How Do You Steam Without A Steamer? Creative Solutions

Want to enjoy deliciously steamed foods but don’t have a fancy steamer appliance?

No problem! With just a few basic kitchen tools, you can easily steam vegetables, fish, and other tasty foods to perfection.

Steaming without a steamer may sound intimidating, but don’t sweat it – I’ve got you covered.

As a passionate home cook who loves infusing dishes with flavorful steam, I’ve mastered useful techniques for improvised steaming.

In this guide, I’ll share my tried and true tricks for steaming on the stovetop or in the oven using items you already own.

You’ll learn the ideal cookware to use, easy steaming setups, timing adjustments, and safety tips.

Before you know it, you’ll be an expert at steaming everything from broccoli to salmon without any special gadgets.

Let’s turn up the steamy flavor in your kitchen! Dive in with me to discover that you don’t need any fancy equipment to make delectable steamed meals.

With a few simple tools and my step-by-step guidance, you’ll gain the confidence to steam like a pro.

Time to get cooking!


How do you steam without a steamer?

To steam without a steamer, you can use a pot and a colander as a makeshift steaming setup or opt for the “plate and foil” method by placing your food on a heatproof plate covered with aluminum foil over simmering water. (1)

Why Steam Food Without a Steamer?

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Source: FOOD & WINE

Steaming is a healthy, flavorful way to cook everything from vegetables to seafood. But what if you don’t have an actual steamer?

No need to fret – with a few basic kitchen tools, you can easily improvise to steam foods without any special equipment.

Here are some top reasons to give no-steamer steaming a try:

  • It’s budget-friendly – no need to buy any fancy gadgets or appliances. Use what you already have at home.
  • Provides a healthy cooking method – steaming retains more nutrients than boiling. Maximizes the goodness of veggies, fish, etc.
  • Infuses dishes with flavor – steaming keeps food moist while concentrating tastes.
  • Easy to improvise steamers – just need heatproof cookware and a lid. Lots of household items can work.
  • Quick cooking times – steaming is one of the fastest ways to cook. No need to wait for water to boil.
  • Minimal cleanup – steaming makes just enough condensed liquid to add flavor, without dirtying tons of water.

Now that you know how satisfying it can be to steam with simple kitchen tools, let’s look at exactly how steam cooking works…

Understanding How Steam Cooking Works

How Do You Steam Without A Steamer 2

So how does steaming magically turn basic ingredients into tasty dishes without submerging food in water?

It’s all thanks to the power of hot steam! (2)

Here’s an overview of the steaming process:

  • Start with a heatproof vessel filled with a little water (1-2 inches). Bring to a boil.
  • Steam is created as the boiling water converts to hot vapor.
  • Suspend food in a steamer basket or improvised holder above, not touching, the water.
  • Steam circulates around the food, cooking it gently using only moist heat.
  • Temperatures reach 212°F (100°C) to quickly cook food through contact with the hot steam.
  • Natural juices and flavors are locked in since the food is not immersed in cooking liquid.
  • Steaming keeps food moist and tender without overcooking the exterior.

Understanding these basics helps you improve steaming results as you experiment with no-steamer techniques. Now let’s get steaming!

Steaming Vegetables in a Colander Over a Pot

How Do You Steam Without A Steamer 2

Don’t have a steamer basket? No worries! A simple colander can work wonders for steaming fresh veggies. Here’s how:

  • Place a pot with 1-2 inches of water on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil.
  • Choose your vegetables – broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. Prep them into similar sized pieces for even cooking.
  • Place the prepped veggies into a metal colander or strainer. Make sure it fits neatly over the pot with space for steam to circulate.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat until the water is gently bubbling.
  • Set the colander of veggies over the pot and cover tightly with a lid. This traps the steam.
  • Allow veggies to steam until fork tender – 5-10 minutes depending on type of vegetable.
  • Check doneness frequently and remove promptly when finished to avoid overcooking.

Using this clever steaming method, you can quickly prepare perfect crisp-tender vegetables without any special appliances. It takes advantage of items you already own!

