Stacking In Steam Cooking Cooks A Complete Meal Fast And Easy

Stacked Steam Cooking Saves Money, Space and Time

Stacking in steam cooking is the perfect technique to cook several kinds of foods simultaneously.

In stacking, you cook the food in a tiered steamer which consists of three components: a container for the boiling water or liquid, several perforated steaming trays that fit snugly on top of each other to cook various foods and a tight-fitting lid to keep steam from escaping.

2-Tier Steamer and A Combined Steamer

2-Tier Steamer (left) the bottom tier is a container for  boiling water. Above are 2 steaming trays. A Combined Steamer (right) is a pot with ridges on the sides to hold a perforated tray for steaming food. Water is placed inside the pot.
2-Tier Steamer (left) the bottom tier is a container for boiling water. Above are 2 steaming trays. A Combined Steamer (right) is a pot with ridges on the sides to hold a perforated tray for steaming food. Water is placed inside the pot.

Stacking Is Easy and Fun

Steam cooking with a tiered steamer requires just a single burner. You can simultaneously cook a complete meal consisting of your favorite dishes thus saving you fuel energy, space and time.

Stacking is easy and fun. There are lots of delicious steaming recipes on the Internet. Below are three simple and easy recipes for you to try out stacking. Don't be afraid to experiment and innovate. It could open up a new world of cooking enjoyment and delicious healthy foods for you, your family and friends.

Tiered Steamers or Stacking Steamers

Tiered Steamers or Stacking Steamers -Left: aluminum steamer Right - electrical heat-proof plastic steamer
Tiered Steamers or Stacking Steamers -Left: aluminum steamer Right - electrical heat-proof plastic steamer | Source

Stacked Steam Cooking - 3 Tiers or Layers of Steaming Trays

Stacked Steam Cooking - 3 Tiers or Layers of steaming trays. You can cook a complete meal with just one burner
Stacked Steam Cooking - 3 Tiers or Layers of steaming trays. You can cook a complete meal with just one burner | Source

Basic Features of A Tiered Steamer

A tiered steamer or stacking steamer usually consists of three or five steaming components - the container or base unit, the steaming trays and a tight-fitting lid or cover.

Most of the conventional tiered steamers are made of aluminum or stainless steel. Modern electrical steamers have metaled bases with thermostat-controlled heating elements attached under the container, and steaming trays made of heat-resistant transparent materials.

The container or base unit is usually larger or taller than the rest of the steaming trays because it is used to hold a large volume of boiling water or liquid that generates enough steam to fill the entire steamer.

The steaming trays are of the same size and shape so that they sit snugly on top of each other as you stack them up. There should be no gaps or opening between the trays as you do not want any of the steam to escape. The bottom of the steaming tray is perforated to allow steam to move freely from one tray to the next.

Chinese Bamboo Steamers

Chinese bamboo steamers, inset shows detals of the steamer's base (photo - Donna Benjamin; inset -author)
Chinese bamboo steamers, inset shows detals of the steamer's base (photo - Donna Benjamin; inset -author) | Source

Traditional Chinese Bamboo Tiered Steamers

The traditional Chinese tiered steamer is made entirely out of bamboo. The round steaming trays or baskets are designed to be stacked several tiers high. The base of the basket is slatted and constructed from parallel strips of bamboo that allow steam to flow freely through it. Bamboo is a renewable resource and is excellent for steam cooking because it absorbs excess steam and prevents condensed water vapor to drip onto the food.

In stacking, the bottom basket rests tightly against the sides of a wok and is about two inches (5 cm) above the boiling water. Steaming baskets are then stacked on top of each other. The top basket is covered with a tight-fitting bamboo lid.

Commercial Tiered Steamer For Dim Sum

A stainless steel tired steamer for Chinese Tim Sum of pork, seafood, vegetable, beans dumplings and glutinous rice. Beneath the trays is a container which holds the boiling water.
A stainless steel tired steamer for Chinese Tim Sum of pork, seafood, vegetable, beans dumplings and glutinous rice. Beneath the trays is a container which holds the boiling water. | Source

Different Levels For Different Food

Different Levels For Different Food
Different Levels For Different Food | Source

Various Levels For Various Kinds of Food

Always use the steamer trays nearest the bottom for foods that require longer cooking time, such as meat and poultry. Usually these foods are more dense, cook more slowly and require intense heat.

The middle level steamers are used to steam food which are less dense and require a shorter cooking time than meat and poultry. These foods include fish, seafood, large or whole vegetables, tubers and roots.

