Mastering the Bamboo Steamer: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to steaming food, the bamboo steamer is one of the most ancient and efficient tools for this purpose. Its origins trace back to East Asia, where it's been used daily in restaurants and home kitchens.

The bamboo steamer has since gained popularity worldwide due to its unique benefits.

In this blog post, we'll explore how to use a bamboo steamer, its benefits, a buying guide, and how to take care of it to ensure longevity.

What Is a Bamboo Steamer?

A bamboo steamer is a versatile kitchen tool made from woven bamboo. It's designed with multiple trays that fit on top of one another and a covering lid. The steamer is placed on top of a wok filled with hot water or a skillet if you don’t have a wok.

The Benefits of Steaming in Bamboo

No Soggy Food

Unlike stainless steel or glass steamers, bamboo steamers absorb condensation, preventing the food from getting soggy. This feature is particularly beneficial for delicate foods like dumplings or dim sum.


Compared to other types of steamers, bamboo steamers are much lighter, making them easy to handle and store.


The stackable layers of a bamboo steamer allow you to cook an entire meal in one go, making it an efficient cooking tool.

Buying a Bamboo Steamer

When buying a bamboo steamer, a 10- or 12-inch steamer with at least two or three tiers is recommended. These fit perfectly in a standard 14-inch wok. However, if you prefer a wider bamboo steamer, ensure you have a large enough wok to accommodate it.

Bamboo steamers with stainless steel rims are ideal, as they're easier to stack on top of each other.

How To Use A Bamboo Steamer

How to Prepare a New Bamboo Steamer?

Before using a new bamboo steamer, it's essential to soak the bottom rim that'll come into contact with the wok in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes to prevent charring. After using it for the first time, allow the bottom to dry out completely before storing it.

How to Use a Bamboo Steamer?

  1. Bring water to a boil in a wok: Fill a wok with 1.5 inches of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.
  2. Line the steamer baskets: If you’re steaming buns or baos, line the baskets with perforated baking paper, napa cabbage leaves, or reusable silicone liners to prevent sticking.
  3. Arrange your vegetables or proteins on plates: For steaming vegetables or proteins, place them in a shallow plate and transfer the plate to the steamer basket.
  4. Cover the steamer and place it into the wok: Bamboo steamers are stackable, enabling bulk steaming in one go. The bottom rim of the steamer should be submerged in water, but the bottom floor should remain dry throughout.
  5. Replenish water as needed: If the water in the wok runs out, replenish it with boiling water.

What to Cook in a Bamboo Steamer?

Bamboo steamers are perfect for steaming Nai Wong Bao, Har Glow, Siu Mai, or Pork Soup Dumplings. You can also make a side of Sticky Rice or try your hand at Fa Gao, steamed Chinese fortune cakes.

How to Maintain Your Bamboo Steamer?

Never put your bamboo steamer in a dishwasher. To clean, rinse with water and use mild soap, then let it air dry. If you live in a particularly dry climate, occasionally coat it with a thin layer of vegetable oil to prevent it from cracking or splintering.

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