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How to Steam Food on the Stovetop

How To, Blog

Because steaming preserves the bright essential flavors and textures of the ingredients, it’s a natural fit for lighter, fresher springtime fare.

Stovetop steaming is a healthy way to cook that is used in a variety of international cuisines. Many Asian dishes, for example, steamed dumplings or pork-filled buns, or fish steamed atop aromatic vegetables, use the cooking method. Other foods, such as everyday steamed broccoli or green beans, benefit from steaming as well.

This method is simple to master, and even if you don’t have a dedicated steamer, you can make do with what you already have in your kitchen.

What Stovetop Steaming Does

Almost no other method of cooking food as gently as steaming. The food is less likely to jostle, overcook, or absorb too much water because the liquid never touches it. This means that the shape, color, and texture of the food are preserved.

Because stovetop steaming does not use any fat, it is an excellent low-fat cooking method. Unlike boiling, which removes water-soluble nutrients from food, stovetop steaming retains the majority of nutrients, as well as flavor and color.

Best Foods to Steam

Foods that require moisture and should be soft and silky rather than crunchy or caramelized are ideal for stovetop steaming with the best electric food streamer. Steamed Asian dumplings, for example, have an irresistible soft-chewy texture rather than a firm or crunchy texture. Almost all vegetables are suitable (with a few exceptions, such as spongy vegetables like mushrooms and eggplant or tough ones, such as hearty greens).


A pan with a tight-fitting lid and a rack to support the food over the liquid in the pan are all that’s needed for stovetop steaming. It’s critical to get a good seal with the lid if you want to keep the steam in. Cover the pan with foil and then top with the lid if the lid doesn’t fit snugly. Many cookware sets, as well as woks, come with steamer inserts. There are other options if you don’t have these.

Steaming Liquid

Consider clear, thin liquids like water, broth, juice, wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages. These will steam and bubble, creating a hot, humid environment. Avoid curdling liquids like dairy milk or coconut milk, as well as thick liquids like tomato sauce, which can burn.

Add just enough liquid to generate a large volume of steam without passing through the steamer or rack’s holes or slats. Allowing the water to touch the food will cause it to boil and, most likely, overcook.


Seasonings in the liquid do have the ability to pervade the food. The various cellular layers of the food open up in the heat and trap flavors in the steam, gently enhancing the overall taste. Cinnamon sticks, lemongrass stalks, star anise pods, and ginger are all good choices for hard spices and aromatic roots. They have a light fragrance rather than a strong flavor.

Finishing Flavors

Because steamed foods lack the depth of flavor of those that have been roasted, sautéed, or seared, they often benefit from a sauce, such as a cheese sauce for broccoli or herbed butter for shellfish. Finish with a simple vinaigrette drizzled over steamed vegetables. The sauce can sometimes be made from the steaming liquid itself, especially if aromatics and spices have been added and the sauce has been reduced to a thicker consistency, which concentrates the flavor.

Stovetop Steaming safely

Three tips will ensure success:

  1. Open the lid away from you so that the steam is released to the back of the stove away from your face.
  2. Use silicone baking mitts to pick up a steaming rack. Because the rack will be damp, scalding water can soak through cloth oven mitts and cause a burn.
  3. Use tongs or spatulas to remove food from the steamer. Steamed food -often retains heat longer because the hot steam has permeated the food.


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