When you hear the word ‘steamed’, does a picture of bland and unappetizing vegetables pop your head? If so, I am sure you are not alone. Actually, the absolute KEY to steaming is to steam just long enough for a food to be cooked through and tender (think ‘al dente’). Don’t over-steam. If you do, the vegetables will likely turn an unappetizing dull color, get slightly watery and won’t have a very appealing taste. Why steam cook? Here are 4 top reasons why you should incorporate some steam cooking into your meals.
Retain More Nutrients
Steaming is actually one of the best ways to cook food while retaining most of the nutrients. One example would be vitamin C. Have you ever cooked broccoli spears in boiling water, and then when you removed them, the cooking liquid had turned yellowish? That’s because some of the chlorophyll pigment and nutrients like water soluble vitamin C had leached into the water. So steaming is actually a great way to cook foods because it is fast, effective (steam is at a higher temperature than boiling water), less water is used and there is less nutrient loss.
Make Baby Foods
Steaming vegetables are a great way to prepare baby foods, as the texture of hard vegetables becomes soft for baby gums in older infants that have started solid foods. This is one case where the food can be steamed longer to make a softer texture for these young ones. Steaming often makes baby food prep easier too, as you can then just fork mash a food or give small chunks directly to the child without needing to use a hand blender or food processor. Examples of foods that can be readily steamed would be cauliflower, carrots, peas, beans, sweet potato, potato, squashes and broccoli.
Quicker Food Prep
Few know that steaming can be a GREAT method for prepping food in the intermediary stage prior to cooking other dishes. Examples include half-steaming root vegetables like kabocha squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots or potatoes before using them in stir-fries or sauté recipes. This tenderizes the vegetables and can halve the cooking time in the final cooking stage. Lessen the cooking time of vegetables even more by chopping them before steaming. For root vegetables and winter squashes, you can cut these into halves or quarters for faster steaming. Don’t worry about peeling or cutting away the skin just yet, as after the steaming process the skin usually peels off easily or can be removed quickly using a fruit peeler or knife. Often, depending on the size (and whether the vegetable has been cut up prior to steaming), I find that just 10-15 minutes is adequate to steam cook a root vegetable or squash until al dente tender.
Using a multi-layer steamer can be a time saver. I often use the steamer to heat up multiple dishes (of new and leftover foods) at once. I simply put the dishes I want into the steamer (often a shallow dish of cooked rice is on the bottom level, as that won’t be affected by too much moisture), adjust the heat setting depending on when the food needs to be served, and let it steam while I go and do other things (making sure there is adequate water in the steamer first of course). When the food is reheated, I turn off the steamer and let it sit for a few minutes with the lid covered, while I set the table. This way the food is kept nice and warm until serving time. Just make sure to not over-steam the leftover dishes at too high a heat and for too long, as the dishes can tend to get watery. Setting a timer in this case can help!