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Culinary Artist's Course: Steaming
I remember the lunches my mother would pack me in the summer; a steamed sweet potato and a hard-boiled egg alongside a little box of cold juice to wash it down. It always put a smile on my face.
Boiling and Steaming are two cooking methods favored by many chefs for bringing out the best in an ingredient without adding any additional oils or fats.
Boiling is performed by placing an ingredient directly into a pot of boiling water, allowing the water to heat and penetrate the food. Steaming involves suspending an ingredient above a boiling pot of water to allow the heated vapors to cook the food. The difference in execution is simple enough to understand, though the results could not be more different.
The indirect heat from steam is far less destructive on the ingredient itself, and allows the chef to maintain a higher level of flavor, color, and freshness than a boiling pot would offer.
In addition, steamed ingredients usually maintain more of their moisture than many other cooking methods. This helps vegetables maintain their nutrients, and meat to maintain its soft texture.
Don't let the idea of set-and-forget lull you into a false sense of confidence when you're about to steam up a dish. The technique has a few drawbacks, the biggest of which is the inability to add seasoning during the cooking process. However, if you choose to master it, you'll find it a useful tool in your kitchen arsenal.
So get out there, and get steaming! With a little careful planning, you can cook up a meal that's packed full of flavor AND nutrients!
Harry's Quick Tips for Steaming Success:
* Dense vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins, will need to be steamed for a long time. Otherwise, they'll end up too crunchy!
* Steam green and leafy vegetables only until they turn bright green. Any longer may make them mushy, and give them a pungent odor that overpowers the rest of your dish.
* Best proteins for steaming: Seafood, thin-sliced beef, eggs
* Best vegetables for steaming: Green vegetables, mushrooms, tubers, gourds