There are essentially two types of steamer available, there is the electric steamer which when plugged in provides its own heat source or the type of steamer you put on your cooker which is a saucepan with steamer pans which stack on top of it. Both types of steamer are great money savers as you can cook several items using only one heat source. One advantage the electric steamer has over the on the hob version is that it has a built in timer so if like me you are a bit forgetful this is really useful as not only does it switch itself off at the end of the cooking time but it also makes a pinging sound to alert you.
What other advantages are there to cooking with a steamer?
Of course the greatest advantage to steaming your vegetable as opposed to boiling them is that the vitamins do not leach out into the water, which you then throw away (unless you use it to make your gravy that is). Secondly the vegetables stay crisper and retain more flavour when cooked with steam, steaming is particularly good for broccoli and cauliflower which can easily turn mushy and tasteless when boiled.
Is it difficult to use a steamer?
Not at all, a steamer is very simple to use, simply prepare your vegetables in the normal fashion and then put them into the steamer baskets, with the vegetables which take longest to cook at the bottom working your way up to the ones which take the least time. For example if you were cooking potatoes, carrots and cabbage, the potatoes would go on the bottom the carrots in the middle and the cabbage on the top. Both types of steamer require a water to work, the electric version will have low and high marks which indicate how much water to use and with the pan version you will need to put water in the bottom pan which once brought to the boil you keep simmering. Potatoes and vegetable take 15 – 20 minutes to cooks you can test them with a knife to see if they are done in the same way you would test vegetables when boiling them.
What else can I cook in a steamer?
Fish always cooks well in a steamer, and many steamers come with an insert for cooking rice your steamer and of course there are puddings which are traditionally steamed for example Christmas pudding.