The steamers near the top are used to steam foods that are light and easy to cook such as leafy vegetables, fruits, sauces, or desserts.

Adjust Cooking Times To Your Preference

Cooking times in recipes are guides and need to be adjusted accordingly
Cooking times in recipes are guides and need to be adjusted accordingly

Cooking Times In Recipes Are Guides

The cooking times in recipes are usually estimated steaming times. Freshness, quality and size of the food as well as personal preference will affect how quickly various foods will take to steam. Also consider the type and materials of cooking utensils and stoves. Always remember to adjust cooking times as desired.

The freshness of the food is an important factor we need to consider. In general, the fresher the food, the faster it cooks. This is because of the higher water content of the fresh food. Dry or wilted food needs to absorb moisture first before it starts to cook.

Food that is cut into smaller pieces of similar sizes cooks faster and more evenly than food that is cook in its original form. For example, a whole chicken takes longer to cook than chicken that is cut into smaller pieces or minced. Likewise, a whole head of broccoli takes about 8-12 minutes to cook compared to 5-7 minutes for trimmed stalks or florets of broccoli.

Test The Cooking Times and Adjust Accordingly

Cooking times in recipes are estimates or guides and should be tested out and adjusted to your requirements.
Cooking times in recipes are estimates or guides and should be tested out and adjusted to your requirements.

The More You Try, The Better Cook You Become

Different materials in cooking utensils: aluminum, carbon steel, copper, non-­‐stick, composites, ceramic, etc. and different types of stoves: gas, electric, infra-­red, induction, etc. can influence the cooking conditions and the actual cooking times required to cook the food.

Cooking times can also vary because of personal preferences for taste. For example, we can shorten the cooking time by 2-3 minutes if we like steamed broccoli that are harder and crisper, or we can extend the cooking time if we like steamed broccoli that are soft and wet.

The best way is to try them out. Test out various cooking times and select the ones that match all or most of the factors mentioned above. It's fun.

Steam Cooking Is Good For You

10 Reasons why steam cooking or steaming is the perfect cooking method for a healthy lifestyle
10 Reasons why steam cooking or steaming is the perfect cooking method for a healthy lifestyle | Source

Fundamentals of Stacking In Steam Cooking

In stacking for steam cooking, only one burner will be used and two or more steaming trays will be stacked to simultaneously cook various kinds of food which will require various cooking times. Thus, timing in stacked steam cooking is very critical if we want all the food to cook completely and evenly to your satisfaction. If you are new to steam cooking, this may sound difficult but it is not. Steam cooking is lots of fun. Beginners should try out easy recipes first before attempting the more difficult ones.

Steam Cooking Is Fun And Easy If You Have A Plan

5 steps to a simple, easy and fun steam cooking your favorite foods
5 steps to a simple, easy and fun steam cooking your favorite foods

Follow these five simple steps to cook a complete meal with stacking:

1. Decide what kinds of food you want to eat - the main course, side dishes and desserts.

2. Note the cooking times required for the foods you have chosen. These are guides and you will have to adjust the times accordingly. Do be afraid to experiment.

3. Prepare the food according to the way you like them to taste. Consider factors such as freshness, size of food, food types, and personal preferences.

4. Prepare a plan on how to use the various steaming trays. Food with the longest cooking time is placed at the bottom and the fastest time at the top. Do you want to stack all the trays at the same time or do you want to add them one by one?

5. Cook your food by stacking the steaming trays according to your strategy. You can do it by stacking all the trays or you can add one tray at a time according to its cooking time.

Three Simple And Delicious Recipes

3 simple yet delicious recipes - chicken mushroom rice, broccoli oyster sauce and egg and milk custard
3 simple yet delicious recipes - chicken mushroom rice, broccoli oyster sauce and egg and milk custard | Source

Stacked Steam Cooking Is Fun and Easy If You Have A Plan

Let's try this simple meal consisting of:

1. Chicken and mushroom rice - cut chicken into bite-size pieces, white long-grain rice; cook chicken pieces until tender, cook rice and mushroom until soft and fragrant;

2. Broccoli with oyster sauce - trim stalks, cut into florets, cook until firm and crispy;

3. Egg and milk custard - large egg, fresh cow milk, cook thoroughly until smooth and creamy.

Steaming White Rice

Steam cooking white rice
Steam cooking white rice

Stacking In Steam Cooking - Three Simple and Easy Recipes

Recipe
Preparation Time
Cooking Time
1. Chicken Mushroom Rice
20 min
30 min
2. Egg and Milk Custard
7 min
15 min
3. Broccoli with oyster sauce
5 min
10 min
Total Time
32 min
30 min
Total Preparation Time is 32 minutes. Total Cooking Time is 30 minutes. The three dishes are steam cooked simultaneously. Thus, the total cooking time is the dish with the longest cooking time - chicken mushroom rice.

