How To Steam Vegetables

par Matt Duckor

How To Steam Vegetables

Steaming vegetables is a health-promoting culinary technique that has been cherished for centuries. Whether you have a dedicated food steamer, steaming basket, microwave steamer, or none at all, steaming vegetables is doable, easy, and best of all, delicious. Unlike boiling, which can leach nutrients into the cooking water, steaming preserves vegetables’ mineral, vitamin, and antioxidant contents.

Methods for steaming:

  1. Food steamer: A food steamer is a dedicated appliance designed to steam vegetables, fish, and other foods. Typically, a food steamer contains a water reservoir, a steaming basket, and a lid. When the water in the reservoir is heated, the steam created cooks the food.
  2. Steaming basket: A steaming basket is designed to fit into a saucepan or pot. It’s designed to elevate the food above the simmering water, which allows the vegetables to cook.
  3. Microwave steamer: Designed to be used in, you guessed it, microwaves, a microwave steamer is a container with a lid that has a steam vent.
  4. No-steamer steaming: You don’t need a dedicated tool to steam vegetables. Instead, fill a pot with an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Insert a metal colander and add the vegetables and cover, then cook until crisp-tender. (If you’re not so particular about it, you can just cook the vegetables in the shallow water.)

No matter which method you choose for steaming, it helps to cut the vegetables into uniform pieces, which will prevent uneven cooking. If you don’t plan to serve vegetables immediately, either run them under water to stop cooking, or cook 1 minute less than suggested cooking time, since they will continue cooking from residual heat.

How to steam 8 different vegetables

Steaming is a forgiving method for cooking vegetables, and the timing will vary depending on how large the ingredients are. Follow the instructions below for guidelines on steaming vegetables, but make sure to cook to your desired doneness rather than the time.

  1. Steamed Broccoli: Trim a head of broccoli into florets. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until bright green and fork-tender.
  2. Steamed Spinach: Rinse the spinach leaves well in a salad spinner. Steam for 1 to 2 minutes, until just wilted but still bright green.
  3. Steamed Artichokes: Use a serrated knife to slice off the top third of the artichoke, then use kitchen shears to snip the tips of the tough outer leaves. Place in a steamer basket with 2 halved lemons (to prevent browning) and steam for 25 to 35 minutes, or until you can easily insert the tip of a paring knife into the heart (at the center of the base).
  4. Steamed Cauliflower: Trim a head of cauliflower into florets. Steam for 4 to 6 minutes, until fork-tender.
  5. Steamed Green Beans: Trim the ends off the green beans. Steam for 4 to 5 minutes, until bright green and crisp-tender.
  6. Steamed Mushrooms: Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. Steam for 4 to 6 minutes, until fork-tender.
  7. Steamed Carrots: Peel and slice carrots into evenly-sized pieces. Steam until fork-tender, 4 to 6 minutes for small pieces, up to 20 minutes for larger ones.
  8. Steamed Potatoes: Peel and cut large potatoes into evenly-sized pieces, or leave small potatoes whole. Steam until fork-tender, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of potatoes.

Ideas for serving steamed vegetables

While steamed vegetables are delicious eaten plain or as a side dish, you may want to add a little intrigue. Prepping steamed vegetables in advance makes healthy, off-the-cuff cooking easy and quick. 

  • Serve steamed vegetables as part of a grain bowl: pair steamed vegetables with your favorite grain, protein, and salad dressing
  • Add a variety of steamed vegetables to stir fries: mushrooms, broccoli, and green beans are a great place to start
  • Use steamed vegetables as the base of a vegetable frittata: all you need to add are eggs and cheese for a brunch staple
  • Top steamed vegetables with your favorite dressing: nothing wakes up a bowl of steamed vegetables like a drizzle of vinaigrette
  • Fold steamed vegetables into noodles: Chop hot, steamed vegetables and toss with freshly cooked pasta, garlic butter, and herbs
  • Make a grand aioli platter: arrange a variety of steamed vegetables on a platter and serve with homemade aioli (or make a shortcut version by stirring minced garlic and lemon juice into store bought mayonnaise)
Make a simple steamed vegetable soup: blend steamed vegetables with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and chicken or vegetable stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper

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