Perhaps there is no exact best way to cook vegetables (I mean to each their own, right? Some people even focus on raw vegetables instead) but at the forefront, steaming seems to be a favorite among health enthusiasts when it comes to nutrient retention. So, you might want to add steaming to your favorite cooking techniques for vegetables. And for starters, know what are the best vegetables to steam.
Steaming is a cooking method that makes use of moist heat to cook food. The food, in our case the vegetables, is not in direct contact with the water. But rather, the veggies are cooked with the heat that is produced by the boiling water that vaporizes into steam. So, as far as steaming goes, you have to wait for the water to boil before you start adding the vegetables to the steaming basket.
This cooking method, aside from being super simple, also requires the most basic equipment. All you need really is a pot and a steamer basket. Don’t have a steamer basket? No problem. You can make use of a metal colander that fits in your pot. You can also make use of a heat-proof plate and simply put it on top of a crumpled aluminum foil directly into your pot or pan.
There are also small kitchen appliances that are specifically for steaming. An electric steamer for instance is one where you can simply add the water and food and then simply choose the setting to start cooking. Pressure steamer on the other hand uses a combination of steam and pressure to cook the food. A pressure steamer cuts the cooking time in half because the heat transfer is optimized. There is also the convection steamer but because it operates at a lower temperature cooking takes longer.
If you’re just starting to use this cooking method then perhaps opt for the simple pot and steamer basket. Once you get the hang of it, you can simply buy whatever appliance you feel will make steaming extra easier for you. For now, focus more on what kind of vegetables would you like to try first. To give you some ideas, here are the top 12 best vegetables to steam. See which veggies on our list you currently have in your kitchen. Worry not if you don’t have them and don’t have the time to go shopping either – simply buy online and have them delivered straight to your door.
Best Vegetables to Steam
Break the broccoli head into florets about 2 inches each, peel the stem (Yes, the stalks! Don’t let it go to waste), and simply cut crosswise into half inches to make sure it cooks at the same time with the florets. Simply toss the steamed broccoli in oil infused with garlic and a spritz of lemon juice.
Broccolis are actually rich in vitamin C. A cup can give you as much vitamin C as an orange. It’s also rich in other vitamins, minerals, and natural chemicals that can help lower blood sugar, prevent or slow osteoarthritis, and may even stop the cancer cells from forming.
If you’re looking to further simplify steaming carrots, choose the baby ones (like baby carrots for real, the young, small, thin ones!). Then simply wash them and proceed into steaming. For flavors, melt some butter in a pan, add minced garlic and ginger, toss the steamed carrots in and simply sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Carrots are known for their vitamin A content, one carrot can provide 200% of your daily vitamin A requirement. And did you know that the deeper the orange color of the carrots the more beta-carotene you’re getting? Carrot’s vitamins, minerals, and fiber contents can help maintain eye health, manage blood sugar levels, promote gut health, boost immunity, and may even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
You have to remove the woody part ends of your asparagus first. To do that, snap off the bottom inch or so with your fingers. The stems will naturally break at the point where the tough parts begin. You can simply season steamed asparagus with salt and pepper and quite frankly, you’re all good. Yes, it can be that simple.
Asparagus is actually a good source of potassium which helps nerves and muscles to function properly. It also contains folate and vitamins K, C, and A which aid in keeping bones healthy and in boosting the immune system.
Simply clean bok choy in cold water, make sure you gently push the leaves apart to remove any dirt in between stems. You can leave them whole or cut them in half lengthwise if they’re too big. One idea of serving steamed bok choy is with a Ma Po Style Pork to complete the meal.
Bok choy is another vegetable that is good for maintaining strong and healthy bones because it’s high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and vitamin K. It also contains fiber and other vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help in fighting inflammation, lowering the risk of heart disease, protecting eye health, boosting the immune system, and preventing cancer.
Break your cauliflower head into uniformly sized florets and simply steam them. If you’re not a big fan of its white color, you can bring them to life by sauteeing minced fresh turmeric and garlic cloves in olive oil and simply tossing in the steamed cauliflower. You can also add spices like cumin or fennel seeds if you want to up its flavor.
Cauliflower, believe it or not, is a great source of vitamin C. One serving can provide you with 100% daily vitamin C requirements. It also contains vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Cauliflowers are also known for its glucosinolates content that may help prevent cancer.
To prep artichoke, use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of the little thorns on the ends of the leaves (you can also opt to just leave it since it’ll soften anyway with cooking). Remove the small leaves at the base and then slice off the top of the artichoke. Rinse in running cold water and then proceed to steam. You can add aromatics in the water itself, say garlic, a slice of lemon, bay leaf, and perhaps a sprig of thyme.
Artichokes are particularly high in folate and vitamins C and K. Its fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals contents may help in reducing cholesterol levels, regulating blood pressure, improving liver health, and easing symptoms of IBS.