Using Aluminum Foil to Make a Steaming Pouch

For beautifully steamed fish fillets or portions of chicken, try the aluminum foil pouch method. It seals in moisture and flavor:

  • Cut a large sheet of aluminum foil and place your protein in the center.
  • Add seasonings or slices of lemon, herbs, etc. as desired.
  • Bring the foil sides together and seal the pouch by crimping the edges tightly.
  • Use a skewer to poke 5-6 small holes in the top of the pouch.
  • Fill a pan or pot with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a boil.
  • Set the foil pouch directly in the pan, raised up on balls of foil to keep it above water.
  • Cover the pan tightly and steam for 12-15 minutes until the protein is cooked through.

The sealed environment traps steam inside the pouch to gently cook the food. The foil balls prevent waterlogging from direct contact. This method infuses seafood or poultry with delicious flavor!

Repurposing a Cooling Rack as a Steamer

Don’t let a lack of steaming basket prevent you from enjoying perfectly steamed goodies. A basic cooling rack makes a handy improvised steamer!

Here’s how to put this kitchen item to work:

Place your cooling rack inside a pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add enough water to fill the bottom 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Choose your food items to steam. Delicate foods like fish fillets, tamales or vegetables do well with this method.

Arrange the food in a single layer on the rack, above the boiling water. Cover and steam until done.

Monitor cooking time closely as a cooling rack offers less insulation than a true steamer. Delicate foods may cook faster.

Use oven mitts when removing the lid or handling the hot rack. Allow foods to cool slightly before eating.

With this simple equipment, you can whip up steamed dishes to enjoy perfectly cooked meals. Your cooling rack pulls double duty to become an improvised steamer!

Steaming in a Microwave-Safe Bowl

When you’re really in a pinch, try this speedy microwave steaming method for vegetables, fish and more:

Choose a microwave-safe bowl with a lid. Add 2 tablespoons water.

Place your food in the bowl – green beans, carrots, broccoli florets, tilapia fillets, etc.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a vented lid. Poke a small steam vent.

Microwave 2-3 minutes until the food is just tender, checking often. Cooking times vary.

Use caution when removing the hot bowl from the microwave. Allow to sit 1 minute before eating.

Thanks to the microwave’s moist heat, dishes steam quickly right in the bowl. Adjust timing as needed based on your appliance.

With trial and error, you’ll master perfectly steamed results!

Trying the Plate and Bowl Method

Missing your steamer but craving a home cooked meal? Reach for a heat-proof plate, bowl and saucepan to whip up an improvised steamer.

Place 2-3 inches of water in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Set a heat-proof plate or shallow bowl on the pan. Arrange food on it – veggies, fish, dumplings, etc.

Cover the pan tightly and let food steam for 8-10 minutes, checking doneness frequently. Delicate items may cook faster.

Use a bowl with higher sides for soupy foods like Asian-style steamed eggs. Allow them to steam gently until just set.

Be very careful handling the hot plate or bowl. Remember your lack of steamer means less insulation. But with practice, you can steam all kinds of foods to tender perfection!

Choosing the Best Foods for Improvised Steaming

While almost any food can be steamed, some are especially suited to no-steamer methods. Here are top choices:

  • Vegetables – Broccoli, green beans, asparagus, carrots. Leafy greens like spinach or kale. Chop larger veggies into bite-size pieces.
  • Delicate fish – Salmon, tilapia, cod and other tender fillets do well steamed. Keep seasoning simple.
  • Chicken breasts or lean pork – Slice thinner boneless breasts under a pound. Chops work for pork.
  • Grains – Rice, couscous, quinoa steam perfectly using improvised methods.
  • Dumplings or wontons – Partially cook first if using fresh wrappers. Frozen can be steamed.
  • Eggs – For Asian steamed eggs, whip eggs and seasonings in a bowl before steaming.

Once you know the most suitable foods, it builds confidence to improvise steaming all kinds of everyday dishes and comfort foods!


Now that you’ve got an arsenal of improvised steaming techniques under your belt, you can infuse dishes with delicious steaminess anytime – no steamer required!

Remember to use the right heatproof vessel, keep a close eye on cooking times, and properly season foods to highlight their flavors.

I hope these tips have shown you that a lack of steamer doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying tender steamed veggies, fluffy grains, juicy fish and more.

All it takes is some strategic cookware and a little extra attention.

The world of improvised steaming is yours to explore!

For more useful kitchen hacks, be sure to check out my articles on making stove-top popcorn and baking bread without an oven.

And let me know if you have any other cooking curiosity – I’m always happy to provide my DIY wisdom to help you make delightful meals with what you have on hand!



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