How Can You Steam Food Without a Steamer? 4 Easy to Use Tips.

How can you steam food without a steamer? Steaming is commonly considered one of the healthiest and easiest ways to prepare vegetables. Normally a special kitchen tool made for this exact purpose is used. There are two types, one of which is made of wood and commonly seen in Chinese Dim Sum restaurants. The second is made of metal and can fold up and sits inside a pot. While both are good tools, they are so called “one trick ponies” and are not multi-functional.

How can you steam food without a steamer

They can be bulky to keep around and could become just another gadget taking up space in a cupboard. Buying a new kitchen appliance also costs money.

There are many ways to steam vegetables without a traditional steamer basket, using things most people already have readily available in their kitchens. The methods below range from simple to crafty and can be utilized in all differently equipped kitchens. If you only steam vegetables so often, save the money and use one of the options below.

Whether you love vegetables or not, there is one thing you know for sure: veggies are good for you. You can make them even more nutritious if you prepare them in ways that maximize their benefits. Oddly enough, that’s not likely to be raw.

Studies show the process of cooking breaks down tough outer layers and cellular structure of many vegetables, making it easier for your body to absorb their nutrients. As a general rule, it’s best to keep cooking time, temperature and the amount of liquid to a minimum. That’s why steaming is one of the best ways to cook most vegetables. That is especially true for broccoli, long touted as one of the top anti-cancer foods.

What Vegetables to Steam

If you’re pressed for time and looking to make a quick nutritious meal, it’s hard to compare with a plate of steamed vegetables. In truth, any vegetable can be steamed. Here are a few of my personal favorites that will work well with the steaming techniques I’m going to outline.

  • Peas (2-3 minutes)
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower (8-10 minutes)
  • Leafy Greens: Kale, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard (5-7 minutes)
  • Spinach (3 minutes)
  • Asparagus (3-5 minutes)
  • Green Beans (3-5 minutes)
  • Root Vegetables: Beets, Carrots, Turips, Potatoes (10-15 minutes)

The most common ways to steam, other than using a steamer, are by microwave, foil balls, with a colander, and with a rack in an oven.

Kitchen tools we recommend

before we get started, let’s talk about kitchen tools. You’ll need the right ones if you want to steam vegetables without a steamer. Here are some of my favorites!


Steaming in a microwave is a simple, fast and easy way to steam vegetables without a steamer basket. This is the fastest method and requires the least pieces of equipment. Let us use broccoli as an example. Cut the broccoli into small florets and put into a microwave safe bowl. Next, simply microwave the broccoli on high heat in one-minute increments, until the desired doneness is achieved.

How can you steam food without a steamer

It is possible to cover the broccoli filled bowl with plastic wrap to speed the process along further. Both methods work great and result in perfectly steamed vegetables. Another great thing about using a microwave to steam vegetables is that it retains nutritional content better than other methods, as nothing is getting leached into water. Steaming in a microwave is efficient and quick, and results in perfectly steamed vegetables every time.

Plate and Foil Balls.

A craftier method of steaming vegetables without a steaming basket is by using tin foil. A classic steaming basket has small metal feet on the bottom that sit inside the pot, to create a space between the boiling water and the basket.

A makeshift steaming basket can be made, with tin foil fashioned into the “feet”.  To use this method, a pot, a heat resistant plate and tin foil will be needed. Simply crumple up 3 pieces of tinfoil into sturdy balls, roughly about the same size. Place the tin foil balls on the bottom of a pot. Fill the pot with about a half an inch of water, and then place the plate on top of the tin foil.

The plate should be held up by the tin foil balls, and the water should be underneath but not touching the plate. If the balls were rolled too small and the plate is touching the water, make new bigger balls. Once the plate-tinfoil combination is ready to go, place the cut-up broccoli on the plate. Heat the pot until the water is simmering and cover the pot with a lid. In just a few minutes, the vegetables should be perfectly tender and steamed to excellence.

Here is a lovely Steamed Broccoli recipe.

Colander or Sifter.

A similar method to the one above is to use a colander or sifter and a pot. This method is great if you have only a small amount of vegetables to steam, as you will be limited by the size of the strainer.

Fill a pot with half an inch of simmering water and place a metal colander or strainer inside. Some strainers will be big enough to rest on the pot without having to hold it up. If the strainer is not big enough, use a dish towel or oven glove to hold onto the strainer to prevent a steam burn. Place the broccoli in the strainer in a single layer and then cover the pot as much as you can. Since the lid will not be able to fit snugly on the pot because of the strainer poking out the top, some steam will escape.

That is normal, but it is important to protect your hand as suggested to protect from the steam. Steaming times may vary, especially when some steam is escaping from the pot. Regardless, the vegetables will be steamed in a matter of minutes with a similar result as the other methods.

Steam in Oven with Baking Rack and Roasting pan

This is an unconventional steaming method but is handy when steaming larger batches of vegetables. It uses the oven, a roasting pan or large pot and a baking rack. Heat the oven to 300F and bring some water to boil in an electric kettle. Fill the roasting pan with half an inch of the boiling water and then set the baking rack on top.

How can you steam food without a steamer

Arrange the potatoes on the rack in a single layer and cover with tin foil. Set in the oven and the vegetables should be steamed in about ten minutes. If you do not have roasting pan, a large pot works fine too, it will just be more difficult to wrap the tin foil. This method is good also for being able to walk away from the steaming vegetables and do something else in the meantime without worry of the vegetables overcooking.

For a delicious Steamed Potatoes recipe follow the link.

As well as Martha Stewarts Steamed Potatoes with Thyme.

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