A steam cooker belongs to a category of cooking appliances that enable you to eat healthy. Steamed food is considered to be the best because it helps to retain all the nutrition of the ingredients and is not fattening. However, if the technique of steaming the food is not right, the food could turn out messy and not enjoyable to eat. While the appliance comes with its set of instructions, some things can be learnt only through experience, either your own or that of someone else.
What All Can You Cook in a Steamer?
The very basic use of a steamer is to cook rice or steam vegetables, though it is certainly not limited to that. The scope of using the steamer is wide. Apart from plain rice, you can cook pulao, biryani and other rice dishes as well. You can steam idlis, momos, sweets and even make soups in a steamer. Whatever you make, keeping the following tips in mind will prove helpful.
1. Choose the Steamer You Like
You can pick one of the two choices – a stovetop steamer or an electric steamer. In the stovetop version, the ingredients are prepared beforehand, mixed and added to a steamer basket and added to a pot containing the boiling water. The lid is then closed and the food then cooks in the steam generated from the water.In the electric version, the process is the same, but it is an appliance that works on electricity and can be used on the countertop. Some electric steamers can prepare two dishes at the same time. Close the lid, select the proper setting and switch the appliance on.
2. Add Appropriate Quantity of Water
This is key to preparing delicious dishes of the right consistency. Excessive water can make the dish soggy while less water can cause the appliance or the pot to burn due to lack of water. Ideally, the water should not go over the base of the basket containing the ingredients as it could ruin your meal.
3. Bring the Water to Boil Beforehand
Adding boiling water to the steam cooker before adding the other components works better than adding everything into the pot and then bringing it to a boil. This has an impact on the colour as well as the texture of the dish.
4. Time the Steaming Perfectly
Overcooking or under cooking can be disastrous for any dish. Some dishes can be prepared in advance and kept ready, but steamed dishes are enjoyed best when served hot. So, it is essential that the steaming time of the dish is precise. If you are steaming veggies, they cannot be enjoyed when overcooked and is best to remove them from the source of heat as soon as they are done. The cooking time will vary depending on the ingredients and their quantity.
5. Enhance the Flavour
While steaming is normally done with the use of plain water, it can be replaced by vegetable or chicken stock. You can also add a variety of herbs to the water for some extra flavour in your vegetables, rice or soup. When using these, keep in mind the possibility of altered cooking time as compared to that with normal water.
6. Prepare the Ingredients in Advance
Before you start cooking, add all the spices, herbs, oil etc. to the vegetables or rice and mix them well before you steam them. This works better than sprinkling them on top as they don’t get infused as well as when they are mixed. When steaming fish or chicken, you can even consider marinating them for a while before cooking.
7. Ensure an Airtight Seal
The food may not cook properly if the steam escapes from the cooker. Hence, the seal must be airtight. If this is not so, you will need to extend the cooking time or change the taste of the food. Sometimes the food might even remain under cooked due to this. An electric steamer must not be used if the lid is loose or the seal is not airtight.
Just like any cooking process, steaming takes time to master, but once you have learnt the art, you can cook a variety of dishes. The task is much simpler with an electric steam cooker with a pre-set menu for different types of dishes.