Steaming food, instead of cooking it using conventional methods, can save you money — and it’s gentler on your edibles.
If you’re looking for ways to save money in the kitchen, here’s a good one: try steaming food, rather than boiling, frying, roasting, or baking it. Steaming tends to be less expensive than most cooking methods.
Plus, it’s ideal for delicate foods (including seafood and fragile vegetables) that cook quickly and might fall apart if you prepare them using other methods. Steaming cooks food exclusively by bathing it in moist heat; there’s no agitation involved.
Buy a Steamer
There are various ways to cook with steam, including pressurized cookers that can push the temperature of steam above its natural maximum of 212° F. However, pressurized cookers are expensive and dangerous, and use a lot of energy — so no savings there.
Other stove-top methods that require you to boil water to generate steam don’t save any money, either. The cheapest way to steam food with a minimum of wasted energy is to purchase an electric counter-top steamer. You can get one for less than $30, and they’re easy to use and clean.
The cooking itself is also easy. With electric steamers, all you have to do is fill the reservoir with water (and possibly a little wine, if that’s your preference), load in the food, plug it in, and set the timer. When it dings, soup’s on.
Some of these streamers include multiple stacked levels, so you can cook different foods at the same time. Nifty, eh?
What To Cook
While you probably don’t want to toss steaks in a steamer, most other foods are fair game. Vegetables, of course, are ideal; all but the toughest will soften into edibility after steaming for a few minutes. Fish, seafood, chicken breasts, and similar meats are also good choices for steaming.
Generally, fish requires steam cooking for no more than 10-12 minutes, or until it flakes when tested with a fork. Chicken breasts (and tenders) usually need more time to cook through; test them after about 15 minutes for pinkness in the interior, and then flip them. They usually need about 10 minutes more to finalize.
How long you need to steam your vegetables depends on their type and firmness. Most cook through within 4-5 minutes, although fresh carrots and squash (including zucchini) may take longer. Brussels sprouts generally require ten minutes. Keep pouring on the steam if you like your veggies softer.
A Few Cautions
Streamed food isn’t for everyone. It can be bland right out of the steamer, requiring some spicing up to meet your taste preferences. It can also become soggy if you steam it too long. But by and large, steaming food is an easy way to prepare dinner, the results taste good, and it’s comparatively cheap.