To cook food highlighting its flavor and aroma, being in turn healthy, comfortable, clean and fast, steam has no rivals. Discover its secrets.
Sometimes the simplest techniques are the most useful and the ones that offer the best results. Therefore, with the help of steam, cooking becomes a pleasant, affordable experience full of surprises. Far from offering a bland cuisine without nuances, the steam unfolds flavors and aromas that allow you to enjoy a healthy, light and exquisite cuisine.
By using this cooking method, food is heated and cooked by condensation and convection of steam. The vapor molecules transmit the energy of their movement and evaporation, since a large amount of energy is needed to go from liquid to gas. The right temperature on the surface of the food is thus quickly reached and remains stable, which ensures a smooth and fast cooking.
The steam also provides a greater supply of nutrients. Food does not come into contact with water and the temperature does not exceed 100 °C, so water-soluble or heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals are more resistant.
At 100 °C, food can lose more than 50% of its vitamin C in twenty minutes. At 70°C, on the other hand, the loss is lower because the oxidase enzyme, responsible for oxidation, is destroyed. Hence, steamed vegetables retain their color and vitamins better: a cup of raw cabbage, for example, contains 150 mg of vitamin C; Boiled provides about 75 mg, but steamed loss is reduced between 50% and 90%.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO STEAM?
Fruits, vegetables, cereals… Almost everything can be steamed. It only requires a suitable container and follow some very simple guidelines.
The container or steamer must facilitate evaporation and condensation. It must be able to be covered and have a grid that puts the food in contact with the steam and at the same time prevents the water from touching them when boiling. There are several options:
- Conventional pot. A tall and wide pot, with basket and lid, already serves. The basket can be a rigid strainer or a butterfly basket, adaptable to the width of the pot. The essential thing is that the water does not touch the food and that the lid fits so as not to lose steam.
- Pot “vitalizer”. Thanks to its dome-shaped lid, it prevents dripping over food, provides a softer steam and allows you to make even biscuits.
- Steamers. They are pots of different sizes that include a basket in perforated metal that fits a short distance from the base. The shape of the lid is important, as it must prevent condensed steam from dripping onto food.
- Wok with bamboo basket. With water at the base, a bowl or chopsticks as a support and bamboo baskets, it can be steamed on several floors at once. The firmest vegetables are placed in the lower basket and the most delicate in the upper one. You can also fit the bamboo basket in a pot.
- Electric steamer. It allows you to cook comfortably on several floors and program the temperature, steam and time.
- Silicone basket. It imitates cooking in papillote and allows you to cook steamed food in the oven or microwave. It is quick, clean and easy to use and cooks’ food in the steam that it gems itself. Ideal for vegetables.
- Ovens with steam. You can introduce steam into the oven by placing a container of water, cooking in a water bath or spraying water with a spray. It is useful in puddings, pastry, bakery and soft cooking. The most comfortable option is the steam oven. It works with an internal container of water and allows you to program steam cooking at any temperature between 40 and 100 ° C in its various baskets, trays and grills.
HOW TO STEAM COOKING: VEGETABLES, MUSHROOMS, CEREALS…
Once the container has been chosen, you only have to take into account a few details:
- The water or liquid should not touch the food at any time so that the steam can circulate freely, so you have to control the capacity of the pot (fill it below half, depending on the basket) and keep in mind that when the water boils the volume will increase a little.
- The water must boil when the food is placed in the steamer. The temperature must be constant and the boiling, soft. And if the water has to be replenished, it should be boiling so that the cooking does not stop.
- It can be flavored by adding spices or aromatic plants and, once the cooking is finished, it can be saved to prepare a soup, a stew or a paste.
- Food should be cut into regular portions, not too large, and should be arranged in a single layer to facilitate the distribution of steam.
- The lid should not be lifted until the end of cooking because effectiveness is lost. This requires being clear about cooking times and accumulating a little experience.
- Once the food is cooked, it must be removed so that it does not continue to cook.
WHAT FOODS ARE BEST STEAMED?
Steaming seems made for vegetables, which are crispy and very tasty, but its possibilities go much further. Discover them.
- Vegetables. They retain their color, flavor and texture well.
- There are delicious carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, artichokes, asparagus… It is convenient to take them out al dente.
- Some, such as artichokes, can be sprinkled with lemon before so that they do not blacken.
- Potatoes with skin are very tasty; They are washed well and punctured before cooking.
- It is a gentle cooking that allows fragile foods, such as asparagus yolks, to be treated with delicacy.
- Mushrooms. They must be very fresh. Mushrooms are sprinkled with lemon before.
- Cereals. They take a little longer to cook and gauze or fine mesh should be used to prevent grains from clogging the holes. Couscous is easy to cook; Wheat, quinoa or rice are more difficult, unless a steam oven with unperforated trays is available. In general, steam is useful for reheating them.
- Fruits. They are excellent lightly cooked and hardly lose nutrients: apples, pears, peaches, mango, papaya… They can be flavored with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla…
- Other. Stuffed pasta, puddings or custards can be cooked steamed. If they do not fit in the container, they can be cooked in batches or steamers of several floors.
- It is also suitable for softening nuts in order to peel them later or simply to moisten them before cooking. And to peel tomatoes: in a few seconds the skin separates from the pulp and is removed better.
- It is not a suitable method for dried legumes, as they would take too long and would not soften properly. Very tender peas can be steamed. They can be macerated before with sugar and butter
COOKING TIMES OF STEAMED VEGETABLES AND OTHER FOODS
Here are the steaming times in minutes of some of the foods that can be steamed:
- Steamed spinach: 2 minutes
- Steamed chard: 4 minutes
- Steamed asparagus: 5-10 minutes
- Broccoli, cabbage and steamed cauliflower: 8 minutes
- Steamed beans and peas: 10 minutes
- Steamed carrots: 10 minutes
- Steamed zucchini: 12 minutes
- Peeled and steamed potato: 15 minutes
- Steamed artichokes: 20 minutes
- Steamed couscous: 20 minutes
- Steamed fruits: 20 minutes
- Potato with steamed skin: 25 minutes
SOME TIPS FROM THE CHEF
- Choose very fresh foods to appreciate all their flavor.
- Cut the vegetables into regular pieces not very large and spread them evenly in the basket.
- Do not dress food to the end; This preserves the quality of the fats. Vegetables should not be salted or seasoned, because they would lose color.
- To enrich the recipe, you can introduce aromatic plants, spices or vegetables into the water. You can also use wine in some recipes. If wine is used to cook fruits, it should be reduced after cooking, to take advantage of it as a sauce.
- The lid must close tightly so that the temperature is kept stable. It can be sealed with water paste and flour or a rag tied around it.
- Some foods may require a milder steam that is achieved by uncovering the steamer lightly or completely.
The little concentrated liquid that remains in the pot can be used to make broths or sauces, or to dip stews.