Simple tips on how to steam food, from vegetables or proteins to buns, dumplings, & desserts––even without special equipment. Here are 3 ways to do it.
Course: Chinese Steaming
Steamer Set-up #1
A pot or wok with a lid
A heat-proof dish that can fit inside the wok or pot
Something to prop up the dish above the water(like a metal steam rack or a clean metal can)
Steamer Set-up #2
A stainless steel steamer
Steamer Set-up #3
A bamboo steamer
For Steamer Set-up 1: A Pot or Wok with Rack & Heatproof Dish
Find a pot with a lid that will accommodate the heatproof dish you plan to steam your food in (a wok with a lid is ideal). Place a metal steam rack in the bottom of the wok/pot so that it's at least 2 inches above the water (you'll want more water for longer steaming times). If you don't have a metal steam rack, you can use an empty can with both ends removed. When the water is simmering, place the heatproof dish of food on the rack, cover the wok or pot, and steam.
For Steamer Set-up 2: Metal Steamer
Fill the bottom of the metal steamer with at least 2 inches of water (or more for longer steaming times). Place food either in a heatproof dish, or if steaming buns/dumplings, line the racks with cabbage leaves, cheesecloth, or paper steamer liners to cook the buns/dumplings directly on the racks without them sticking. Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and steam. To prevent condensation from dripping onto the food below, you can tie a thin kitchen towel around the lid (so that cloth is on the inside of the lid to catch any condensation), tying any loose edges so they're not in danger of coming in contact with your heat source.
For Steamer Set-up 3: Bamboo Steamer
Place the bamboo steamer in your wok with enough water to come up the bottom rim of the steamer by 1/2-inch (1.25cm). You can either place shallow heatproof dishes inside the steamer racks, or line the racks with cabbage leaves, cheesecloth, or paper steamer liners to steam buns or dumplings. Bring the water to a simmer, and cover the bamboo steamer with its bamboo lid (there's no need for any additional cover).
In any of these cases, keep an eye on the water level, and add boiling water as needed as the water evaporates. With a metal steamer, it is best to fill the bottom of the steamer with as much water as you'll think you'll need.
How to Steam Food: 3 Ways to Set Up a Steamer by The Woks of Life. Recipe URL: https://thewoksoflife.com/how-to-steam-food/