Stacking Is Economical, Saves Space and Time

The total preparation time is 32 minutes and the total cooking time is 30 minutes.

Why 30 minutes and not 55 minutes (three dishes: 30+15+10)?

Remember, we are cooking all the three dishes simultaneously by stacking the steaming trays.

So, the dish with the longest cooking time is the total cooking time!

There is only one heat source (gas or electricity) to boil the water and the same steam is circulated to cook simultaneously all three dishes stacked in the steamer. We do not have to use three burners or to cook three times. Thus, we save the cost of gas or electricity (one burner), save space (one burner instead of three) and save time (55 - 30 = 25 minutes).

How To Cook Three Dishes By Stacking

Steam cooking by stacking can be done in many ways. Two basic methods of stacking will be discussed and the three dishes mentioned earlier would be used as an example.

Method 1 - Start Cooking With All Three Steaming Trays Stacked

This is the preferred method as it is more flexible with the cooking time.

1. Place all three dishes in the steamer - the dish with the longest cooking time is always placed at the bottom (1st tier), the second longest cooking time is in the middle (2nd tier), and the shortest cooking time is right at the top (3rd tier) next to the lid. Let the water boil for a couple of minutes so that the chamber beneath the lid is completely covered with steam. Start the clock for the cooking time (0 hour).

2. Since the 3rd tier has the fastest cooking time, this will be the first tray that you remove from the steamer when the first cooking time is completed (10 minutes). Open the lid and check to see that the broccoli is steamed to your satisfaction. Remove the steaming tray and put it aside. Place the lid back onto the 2nd tier and continue cooking.

Method 1: Steaming Three Dishes In One Stack

Steam cooking 3 dishes by stacking them one on top of the other. Stacking all 3 trays at the beginning of cooking and removing them one by one as the food is completely cooked.
Steam cooking 3 dishes by stacking them one on top of the other. Stacking all 3 trays at the beginning of cooking and removing them one by one as the food is completely cooked. | Source

Check and Remove Tray When Food Is Cooked

3. When the clock reaches the completion of the cooking time for the 2nd tier (15 minutes), open the lid and check whether the food is cooked to your satisfaction. If not, close the lid and let it cook for a few more minutes and check again. Every time you remove the lid, steam escapes from the steamer and the food may need a more time than anticipated to be cooked properly. Once the food is completely cooked, remove the 2nd tier from the steamer and put it aside. Place the lid back onto the 1st tier and continue cooking.

4. Now, you are left with only one steaming tray (1st tier) on the burner. Continue cooking until the completion of the cooking time (30 minutes). When the food is completely cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the burner. Remove the cooked food from the steamer unit and put aside or serve.

If you want the food to be softer, you can leave the food in the steaming tray with the lid on and let the residual heat of the steamer continue cooking the food. There is still a lot of heat in the steamer even when the burner is turned off.

Quick Conversion Table

Source

Method 2 - Start Cooking With One Steaming Tray and Stack The Others At The Appropriate Time

This 2nd method is more tricky because you would need to know exactly when to place your 2nd or 3rd tier without over-cooking your 1st tier or 2nd tier whatever the case may be.

1. Always place the food requiring the longest cooking time at the bottom (1st tier). Start the clock once the steam completely filled the steamer unit (0 hour)

2. When that food is partially cooked for 15 minutes (30-15=15), remove the lid and add the next steaming tray (2nd tier) on top of the first tray and close the lid on top of the 2nd tier.

Method 2: Stacking One Tray At A Time During Steaming

Stacked cooking one tray at a time until all the trays are stacked. A bit tricky for the beginner.
Stacked cooking one tray at a time until all the trays are stacked. A bit tricky for the beginner. | Source

Method 2 Is More Tricky

3. While these two trays of food continue to cook, remove the lid at the required time or at 20 minutes (30-10=20) from the starting point and add the next tray of food (3rd tier) at the top of the stack, and cover the lid. Now, you have stacked all three trays in the steamer unit.

4. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes (30-20=10) until all the food in the three trays are completely cooked.

N.B.

Steam cooking is just like any other cooking methods, you can over-cook your food even though you turn off the burner. The accumulated heat in the cooked food will continue to cook the food in its own juice until all the heat is dissipated.

Chicken and Mushroom Over Steamy Hot Rice

Steamy white rice topped with marinated chicken and Shiitake mushrooms - yummy and wholesome
Steamy white rice topped with marinated chicken and Shiitake mushrooms - yummy and wholesome | Source

Steamed White Rice Ready For The Toppings

Different kinds of rice required different cooking times. Check them out before you steam them.
Different kinds of rice required different cooking times. Check them out before you steam them. | Source

Steamed Chicken and Mushroom Rice

Steamed chicken and mushroom rice is very simple to prepare and cook. The total time required is under one hour.

Ingredients:

1/2 chicken (approx. 300g)
6 mushrooms (Shiitake, soak in water, cut into slices)
1 tbsp shredded ginger
2 tbsps chopped spring onions
1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tbsps cooking oil
1 tsp salt

Shiitake Mushrrom

Shiitake mushroom adds a delicate fragrance to the chicken
Shiitake mushroom adds a delicate fragrance to the chicken | Source

Seasonings:

1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ginger juice (extract from pounded ginger)
1 tsp rice wine (optional)
1 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
Pinch of pepper
1 tbsp water

Chicken Mushroom Rice - Easy To Cook, Delicious To Eat

A simple and easy recipe - marinated chicken and mushroom placed over white rice (Inset - uncooked dish)
A simple and easy recipe - marinated chicken and mushroom placed over white rice (Inset - uncooked dish) | Source

Steamed Chicken and Mushroom Rice In Less Than An Hour

Method:

1. Wash, drain and dry rice. Mix well with oil and salt, add in boiling water and steam in steamer with high heat for 15 minutes.

2. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Marinate with the above seasonings and shredded ginger for 10 minutes.

3. Stir rice in the steamer with chopsticks then arrange chicken pieces and mushroom on top. Cover again and steam for another 10 minutes. Turn off burner. Leave cooked rice in the steamer for another 5 minutes before removing.

4. Before serving, sprinkle rice with dark soy sauce, cooked (onion) oil and spring onions. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ready to Serve: 50 minutes


Easy To Prepare Chicken Mushroom Rice

Delicious and nutritious chicken and mushroom rice
Delicious and nutritious chicken and mushroom rice

Steaming Times For Rice

Different types of rice require different cooking times
Different types of rice require different cooking times | Source

Sweet and Creamy Egg Milk Custard

Egg and milk custard for dessert
Egg and milk custard for dessert

Steamed Egg and Milk Custard

Ingredients:

1 large egg (whisked)
1 cup whole milk (250 ml)
4 tsps sugar (reduced if you like it less sweet)

Method:


1. Add sugar into the milk and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and leave aside to cool.
2. Pour the whisked egg into the cooled milk. Mix well, strain and remove foam.
3. Pour mixture into a pre-heated hot bowl. Steam over high heat for 15 minutes.
4. Remove from steamer. Leave aside and cover the dish with a lid until serve.

Serve 2 persons.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ready to Serve: 20 minutes

Broccoli - Perfectly Steamed To Your Taste

The fresher the broccoli, the faster it cooks. Smaller pieces cook faster too.
The fresher the broccoli, the faster it cooks. Smaller pieces cook faster too. | Source

Steamed Broccoli With Oyster Sauce

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli (whole)
2 tbsp oyster sauce


Method:


1. Wash broccoli, trim stalks and cut according to florets,
2. Place broccoli florets into a heat-proof dish.
3. Steam over high heat for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from steamer. Pour oyster sauce over broccoli and serve.

Serve 2 persons.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ready to Serve: 15 minutes

Dynamic Duo - Broccoli and Oyster Sauce

Steamed vegetables go well with any sauce. Oyster sauce is delicious and is one of the most commonly used sauce for the many steamed vegetable recipes.
Steamed vegetables go well with any sauce. Oyster sauce is delicious and is one of the most commonly used sauce for the many steamed vegetable recipes.

Is Your Favorite Vege In This List?

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

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2 comments

zeng profile image

zeng 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Thanks for your kind comment Brie. Stacking is a great way to cook. With a little bit of experience, you can cook lots of wonderful dishes. Have fun.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

What a great and thorough article, voted up up up! I saved this for when I want to try cooking this way.

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