Even wonder how to steam food and not have it taste bland when it’s done?
We all have those nightmarish, childhood memories of being forced to eat overcooked, mushy vegetables. Yuck! No wonder some people don’t like veggies! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Steaming is a simple and effective method of cooking veggies. But it does come with a few rules and guidelines to follow if you want those veggies to taste good.
Today I’ll be covering tips and suggestions for steaming food successfully and still have it taste great.
WHY STEAM VEGETABLES?
- Steamed food retains more of it’s nutrients than any other form of cooking.
- It’s faster than most other forms of cooking.
- You don’t need expensive appliances. It can be as simple as using a colander in a pot with a lid or purchasing an inexpensive fold out steamer insert.
- It’s a great way to cook veggies ahead of time so all you have to do is warm them up later.
- You control the fat content completely. It’s up to you if you want to add fat or not.
- On a side note, it’s a great way to reheat foods and not have them become mushy.
WHAT TO AVOID:
- Overcooking is the main reason that perfectly wonderful tasting veggies end up bland and gross to eat.
- Different sized pieces of veggies. If they are all different sizes, they will not cook evenly. Cut them in uniform sizes so the pieces all cook at the same rate.
WHAT TO MAKE SURE OF:
- Your pot lid should fit tightly.
- You’ll need at least 1 inch of water in your pot.
- Make sure the water does not come over the bottom of the steam basket. You want to steam, not boil.
- If you find you need to add more water, add more boiling water from a separate pot or kettle. Do not add cold water.
HOW CAN YOU TELL YOUR VEGETABLES ARE DONE?
- Poke them with a knife.
- If they stick to the knife, they need to cook more.
- If you can lift the veggies, but it slides off after you lift it, it’s done.
- If you can’t lift the veggie just by sticking with a knife (if doesn’t even grip the knife at all), it’s overcooked.
- They should still have their vibrant color as well. If their color has faded or changed too much, they are overcooked.
- Note that this test works works on boiled veggies too!
- If you are adding other ingredients to the vegetables for flavor (like onions or garlic), plunge them into an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process.
- If you are using a sauce over the veggies, keep them warm, but not hot. They should not cook any further.
- Delicate foods – steam over simmering water
- Hard foods – steam over boiling water
HOW DO YOU ADD FLAVOR?
This is where steamed foods become fun!
- If you haven’t overcooked your veggies, this is where you add your flavor.
- Sauté some garlic and onions in a sauté pan and then toss in the veggies just long enough to warm them up.
- If you only want to use a sauce like a vinaigrette, toss the sauce with the veggies.
- If you are preparing green veggies such as green beans, broccoli or asparagus and you want to add a vinaigrette or other acid-based sauce, serve the sauce separately or add it just immediately prior to serving. Once acids tough green veggies, their color begins to change from that beautiful, bright green color of perfectly cooked veggies, to that awful, 1960’s olive wallpaper color of overcooked veggies.
- With other colored veggies, you don’t have to worry about when you add sauce or acids.
The amount of time you will need to steam will vary greatly from batch to batch based on how much you have in the pot. Just remember that a single layer of ingredients is always the best way to steam. If you do have to pile more in the pot, remember to toss your veggies in the pot half way through cooking so that they all cook evenly. My rule of thumb is this:
- Cook for 3 minutes, then test every minute after that with a knife. I promise, you won’t be standing there long.
Did you know that steam is hotter than boiling water? Always open the lid away from you to avoid burns. And if you do get burned, seek help immediately. Burns from steams can be very serious.
SO WILL YOU TRY IT?
I know many of you already steam a lot of your veggies. But don’t be afraid to play with the seasonings and flavors. The number one rule is to never overcook. If you can get yourself into that habit, you’ll always have bright, nutritious, tasty veggies on your dinner table!
Tell me, what are your favorite veggies to steam and do you add anything to them?