How to CookKitchen Hacks

How to Hack a Steamer

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Three methods for steaming vegetables, no fancy kitchen tools needed. 

Steamed Vegetables from Food52

Kitchen gadgets can be miracle workers -- just try making cherry pie without a cherry pitter -- but they also have a dark side. Not only are some tools pricey, but many are also one-trick ponies. Shell out big bucks for a kitchen torch and chances are you'll make crême brûlée once and then retire the torch to your already-crowded shelves.  

If you don't steam food frequently -- or if you find yourself in need of a steaming basket, stat -- don't run out and buy one. If you have a metal colander or a baking rack, a big pot, and some aluminum foil, you've got everything you need to make a steamer at home. 

Let's get steamy.

Method 1 

Fill a pot with approximately half an inch of water. Place a metal colander or a strainer inside, leaving enough room so that the boiling water won't touch the strainer.

If your strainer doesn't rest on the rim of the pot, you can hold it in place. In that case, we'd recommend using a strainer with a heat-proof handle or protecting yourself with an oven mit.

Place the food in a single layer in the strainer, bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat so it's barely bubbling. Cover the pot as much as possible in order to prevent steam from escaping. Check on your food often to prevent over-cooking! Keep in mind that steaming times will vary depending on the food you are cooking.


Method 2

This one's for anyone who doesn't have a metal strainer. First, fill a large pot with about half an inch of water. Now pause for a brieft arts and crafts project: get out your aluminum foil and make three balls of roughly equal size. 

Rest a heat-proof plate on top of the foil balls. If you don't have a plate that will work, you can use a small baking rack or a splatter guard instead. 

Place the food in a single layer on the plate, heat the water to a simmer, and cover the pot. After a few minutes, your vegetables will be ready. 


Method 3

Steaming isn't just for the stovetop -- you can steam in the oven, too! For this method, a roasting pan with a rack is ideal, but if you've got a big pot and baking rack, you're golden.

Heat the oven to a low temperature (approximately 200º F) and bring a teapot of water to a boil. Pour half an inch of the water into a large pot. Arrange the food in a single layer on a baking rack and place it over the pot. 

Cover to whole contraption with aluminum foil -- again, to stop steam from escaping -- and place the pot in the oven until the food is steamed.

Now give yourself a pat on the back for making your very own vegetable steamer. And while you're being resourceful, check out these other kitchen hacks, as well (it turns out you don't need that cherry pitter, after all).

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Vegetable, Steam, Vegetarian, Tips & Techniques, DIY Food, Ingredients, How-To & Diy, Kitchen Confidence