WHY USE A BAMBOO STEAMER
Steaming is one of the most common ways of cooking in Asian cuisine, it is equivalent to baking or roasting in Western cooking. Not only can you steam bao buns and dumplings, you’re also able to use it to steam breads, vegetables, rice, fish, meat and desserts
Here are our instructions on how to use a bamboo steamer.
HOW TO USE A BAMBOO STEAMER
STEP 1: FILL YOUR WOK (OR OTHER PAN) WITH WATER
Place the bamboo steamer into your wok (or another wide-rimmed, shallow pan, like a wide skillet), and fill it with enough water to come up above the bottom rim of the steamer.
If your bamboo steamer is brand new, you might want to soak this bottom rim of the steamer (that will come into direct contact with the pan) for 30 minutes or so, to ensure that it doesn’t scorch. After using it, just make sure it is fully dried out before storing, or it may form mold.
NOTE: A wok is the best tool to use in conjunction with a bamboo steamer, because the wok is thin, making it easier to boil water and regulate water temperature, and it has a wide rim that can accommodate bamboo steamers of different sizes. That said, our most often used bamboo steamer size is 10 inches in diameter, and it’s definitely the all-purpose size we’d recommend buying. If you have a large skillet that can accommodate a steamer of that size, that works too!
STEP 2: LINE THE BAMBOO STEAMER
Once you have the water level where you want it, you can line your bamboo steamer baskets.
You can use large, soft napa cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves, layers of cheesecloth, or even squares of parchment paper. You can also get round, perforated parchment paper liners made specifically for bamboo steamers, or even better, reusable cloth or silicone liners.
Whatever you line the steamer with should be porous, to allow the steam to come up through the bottom of the steamer and circulate around the food to cook it.
Below is the bamboo steamer with a cloth liners:
You can also check out our hack to make your own DIY disposable liner with baking sheet here
STEP 3: PLACE FOOD IN YOUR BAMBOO STEAMER
When placing dumplings, shaomai, hargow or bao buns in the steamer, do not overcrowd them! Keep in mind that their size will increase as they steam. Like cookies on a cookie sheet, they need room to expand. Always leave about 2cm between dumplings.
STEP 4: PLACE BAMBOO STEAMER IN WOK/POT
Unless otherwise specified, our default is placing the steamer onto the wok or pan when the water is cold, and then turning on the heat.
NOTE: If steaming dumplings or buns that were once frozen, there is no need to thaw them! Just place the frozen dumplings in your steamer and start the steaming process.
STEP 5: ALLOW FOOD TO STEAM & CHECK WATER LEVEL
Once the water in the wok/pan is simmering, it will start to evaporate. Allow the food to steam for as long as the recipe indicates, but keep an eye on it and add boiling water as needed. Make sure you’re not adding cold water, or it will stop simmering and interrupt the cooking process.
CARING FOR YOUR BAMBOO STEAMER
Again, before using a brand new steamer, you may want to soak the bottom layer (just the rim that comes in contact with the wok or pan) in water for 30 minutes or so, to ensure that it doesn’t scorch or burn. After using it, just make sure it is fully dried out before storing, or it may form mold.
To clean your bamboo steamer, wash with a sponge and mild dish soap, and immediately rinse thoroughly.
Let the steamer air dry for at least 2 days before storing to prevent any mold or mildew.
Do not put your bamboo steamer in the dishwasher. Do not soak it in water in the sink for more than 5 minutes.