By Lyle Oliver
Steaming is a great cooking method if you want to work more vegetables into your diet: It helps keep veggies crisp and flavorful while softening them enough for easy eating.
However, not everyone has a steamer basket to get their vegetables steamed to perfection. Luckily, a variety of alternatives can work as substitutes if you’ve misplaced your steamer basket or never got around to purchasing one. Rev up your microwave, pick up some tinfoil and grab every metal kitchen contraption you own to find your new, favorite steaming method.
The first steamer basket substitute: the microwave. This method works well for firm vegetables, like carrots and broccoli, and is quick and easy to execute. Place the vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl with roughly one tablespoon of water. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a microwave-safe plate, and cook on high for about three minutes to start. The overall cooking time will vary depending on the amount and type of vegetables, so you’ll want to check on them every few minutes until the vegetables are appropriately cooked. Drain any leftover water.
The tinfoil steaming method is pretty innovative and replicates the steamer basket well. Add a half-inch of water to the bottom of a pot along with three balls of tinfoil. Place a heat-resistant plate on top of the foil balls, cover the whole contraption with a lid, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the vegetables to the plate and recover with the lid. This method works for pretty much every variety of vegetable. Like the microwave method, you’ll want to keep an eye on the vegetables as they might finish cooking at different times.
3. Steam in Water
This method works like the microwave, but on the stove instead. Add about a half-inch of water to the bottom of a saucepan, and then place your vegetables in the water. Cover the pot with a lid, and bring the water to a boil. Remove the vegetables once they’ve reached their ideal steamed level. This method works well for firm vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, but it tends to waterlog softer vegetables. Also, it takes way longer than just microwaving a bowl of vegetables in water.
4. Metal Strainer or Colander
The closest replacement to a steamer basket is a metal strainer or colander. Place the strainer over a pot of water with the water level lower than the bottom of the strainer. Cover with a lid, and bring the water to a boil. This method can take a while to get the vegetables properly cooked if the lid doesn’t fit completely over the strainer, making lots of steam escape. If you’re willing to wait it out, you’ll end up with delicious, perfectly steamed veggies of all varieties.
5. Metal Cooling Rack
The metal cooling rack trick is great for the oven. Add water to a large pot, a Dutch oven ideally, and place the cooling rack with vegetables on top. Add tin foil over the whole thing to trap the steam. Put the pot-rack-veg-foil contraption in the oven at 200 degrees until appropriately steamed. Again, the time will depend on the type and number of vegetables. This method, while time-consuming, does yield excellent results for most types of vegetables.
No steamer basket? No problem! Have fun trying out these five vegetable steaming hacks to find your favorite. Looking for more ways to integrate veggies into your diet? Check out these tasty recipes for one that features a few delicious vegetables.