by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Cooking with a steamer (no, silly, not by using a ship), that is to say by means of steam, is considered to probably be the best and healthiest way to cook food, from vegetables to meat and fish.
Bamboo steamers for use with rice, and other foods, have been in use in China (and other Far Eastern countries) since nigh time immemorial and while you can get and use bamboo steamers others may be much better suited to our Western ways.
Steaming seals in nutrients and flavors that are, to a great degree, lost in boiling, and makes, as far as I am concerned, vegetables the tastiest things on the Planet.
Once you have tried vegetables done in a good steamer you'll never want to boil them again, ever.
Steamers come in many shapes and forms, so to speak, from the already mentioned bamboo steamers, over dedicated stove top ones, via those that go on top of ordinary saucepans, to dedicated electric ones.
Many years ago now I purchased an electric steamer and though I have used it from time to time the fact that, one, the tiers are polycarbonate an d probably full of BPA (I did not know about that then and nor did most people) and, two, that it needs counter space, near an electrical outlet, makes using it a bit of a rigmarole.
Also, needing about 50 minutes or so to get the food to my taste and that around 1.5KW was, in my view, a little costly.
I then came across microwave steamers and at about 10-12 minutes is a different kettle of fish but I was still not completely happy as, when done a little too long, even if still water in the reservoir, vegetables turned out once or twice a little shriveled.
In early January 2012, in Sainsbury's January Sale, I came across a copper bottom stainless steel 3-tier steamer and this is, so far, the very best steamer I have used and the food turns out absolutely succulent and has the greatest taste full of flavors.
As far as I am concerned this is the best buy as regards to steamers that I have made even though it cost me £25 (about US$45) at a half-price sale.
It is my opinion that stove top steamers are superior to the electric worktop units with their plastic tiers as, in my experience, the results are better and it takes a little less time.
Obviously the full price, which would be £50, is a lot of money for a stove top steamer assembly as the Sainsbury's Cook's Collection Copper Bottom 3-tier Steamer which I bought in the sale at half price. But, then again, with care (it has a glass lid and I am clumsy), it should last for a long time.
Similar stainless steel steamers can be had, without the copper bottom, though the latter give a much better heat conductivity and distribution, for less, at stores and outlets, including at Sainsbury's, and at Lakeland. As far as Lakeland ones go they can be found in the Spring 2012 “KITCHEN” catalog.
At Lakeland one can also obtain, and Lakeland seem to be, as far as I have seen so far the only place, a single tier steamer that fits on top of an ordinary saucepan. This type is ideal for those that cook only for one or two people or if you want a separate steamer for, for instance, cooking fish.
Cooking with a steamer really is the way to go, methinks...