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A gentle method for preparing vegetables, fish and meat
Steaming is one of the gentlest ways to prepare food. By using the steam of hot water, most of the vitamins and minerals are preserved and the flavour of the food is more intense.
Aside from steaming, stewing is another gentle cooking method. The difference between steaming and stewing is that the food does not come into contact with the water during steaming, whereas with stewing, the food is cooked directly in a little water or its own juices. The advantage of steaming over boiling is that significantly less nutrients are lost and both colour and flavour are preserved, meaning you can use less spices. In Asia, steaming has been an established cooking method for centuries.
It is important that the food does not touch the water, but rather, is just surrounded by its steam. Fill the pot with enough water so it doesn’t disappear too quickly when boiling, but also so it doesn’t touch the food. To make sure both conditions are met, allow the water to first come to a boil and then slightly reduce the temperature.
Cooking times vary depending on type and size of food. Potatoes require roughly 30 minutes, carrots and broccoli on the other hand only have to steam for 10 to 15 minutes. A medium-sized chicken breast is perfectly cooked after 6 to 10 minutes of steaming. If you want to steam fish and vegetables together, simply put them in the pot at different times. To add flavour through the steam, try adding some salt, spices or herbs to the water. Using vegetable stock or wine is another good way of infusing your food with additional flavour – and the liquid can later be used as a base for gravy.
Special equipment is not required for steaming - you can use a pot and a simple stainless steel insert. The most important thing is that the lid shuts properly. Alternatively, use a bamboo basket by placing it in a pot, pan or wok above the steam. A special steam cooker is only worth it if you frequently steam large amounts.
You can also use your microwave to steam food. The best results are achieved with a microwave steam cooker, which consists of a plastic container with a sieve insert and a lid. Pressure cookers also use steam, whereby the high pressure and high temperature ensures that food cooks even more quickly.
Vegetables are ideal for steaming, as they retain more of their nutritional value than when prepared in other ways. Steamed fish is equally delicious as it doesn’t overcook or dry out. Although many are reluctant to steam meat, it is worth a try, as it is an equally gentle way to prepare meat. If you miss the flavour of roasted meat, try compensating with the right spices or marinades. If you really don’t want to miss out on the flavour created by roasting meat, briefly brown it before steaming.
Rice can also be prepared in a steam cooker. It may, however, fall through the sieve insert of a pot – bamboo baskets are therefore better suited for steaming rice, as they have a flat surface. Prepare a piece of baking paper and place the rice on it for steaming.
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