Simply wash kale leaves, chopped them, and then proceed to steam. You can simply dress it with a concoction of olive oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce, seasoned with salt and pepper. Super simple, right?
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Its vitamin K, A, and C content in a single cup are unbelievable. Aside from the other vitamins and minerals, it’s also loaded with powerful antioxidants. Kale helps with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, losing weight, and preventing cancer.
Trim the bottom of each Brussels sprouts and remove any dried or bruised outer leaves. You can leave them whole or sliced in half if desired. You can toss them in oil with salt and pepper before steaming. Tossing it in garlic-infused butter afterward is also a good idea. Actually, there are a lot of spices for Brussels sprouts that you can use to create amazing Brussels sprouts dishes.
Brussels sprouts can rank along with kale and spinach when it comes to antioxidants content. And to add to that it’s also rich in vitamins and minerals that help in preventing cell damage, boosting the immune system, improving digestion, boosting bone health, healing wounds, and increasing metabolism.
You don’t have to peel zucchini, there is a good amount of nutrition in its skin so you would definitely want to keep it. Just give it a good wash and then cut it into desired sizes, just make sure they’re uniformly cut. After steaming you can drizzle it with oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce mixture. Throw in some sesame seeds for additional crunch and nutty flavor.
Zucchini has a high fiber content which is good for digestion. It’s also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help with preventing and managing diabetes, improving eye health, and preventing oxidative stress.
After washing green beans, simply trim the stem ends. You can leave it whole or cut it into pieces depending on what you prefer. You can serve steamed green beans with a good dollop of a mixture on top, made from butter, grated parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Green beans are high in fiber and protein but low in calories. It also contains antioxidants that help in reducing cell damage which then lowers the risk of certain health conditions. Green beans also contain vitamins and minerals that can help improve heart health, protect the gut and bones, and reduce depression symptoms.
You don’t have to peel the squash before steaming. It’s absolutely fine to cook it with the skin on. In fact, the skin will help it keep its form and firmly hold it together even after cooking. But then again, peel the skin if you really must.
Also known as summer squash, squash is high in vitamins A, B6, and C. It’s also a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s good for improving eye health, reducing the risk of depression, enhancing skin health, and aiding digestion.
After giving it a good wash, simply trim the top end and gently pull off the string that runs along the pod’s length. You can leave the other end untrimmed. To flavor it up, simply coat steamed snap peas with a butter-tarragon-salt-pepper mixture.
Snap peas are packed with vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and fiber. It’s good for improving the immune system, preventing bone problems, and supporting the digestive system.
How to Steam Vegetables Like a Pro
So, have you made up your mind on what veggies to steam first? Get your steamer ready, put your apron on and let’s start steaming! But before that, see here some quick tips that you should keep in mind to nail steaming like a pro.
Chop vegetables in uniform sizes
Just like when roasting vegetables, you want the veggies you’re going to steam in uniform sizes. So cut them nicely into roughly the same size. If you’re going to steam different kinds of vegetables at the same time, make sure that the ones that are denser are cut smaller than the other vegetables with lighter density. Say you want to roast carrots together with your broccoli florets, the carrots should be in perhaps thinner cuts or smaller sizes so that they will cook at the same time as the broccoli.
Wait for the water to boil
Although it may seem obvious for some, there are also those who are too excited to get the whole steaming process started and would readily add the veggies – yes, even before the water started boiling. Wait for the water to boil first. And also, make sure water is not making any contact with the steaming basket or tray.
Boost their flavors with seasonings
Contrary to what some may think that steamed veggies are bland and boring, they can actually taste delish and amazing! Make use of seasonings! Use those spices and herbs! You can throw sprigs of herbs in the water or add them directly to the veggies. You can do the same thing with spices, say toss your veggies first in olive oil with a dash of paprika or red pepper flakes before adding them into your steaming basket. You can also throw in lemon slices or lemon zest in there.
Know the approximate steaming times
You'll most likely end up with mushy vegetables if you don’t know or have the slightest idea of how long you should be steaming them. While those who are pros in the kitchen can readily tell when veggies are cook al dente, for most, a guide is definitely needed. See here the approximate steaming times for most vegetables. Again, use it as a guide. Steaming times may vary depending on the size and maturity of the vegetables you are steaming.
Look, poke, or better yet taste
Even if you have the timing for particular veggies set, sometimes steaming time may slightly vary depending on the maturity and sizes of vegetables, as we’ve mentioned previously. So, looking to see with your own eyes (you’re after the bright color, say carrots should be bright orange or green beans should be at their brightest green) works. Poking is also good since you’ll be able to check if the veggies are already cooked through. Tasting on the other hand will make sure the veggies are done! So, suit yourself. You may want to start on tasting first. And later on, once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to tell if veggies are done by simply looking at them.