How to Steam Vegetables
To make the healthiest vegetables at home, trust a simple, foolproof method that uses just heat and water. The Taste of Home Test Kitchen shares simple steps for steaming any kind of vegetable, from broccoli to Brussels sprouts.
By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor and Dana Meredith, Associate Editor
Vegetables and steam cooking go way back—at least 7,000 years in China, and 10,000 years in North America. Eastern methods used bamboo containers for steaming, while Native Americans of the southwest used clay. Bring the time-tested method to your kitchen for fresh, healthy sides like steamed squash that are easy, too.
Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen
- Shop! Steamers are available in stovetop and electric versions.
- Keep those nutrients: Steaming vegetables preserves more vital nutrients than boiling does. Plus, no fat or oil is necessary.
- Clean 'em up: Always wash vegetables before steaming.
- Cut vegetables into equally sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- Don't overcrowd the steamer basket; steam in batches if necessary.
- If you're steaming a large number of vegetables, place the steamer basket in a Dutch oven instead of a large saucepan to cook more vegetables at once.
- Add enough water to last the entire time needed for steaming; adding more water later will drop the temperature. Check to make sure the pan isn't boiling dry, but avoid removing the lid too frequently—this will also drop the temp.
- Inject flavor: Add some herbs, onions or other aromatic ingredients to the water.
- Reduce heat to maintain a low boil or simmer to avoid overcooking the vegetables.
- Careful! Steam's really hot and can cause burns. Always open the steamer lid away from your face and hands.
How to Steam Vegetables
What you'll need:
- Your choice of vegetables
- Steamer basket
- Large saucepan or Dutch oven with lid
1. Chop your vegetables so that they are the same size.
2. Place your vegetables in the steamer basket. Place basket in a saucepan over 1 in. of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil. Cover and steam for recommended time or until crisp-tender.
3. Always open your steamer lid away from you to avoid burns.
4. Vegetables are done when they are vibrant in color and you can easily pierce the thickest part of the vegetable with a paring knife. Drain, then place vegetables in a serving bowl. Cover with dressing, butter, or your choice of topping.
How Long to Steam Common Vegetables
Beans, green or wax
Carrots, whole baby
Sweet potatoes, cubes