Bamboo Steamer Basics: Instructions for First-Timers

A bamboo steamer is a versatile tool that can handle almost any type of food, and it does so with a delicate touch that preserves the integrity of your ingredients. It is an ancient cooking tool that has stood the test of time and is an essential part of Asian culinary traditions.

With proper care and attention, your bamboo steamer will last for years and become an indispensable part of your kitchen toolkit.


Seafood and Fish: Bamboo steamers are excellent for cooking seafood like shrimp, crab, fish fillets, and even shellfish like clams and mussels. When steaming fish or shellfish, it's often helpful to line the bottom of the steamer with banana leaves, citrus leaves, or even thin slices of lemon or lime.

This not only prevents sticking but also imparts a subtle flavor to the steamed seafood. Make sure to remove any shells or inedible parts from the seafood before steaming.

Chicken: Chicken can be steamed in a bamboo steamer, but it is important to note that chicken releases a lot of juice as it cooks. Use a heatproof dish to catch the juice, or place a shallow bowl under the chicken while it cooks. You can also marinate the chicken in advance and then steam it, which will add a burst of flavor to the meat.

Eggs: You can even steam eggs in a bamboo steamer, creating a silky, custard-like texture. To steam eggs, beat them in a bowl with a little salt, water, or broth. Pour the mixture into individual heatproof dishes and place them in the bamboo steamer. The eggs will come out soft and custardy.

Vegetables: Steaming vegetables in a bamboo steamer is quick and easy. Cut the vegetables into uniform pieces, season them, and place them in the steamer. Because of the delicate cooking method, the vegetables will retain their vibrant colors, nutrients, and natural flavors.

Rice: You can steam rice in a bamboo steamer by using a heatproof dish or cheesecloth. This method of cooking rice can be especially useful when preparing sticky rice or rice dishes with additional ingredients, such as meats or vegetables.

Desserts: Bamboo steamers are also great for making various desserts. You can steam cakes, puddings, or sweet buns. When steaming sweet dishes, it is helpful to use a liner to prevent sticking and make cleaning easier.

Bamboo Steamer Instructions


  • For more flavor, use broth, stock, or seasoned water as your steaming liquid.
  • If the bamboo steamer lid becomes too hot to handle, use a cloth or oven mitt to lift it.
  • It's essential to maintain a constant simmer while steaming. If the water boils too vigorously, the food may cook too quickly and unevenly.
  • To test the doneness of your food, use a fork, knife, or chopstick. If the utensil easily pierces the food, it's done.
  • If you are steaming multiple layers of food, remember that the bottom layer will cook faster than the top layer due to being closer to the steam source.


  • Shrimp: 3-5 minutes
  • Fish fillets: 8–10 minutes
  • Chicken breasts: 15-20 minutes
  • Pork dumplings: 15-20 minutes
  • Vegetable dumplings: 10-15 minutes
  • Baozi (steamed buns): 15-20 minutes
  • Broccoli: 5-7 minutes
  • Carrots: 8-10 minutes
  • Potatoes: 12–15 minutes

NOTE: These times are approximate and can vary depending on the size and thickness of the food, as well as the number of layers in the steamer.

Bamboo steamers are an excellent addition to any kitchen, offering a gentle cooking method that preserves the flavor, texture, and nutrients of your food. They are easy to use, versatile, and produce delicious results.

With the instructions provided in this article, you can start exploring the world of steamed dishes, from dim sum to healthy, flavorful meals.

Remember to take proper care of your bamboo steamer, and it will become a kitchen essential that you'll reach for time and time again.

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