How to use a steamer

Updated February 21, 2017

Steamers are a quick, healthy and easy way to prepare a wide variety of foods. They can be used on everything from broccoli to brussel sprouts, with beets and bananas in between. The most popular steamers consist of a pot, basket and lid. All three fit together during the steaming process. Steamers use no oils, fats or other calorie-laden additives, so you know whatever you hook up with be fresh, tender and clean.

Prepare the food you want to steam. Food will steam best in small portions. Clean and trim off any leaves, peel, bones or whatever else you don't want to eat once the food is steamed.

Fill the bottom portion of the steamer with water. Most steamers have a bottom that looks like, and can be used as, a regular pot. Fill it about halfway with water, making sure there is at least an inch or more of space between the water level and the bottom of the steamer basket.

Add the food. Place the food loosely in the basket. Add the cover. Turn the flame to high.

Note when it begins to boil. You can tell when the steamer water starts boiling by the noise it makes and the steam that starts to form on the inside of the lid. Reduce the heat a bit so it remains at a simmering boil. Gauge the time based on the consistency of what you are steaming. For instance, rock hard beets are going to take much longer to steam than sliced onions.

Check the progress. If you are unsure how long you should steam something, test the food by poking it with a fork after a few minutes of steaming. Once the food is at the consistency you want, shut off the flame.

Dump and clean. Use a potholder to dump the steamer's contents into a colander to drain. Swish warm soapy water in the steamer while it's still warm to remove any immediate debris. Wash as usual.


If you are steaming several vegetables in a row, try to steam the messier ones, like beets and broccoli, after the less messier ones, like beans and potatoes. This way everything won't be covered in beet juice or broccoli residue. Check the water level. Anything that takes a long time to steam, such as beets, may need more water added to the steamer as it goes along. The water will eventually evaporate when it boils for any extended amount of time.


Don't overload. If you fill the steamer too fully, not everything will get the proper amount of steaming. You'll end up with mushy food mixed with rock hard food that even the dogs won't enjoy. Don't overdo. Broccoli, especially, can turn into a gloppy, disgusting mess if left too long in the steamer. Even if you turn the flame off, take the food out of the basket so it doesn't continue to steam.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Food to steam
  • Pot holder
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