How to use a steamer for cooking

Updated April 17, 2017

Using a steamer for cooking food helps to retain many more of the nutrients compared to boiling, frying or roasting. It's also easier to keep food lower in fat by steaming it, as you don't need to add any fats or oils. Usually steamers are used to cook vegetables, but you can cook fish, some seafoods, meat and rice in a steamer. Bamboo steamers are commonly used for cooking oriental foods, such as Chinese and Japanese dumplings. The most common type of steamer is the pan-insert steamer, as it's inexpensive and will fit in your existing pans.

Place your steamer in a pan. You will need to use a saucepan for a regular insert-steamer or a wok for a bamboo steamer.

Add water to the saucepan or wok until it reaches just below the bottom of the steamer.

Place the saucepan or wok onto your hob and turn the burner up high.

Add the food to the steamer and put on the lid. Allow the water in the pan below to boil, so the steam rises up to cook the food in the steamer.

Wait until the food is cooked. Cooking time will vary according to what you are cooking. Check a cookbook or the food's packaging for cooking times. Remove the food and serve once it's cooked.


You can check the progress of the food you're cooking by removing the lid of the steamer and testing it with a fork.

Chopping vegetables into small chunks speeds up the steam cooking time.


Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot water or steam.

Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan or wok
  • Water
  • Oven hob
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