Tips & Techniques

Learn to Use a Bamboo Steamer & Never Look Back

January 30, 2018

True, gentle steaming might not sound as exciting as a sizzling pan. It requires extra tools, extra patience, and can seem extra boring (no flashy sautés in oil or Maillard reaction). But quiet steaming actually condenses the flavors of ingredients, almost magically making foods taste even more like themselves.

While we might still be discovering the secrets of steaming, award-winning food journalist and cook Hsiao-Ching Chou explains in her new book, Chinese Soul Food, that Chinese chefs have long practiced the art.

“The moist-heat cooking transforms yeasted doughs into airy buns, seafoods into intensified versions of themselves, meats into tender morsels of savoriness, and so on,” she writes.

Bamboo steamers are the most traditional Chinese style, and because they can be a little intimidating to use at first, Chou describes how to set one up:

  • Fill a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven (or equivalent pan) with 3 quarts of water, then bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Line the steamer basket with round, perforated parchment steamer liners and put the food in the basket. Place an 11-inch steaming ring on the rim of the Dutch oven and set the steamer basket and lid on the ring.
  • Steam over high heat for the time directed, checking the water level occasionally to make sure the pot doesn’t dry up.

Want to give it a try? Here are some of our favorite recipes to steam in bamboo:

Do you use a bamboo steamer? What are your favorite recipes to cook with moist heat?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

1 Comment

PHIL January 30, 2018
I like using a bamboo steamer but I find they fall apart with time. Haven't found a good quality one that lasts. If anyone knows of one please share.