Bamboo Steamers: How To Use & Care For Them

Bamboo steamers are inexpensive to buy and they can turn out a delicious meal in minutes. If veggies aren’t your thing, try steaming them and you might just find yourself converted. Not only are they delicious (while retaining more of their vitamins and nutrients when compared to boiled), you can also use them to prepare whole meals that include fish, chicken and dumplings, yum!

Here are instructions and tips to get you started. If you haven’t tried cooking with bamboo steamers before, you’ll be surprised at how quick and easy it is!


Before using for the first time: Wash all pieces with hot soapy water, rinse well and then soak in hot water for 30 minutes. After soaking, steam all baskets and lid for about 30 minutes (while empty).

To Use:

  • I prefer using a pot or deep saucepan that the basket will fit snugly on top of, it should rest securely (just) over the rim of the pot so that it won’t slip down inside. You can use a pot that’s larger or a wok and settle the basket inside it (so it sits on the bottom), but you’ll need to use less water with this method to ensure the basket bottom is above the water level.
  • Fill the pot with water a few inches deep or about half an inch below the bottom of the basket and bring to a boil. You want the water level deep enough to not run dry during the cooking period, and not so deep that the water reaches up into the basket and boil the food instead of steaming it.
  • Arrange food items in each basket then place on top of pot once the water is boiling. Cover with the lid and cook until food is done (depending on size and thickness of pieces, vegetables can take just a few minutes, fish fillets about 10 minutes and chicken pieces can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes or so).
  • Careful! What to watch for: Water should never be allowed to run dry, keep an eye on the water level and top up if needed.

Bamboo Steamers: How To Use & Care For Them

To Fill Baskets: Arrange food items in a single layer with space around each so that steam is allowed to circulate throughout the space as well as rise up to the layer above (if cooking with stacked baskets).

To Stack Them: If cooking with more than one basket at a time, place foods that take longer to cook in the first basket at the bottom, items needing the least amount of cooking time are arranged in the top one.

Liners: You can cook food directly on the bamboo slats at the bottom of each basket, but liners are recommended when cooking foods that have a tendency to stick (such as dumplings). Using a liner makes the cleanup job a breeze, you can use:

  • Leaves from cabbage and lettuce, corn husks or squares of cheese cloth, parchment paper and aluminum foil. It’s also possible to cook directly on small plates that will fit inside the baskets.

When using a liner, make sure you don’t seal off the bottom of the basket and that there are uncovered spaces so the steam can fill the basket and reach the food items.

Once food is fully cooked: Turn off the heat and carefully remove from pot, lift the lid off away from you (being careful not to burn yourself from the rush of steam escaping) and transfer food to serving dishes.

Cleanup: Wash in hot soapy water and rinse well. Allow to fully air dry before storing. These are not dishwasher safe.


  • If using stackable baskets and each is filled with a meal or food items that take the same amount of time to cook, switch the baskets around halfway through so the total cooking time will be even for each.
  • To enhance flavor, try adding garlic, thyme, rosemary, ginger and other fresh herbs to the water or spread them around the food items while cooking.

Bamboo Steamers: How To Use & Care For Them

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