Many cooks agree that steaming fresh vegetables gives far better results than simply boiling them. When steaming, a greater number of nutrients are kept intact, while the use of the microwave or the normal boiling technique can significantly reduce the amount of soluble proteins, vitamins and chlorophyll. Learning how to cook fresh vegetables this way will help you create countless dishes that taste great and are good for your health.
Method 1 of 3: Using an Electric Steamer
Step 1. Take all necessary precautions
Before using an electric steamer, it is important to read the instruction manual supplied. Adhering to all appropriate safety precautions allows you to prevent dangerous fires, burns or injuries.
- Never immerse the cord, plug or base unit in water.
- Only use your electric steamer indoors, resting on a stable surface such as the kitchen worktop.
- Make sure there is always water in the tank when in use. Otherwise it could overheat, with the risk of being damaged and causing a fire.
- Always proceed with caution when opening the steamer. Hot condensation may have accumulated on the inside of the lid; opening it in a distracted way, you could risk getting burned.
- After use, always unplug the steamer from the socket.
- Let it cool before removing, adding or cleaning any of its components. Also, be sure to unplug before taking any of these actions.
Step 2. Assemble the different parts that make up the steamer
Before you can steam your vegetables in the utensil, you need to fit all the pieces correctly. Each appliance can have some peculiarities that distinguish it, but in general you should have the following basic components:
- Base unit (which should contain the tank);
- Tray to collect condensation drops equipped with an area for the diffusion of steam;
- 1-3 baskets, in which to arrange the vegetables for cooking;
- Lid equipped with vents and handle.
Step 3. Fill the tank with water
After assembling the steamer, you can pour the fresh water into the special tray. Most likely, the instruction manual will give you all the information you need about the doses. If this is not the case, just fill the tank up to the maximum allowed level, indicated by a line placed on the outside of the tank (never exceed this indicator).
After pouring the water into the tank, make sure the steam diffusion tray (if your steamer has one) is properly positioned
Step 4. Arrange the vegetables in one or more baskets
For the cooking to be homogeneous it is important to cut them into pieces of uniform size. Do not crowd the basket to allow an effective diffusion of the steam; also, if possible, arrange the vegetables in a single layer. Once in place, you can close the steamer with the lid.
Step 5. Turn on the steamer and set the timer
When everything is ready, insert the plug into the socket. Set the cooking time according to the power of your appliance, considering the type and quantity of vegetables you want to cook, then press the "On" button or its equivalent. Follow the instructions in the instruction manual to determine the correct cooking time; often he will also be able to provide you with particular suggestions suitable for different preparations. When the timer runs out, you'll be ready to bring your delicious steamed vegetables to the table.
Method 2 of 3: Using a Steamer Basket
Step 1. Pour the water into a large pot
The first thing to do is to dose and pour the water into the bottom of the pot. Once it has boiled, the steam produced will rise towards the basket, cooking the vegetables. The amount of water needed varies according to the number and type of ingredients, as well as the degree of softness you want to achieve. Use regular cold tap water.
- For a small amount or to keep the vegetables slightly crunchy, pour about 1.5-2.5 cm of water into the bottom of the pot.
- For a good number of vegetables or for them to acquire a fluffy texture, fill the pot to half its capacity.
- Make sure the bottom of the basket does not come into contact with the water below. Otherwise, the vegetables will be boiled rather than steamed.
Step 2. Bring the water to a boil
Generally, it is advisable to wait for the water to boil before placing the vegetables in the basket. However, some believe that it is best to add them before the water reaches a boil. Act according to your preferences. Cooking the vegetables too soon will not spoil the success of the dish, but it may not be of much use since the evaporation of the water has not yet started.
- Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat so that the water produces only a light boil.
- Don't wait for the water to boil vigorously, or you risk evaporating it completely before the vegetables have time to cook.
Step 3. Place the vegetables in the basket, then place the lid on the pot
If you haven't added the vegetables yet, do so when the water comes to a boil. Don't be afraid to make a mistake, after the first few attempts, you will be able to determine exactly when is the best time to cook the vegetables.
- Try not to cram the basket. The best thing to do is to arrange the vegetables in a single layer. In fact, by creating multiple floors you risk that the higher ones do not receive a sufficient amount of steam, causing a very uneven result.
