very popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Usually eaten as snacks.
Steamed cake or kuih is very popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Usually eaten as snacks.

Steamed Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs,
  • 50 gm brown sugar,
  • 75 ml milk,
  • 100 gm self-raising flour,
  • 1 teaspoon of corn oil or vegetable oil, and
  • honey or golden syrup for topping.

Method:

  1. Beat eggs in bowl and stir in sugar and milk,
  2. Add flour and mix well,
  3. Add oil into the batter,
  4. Pour batter into a greased container and steam for 30 minutes,
  5. Remove hot cake from container, cut into squares or triangles, and
  6. Serve hot or cold with golden syrup or honey.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ready To Serve: 45 minutes

Steamed Chinese Kuih

A riot of colors - Chinese sweet cakes
A riot of colors - Chinese sweet cakes

More Steamed Cakes

Steamed Chinese cakes or kuih
Steamed Chinese cakes or kuih

Steamed Mixed Eggs

Salted duck eggs and preserved egg or century eggs are mixed together and steamed. Goes well with porridge or congee.
Salted duck eggs and preserved egg or century eggs are mixed together and steamed. Goes well with porridge or congee.

Steamed Mixed Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites (beaten lightly),
  • 3 salted duck eggs (hardboiled and sliced),
  • 3 preserved eggs (boiled and sliced), and
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock.

Before and After Steam Cooking

Three unique flavors from three kinds of eggs - preserved and salted duck eggs and hen eggs
Three unique flavors from three kinds of eggs - preserved and salted duck eggs and hen eggs

Method:

  1. Mix all the eggs together and add stock,
  2. Pour into greased tray and steam for 20 minutes,
  3. Serve hot or cold.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ready To Serve: 35 minutes

Pidan, Century Egg or Preserved Egg

Pidan, century egg or preserved egg
Pidan, century egg or preserved egg

Note:

Preserved egg is also called century egg or pidan. Very high in cholesterol and salt. Enjoy only once in a blue moon. It's delicious and one of my favorites. Goes very well with rice porridge.

Delicious Sweet Cakes

Delicious sweet cakes are healthy snacks
Delicious sweet cakes are healthy snacks

Steam Cooking and You

I use steam cooking to cook my food...

  • all the time (more than once a week).
  • regularly (at least once a week)
  • occasionally (at least once a month).
  • sometimes (at least once a year).
  • I'll try steam cooking the next time I cook.
  • I don't use steam cooking to cook my food.
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Steam Cooking Is Good For You

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Comments 4 comments

zeng profile image

zeng 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Steamed cakes are called Kuih in the local language. They are bits size snacks or desserts commonly found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. They are normally steamed instead of baked like the western styled cakes or pastry. I have added a link to wikipedia for your reference.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

Loved the article, I wish the measurements were in lbs and cups and teaspoons as well though.


Michael 4 years ago

Im 11 and im doing a project for school but i cant get eney info.

so im trying to say is i need more info but i think your website is preaty cool.

love.

michael


Eric de Jesus 5 years ago

Although I love steamed food, I never heard of steaming cakes. It's a hard thing for my mind to think of maybe because I'm used to cakes being seen at pastry shops already. Thank you for sharing information on how to do some steam cooking. My mom needs some healthy food right now and I personally think steamed foods are healthy for her rather than the normal cooked ones. :)

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