With an increasingly health-conscious America eagerly looking for new and tasteful options as alternatives to unhealthy foods and cooking methods, it is no surprise that various tools and cookware for steaming food are rising in sales.
Any store selling cookware touts several varieties of steaming pots and electric steamers, all capable of doing a sufficient job of gently cooking ample varieties of food, but for an authentic flair thats both fun and practical, you may want to invest in a traditional bamboo steamer.
Used prevalently in Asian culture, bamboo steamers possess a few unique characteristics designed to produce a more flavorful, evenly cooked meal, while retaining the natural characteristics of the food as well as preserving essential vitamins and minerals that could otherwise be lost by other cooking methods, such as boiling, frying, or sautÃ?Â©eing.
Bamboo steamers come in a variety of sizes, and are traditionally constructed of a circular frame, with a slotted bottom and a domed lid. The lid and slotted bottom work together effectively to keep steam trapped and free-flowing throughout the steamer. The bamboo helps to absorb excess moisture and retains heat.
The steamer itself is designed to fit neatly within a wok. Ease of use is an extra advantage. The wok should be filled with water until just below the bottom of the bamboo. You can place the food directly upon the slots, or over lettuce or parchment paper to avoid sticking. This method is preferred because it also prevents the bamboo from absorbing essential flavors. A ceramic plate will also work. Set the water boiling and cover tightly with the lid, then simply wait the appropriate time for the food to be done.
For an extra-flavorful dish, add some herbs to the water. The food will soak up the heavenly aromas of the herbs, enhancing the flavors and your meal.
For health purposes, steaming is ideal. Able to cook the food thoroughly and easily without using any sort of fat, oils, or butter, food retains its healthy properties and appears fresh and vibrant. You’ll likely be able to rediscover natural flavors inherent in the food that were otherwise lost or overpowered by other cooking methods and fats. Perfect for fat-free diets, you can steam a cornucopia of low-calorie foods such as fish, vegetables, shellfish, meats, and much more, as well as the traditional dim-sum, a highly popular Asian dish.
The most advantageous reason to use a bamboo steamer is the ability to cook multiple foods at once. Many pots and electric steamers offer separate layers or compartments for such a purpose, attempting to simulate the ingenuity of bamboo steamers, but they can’t compete with the natural distinct flavors imparted by the use of the bamboo steamers.
Bamboo steamers are made to fit snugly one on top of the other, enabling you to stack them over a single wok or pot, thus steaming several different layers at once. Simply leave the lid off the bottom steamer, place the second steamer with food on top of that one (repeat if using more than two) and place the lid on the top steamer. With this method, you can successfully cook a course of meat or fish on the bottom, and several side dishes or another full course on the second and third tiers. The lowest tier of the stacked steamers will cook food faster than the upper, so larger foods or those requiring more cooking time should be placed on the bottom.
Such efficiency and organization also eradicates the mess of multiple pots to watch and clean. Placing the food on either leaves, parchment, or plates keeps the steamers relatively clean as well.
Most bamboo steamers will be accompanied by an instruction booklet, detailing proper care of the steamer and adequate cooking times for various foods, as well as an assortment of simple recipes. They are often sold in three-piece sets (two steamers and a lid), and are relatively inexpensive. Bamboo steamers a great and exciting gift for yourself or any friends or relatives who are health-conscious.