Steamed veggies are undoubtedly healthy, heart-friendly, and good for your diet. But sometimes they just don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to. So if you want to avoid mushy, tasteless results, find out how you can steam veggies to perfection.
Why didn’t we like eating veggies when we were kids? I have a theory that might account for (some of) that irrational hate. Maybe our parents were exhausted and just wanted to make dinner quickly after work and be done with it. Or maybe they didn’t have access to a thousand YouTube videos or informative internet articles like we do. And in cooking, sometimes it’s the little things and details that matter. I like veggies just fine now, thank you very much, but I loathed them when I was a kid.
I’ve already talked about blanching as a possible way of getting great delicious veggies on your plate without overcooking them, but here’s another one: steam veggies as a delicate way to cook them without driving the flavor and the color out of them in the process.
Why steam veggies?
Because it’s a simple enough process, it’s an easy way to prep the vegetables. It takes very little time to prepare for this and very little time to actually do it. You just have to learn how. And not to mention that the taste of steamed vegetables is pretty good.
The steaming process is this: you place the vegetables on top of a pot of boiling water and they’re cooked by the steam created when the water starts to vaporize. And because the water doesn’t touch your food and the impact isn’t that brutal, the veggies retain their nutrients, their color, and gain a nice flavor to boot.
What kind of equipment do you need?
Before you go out and buy the fresh veggies from the produce stand, it’s best to know what kind of equipment you need so that you are nicely prepared. For the prepping stage, you need a solid cutting board and a sharp trusty knife.
As for the actual steaming part, you need a large pot with a matching lid – that’s how you keep the steam in. And then you need a steamer basket or a heatproof colander to keep the veggies suspended over the boiling water. Before you get started on anything, check that you can keep that colander over the pot and put the lid on. If the colander is too small, you won’t be able to steam.
How to prep your veggies
First of all, you’ll need to buy fresh veggies, because you’ll get the best results with them. And I really want your first steaming experience to be a pleasant and satisfactory one because I don’t want you to be put off by the results.
Then use the knife and the cutting board to cut the vegetables as uniformly as possible. So maybe go for a dice. The important thing is to have the pieces of equal size. Uniform cutting leads to uniform cooking, right? Also, make sure that if you want to steam multiple types of vegetables together, they should have a similar texture, so that they cook uniformly, too. Like, cook denser rooty ingredients like carrots and potatoes separately from leafy ingredients like spinach and arugula. Broccoli and cauliflower have a very similar texture, so they work cooked together.
So how do you steam?
Add about two inches of water to your pot and place the colander over it. Make sure that the water doesn’t touch the colander in any way. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then add the first batch of veggies you want to steam. Season them with salt and pepper and whatever else you want to add, like herbs and spices.
Cover the pot with the lid and reduce the heat to a low or medium-low. The veggies should cook until they become tender. Try piercing them with a fork and if that happens easily, then you've managed to steam veggies to perfection!
The baseline time for steaming is about three minutes, but the final time depends on the texture of the veggie and the size of the pieces. Leafy greens get cooked in about three minutes. So do peas, because they’re so tiny. On the other side of the spectrum, potatoes can be steamed in about 10-15 minutes, it depends. Just check frequently.