- When the vegetables are in the basket, while the water simmers slowly, you can cover the pot with a lid but not airtight. The goal is to trap most, but not all, of the steam inside the pot.
Step 4. Check your vegetables regularly
Cooking time will vary considerably based on the thickness and size of the ingredients. As a general rule, the vegetables should be cooked in 3-10 minutes. Visually, most vegetables tend to take on a more vivid and brilliant color when cooked, giving you a good indicator that will help you determine when to stop cooking.
- The asparagus, being fine, should cook in about 4 minutes. In the case of thicker varieties, the time could go up to 5-6 minutes;
- The broccoli will cook in about 5 minutes. By looking at them you should be able to tell when they are ready as they will take on a darker shade;
- The Brussels sprouts should cook in about 10 minutes;
- Cut into slices about ½ cm thick, the carrots will be cooked after about 6-8 minutes;
- The cauliflower tops will cook in about 6 minutes;
- Green beans will need about 5 minutes to cook;
- Peas cook quite quickly - generally 3 minutes might be enough;
- The sliced courgettes will be ready in about 6-7 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Step 5. Turn off the heat and get ready to serve the vegetables
Once they have reached a vibrant and bright hue, it means they are ready to eat. Turn off the heat, remove the basket from the pot, then serve the vegetables while they are still hot.
Method 3 of 3: Using the Microwave Oven
Step 1. Arrange the vegetables in a container suitable for the microwave
If you have decided to steam vegetables in the microwave, don't worry about having a basket or other special utensils available. All you will need is a suitable container with a lid in which to pour water. The fact remains that if you have a special microwave steamer, the best thing to do is use it. Even in this case, however, the procedure does not change.
- Steaming vegetables in the microwave is quick and easy.
- However, it is important to specify that, using the microwave, the flavor of the vegetables could be altered.
- In addition to this, the nutritional value of vegetables tends to decrease when using the microwave.
Step 2. Add the water to the container
Even when using a microwave oven, fresh running water is essential. In this case, however, a rather small amount will be sufficient. Start with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water, and then see if they are enough or too many for the specific recipe.
Step 3. Cover the container with the lid
Of course, you will need to make sure that the lid of the container is also suitable for use in the microwave. Some people prefer to use a variety of cling film that is suitable for reheating. If you don't have a suitable lid, you can place a ceramic plate directly on the container.
- Whatever solution you choose, you will need to leave a corner of the container slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Otherwise the vegetables will be overcooked.
- If you have opted for a ceramic plate that is too large to only partially cover the container, try holding it slightly raised with the help of an object suitable for use in the microwave (for example a wooden spit). Doing so will allow some of the steam to escape, ensuring proper cooking.
Step 4. Start cooking
The time taken will vary based on the variety, size and thickness of the vegetables selected. In general, you can bring them to the table in slightly faster times than when you use the stove and the steamer basket. Most vegetables will cook in under eight minutes.
- The asparagus should cook in about 4-6 minutes, depending on their thickness;
- The broccoli will cook in about 3-5 minutes;
- The Brussels sprouts should cook in about 7 minutes;
- Cut into slices about ½ cm thick, the carrots will be cooked after about 5 minutes;
- The cauliflower tops will cook in about 3-4 minutes;
- Green beans will need about 3-4 minutes to cook;
- Peas cook very quickly, usually 1-2 minutes may be enough;
- Cooking time of zucchini does not differ much - they will be ready in about 6-8 minutes.
Step 5. Drain the vegetables to remove any excess water, then serve them still hot
Once cooked, the vegetables are ready to eat. Look at the bottom of the container to see if you need to get rid of any remaining water, then tilt it to carefully pour it into the sink. Alternatively, transfer the vegetables to serving plates using a fork or slotted spoon. This method protects you from getting burned or accidentally dropping some vegetables in the sink. Serve your course while it is still hot.
- Use only enough water to create the steam, regardless of the tools used. Vegetables should not be immersed in water, otherwise they would be boiled.
- Prepare the vegetables, leaving the smaller ones whole (such as baby carrots and Brussels sprouts). Slice the larger ones into evenly sized pieces.
- By cooking the vegetables with the help of a pot and basket or a microwave oven, you can flavor the water with spices and condiments, but if you intend to use an electric steamer, do not add anything but water to the tank, otherwise you risk damaging it..