Steamed vegetables are prepared by heating water and then cooking the vegetables in the steam produced by the boiling water. Common steaming methods include using a pan of water on a stove top, with a colander or similar type of steamer basket inside. Vegetables can also be steamed in the microwave or in the oven using aluminum foil. Many people prefer steamed vegetables instead of those cooked by other methods, such as boiling, because steaming foods generally retains the vegetable's color, texture, and nutrients, which would otherwise be left in the cooking water.
Some examples of vegetables that are commonly steamed include squash, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Typically, sturdier vegetables are recommended for steaming because they will retain their texture without becoming too soft. Vegetables can be fresh, or they can be bought in refrigerated or frozen packages designed for being placed directly in the microwave or pan of water without additional preparation.
A common method of preparing steamed vegetables is to use a metal or bamboo steamer, also called a colander or steamer basket. The steamer is placed inside a pan that contains a small amount of boiling water, which is then covered or partially covered with the pan lid. The purpose is to cook the vegetables in the steam, rather than immersing them in water. Cooking times can range from approximately five minutes up to around 20, depending on the quantity and size of the vegetables.
Another popular technique for steaming foods is to cook them in a microwave. This is done by rinsing the vegetables or adding a very small amount of water, and putting them in a microwave-safe bowl. To steam the vegetables, the bowl should be covered with a lid or plastic wrap, providing a vent to allow some steam to escape. This is a quick cooking method, which normally takes 10 minutes or less to complete. For convenience, many grocery stores sell packages of frozen vegetables that can be placed directly in the microwave and cooked without any rinsing or cutting.
Vegetables can be foil-steamed as well. An alternative to using hot water on the stove or in the microwave is to steam the vegetables in the oven. The standard method is to place the cut-up vegetables on a sheet of aluminum foil, and then season them, if desired, with salt or lemon juice. Some people also add olive oil or spray the vegetables with cooking spray to keep them from sticking to the foil. The vegetables are then enclosed in the foil like a packet, and they can be cooked for approximately 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the type of vegetables and the desired crispness.
Preparing steamed vegetables has several advantages, such as being a healthy option that retains nutrients and flavor as well as being a quick and easy cooking method. Some tips offered by cooking experts include cutting large vegetables into smaller pieces to decrease steaming time and blanching them in cold water immediately after steaming to retain their crispness. Steamed vegetables do not need much seasoning, and one can retain their flavor by adding small amounts of lemon juice or salt and pepper.