Top 3 Alternatives to Bamboo Steamers Plus Handy Tips

When it comes to steaming food, a bamboo steamer is a popular choice, especially for Asian dishes. But what if your bamboo steamer is broken or you simply don't have one at hand? Don't worry!

There are several creative alternatives to a bamboo steamer that you can use to make delicious meals. Let's explore some of the best alternatives and how you can use them to steam your favorite dishes.

Understanding Bamboo Steamers

Before we dive into the alternatives, let's take a moment to understand what a bamboo steamer is and why it is so popular.

A bamboo steamer is a traditional Chinese cooking tool that was invented over 5,000 years ago. It consists of two baskets made of woven bamboo strips stacked on top of each other with a tight-fitting lid. The baskets can be stacked on top of one another or on a rotating table during food service.

To use a bamboo steamer, you simply need to line the steamer with parchment paper, wax paper, or leaves, fill the steamer baskets with food, place the steamer on top of a saucepan or wok with boiling water, and let the steam cook the food. The baskets prevent the food from sitting in water, while the lid traps the steam to cook the food evenly.

Now that we have a better understanding of what a bamboo steamer is, let's look at some alternatives.

Metal Pan Steamer

A metal-pan steamer is a great alternative to a bamboo steamer. It usually comes with a metal or glass lid, which lets the steam circulate within the pan and cook the food. Here's how to use it:

  1. Line the steamer with greaseproof paper to prevent the food from sticking to the pan.
  2. Place the food in the steamer, ensuring it does not touch the sides of the pan.
  3. Cover the pan with a clean towel to absorb moisture and prevent the food from becoming soggy.
  4. Put the lid on the steamer and let the food steam for the recommended amount of time.

Tabletop Steamer

A tabletop steamer is another suitable alternative, especially for vegetables. It typically comes with a metal or plastic basket that sits on top of a pot or pan of boiling water. Here's how to use it:

  1. Line the steamer with paper to prevent food from sticking.
  2. Place the food in the middle of the steamer.
  3. Cover the lid with a towel to collect condensation and prevent soggy food.
  4. Put the lid on the steamer and let the food steam for the recommended amount of time.

Bowl, Plate, and Wok Method

If you don't have any special steaming equipment, you can use a bowl, plate, and wok to steam your food. Here's how:

  1. Add a small amount of water to the wok.
  2. Place a small bowl inside the wok.
  3. Place a plate lined with greaseproof paper on top of the bowl.
  4. Put the food on the greaseproof paper.
  5. Boil the water.
  6. Put the lid on the wok and let the food steam for the recommended amount of time.
Bamboo Steamer Alternative

Steaming Without a Bamboo Basket

The alternatives mentioned above are great for steaming without a bamboo basket. The easiest option is the metal pan steamer, but if you don't have one, a wok is usually the right size for steaming. Just follow the bowl, plate, and wok method mentioned earlier.

Cooking Bao Without a Steamer

Bao buns are a popular Chinese dish that usually requires at least 8 minutes of steaming. You can use any of the alternatives mentioned earlier to cook bao buns with boiling water. They usually take around 40 minutes to prep and 20–25 minutes to cook.


Whether you don't have a bamboo steamer or it's broken, there are several creative alternatives that you can use to steam your food. With a little creativity and the right equipment, you can make delicious steamed meals in no time.

The alternatives mentioned above are easy to use, and you can achieve the same results as with a bamboo steamer. So go ahead and try these alternatives and enjoy delicious steamed meals at home.

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