While I hold a special place in my heart (and on my countertop) for my air fryer and my rice cooker, one of my favorite cooking vessels requires no electricity to work its magic. My steamer basket is always my go-to when I want a nourishing, flavorful meal and I want it lightning-fast. The one that I use is a traditional bamboo steamer, which is a stack of round, interlocked trays that gets placed over a pot of simmering water for the steam to circulate through and cook the food one each layer. Steamer varieties are aplenty nowadays, but they all serve the same purpose.
Knowing how to steam and having a steamer set-up that works for you opens up to new ways to enjoy a wide range of dishes. If you love to microwave frozen food or leftovers but hate how sometimes things come out too dry or unevenly heated, steaming will provide the ease you love only with the satisfying food you crave. Not only does the power of water and heat do wonders for traditional Asian recipes like char siu bao and sticky nian gao rice cake, but it has the potential to level up the way your favorite vegetables and whole proteins — and it’s often done without a single touch of oil.
Here, now, are 10 out of the many tasty ways you can make a steamer basket your new kitchen workhorse.