How to Steam Food in Culinary College

Published: 18th April 2012
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Welcome back to culinary college! Todayís lesson is How To Steam Food. Iím glad you are punctual to class because youíll want every minute of this four and one half hour lecture and laboratory class.

The students at Stratford University in Baltimore aspire to careers as professional chefs, hospitality managers, and entrepreneurs of many different kinds. One particular graduate of the Baltimore culinary college actually became a cooking instructor on the internet! He now helps thousands of people all over the world improve their lifestyles through food.

Today, that graduate is at the front of the class helping to examine the basic cooking method of steaming. Steaming is a moist convective cooking method because heat is imparted to food indirectly through moisture in the form of steam.

In the previous lab class, we explored the differences between boil, simmer and poach. Items are poached at 165F, simmered at about 185F, and boiled at 212F. In my opinion, boiling is not a cooking method, itís a terrible way to treat your food. The large violent motion of liquid in a full, rolling boil tears up protein products and makes them shrink and toughen.

When you discover the secrets of how to steam food instead of poaching it, then you help retain nutrients and texture of the item. Nutrients can leach from vegetables when they are immersed in poaching liquid. However, the indirect contact of moist heat through steaming means you can retain much of the texture and nutrient quality of foods.

Another advantage of a steaming method is that you can cook items that are assembled or composed. In todayís assignment, weíll make a stuffed Flounder pinwheel by spreading herbed cheese along with sliced raw shrimp onto a fish filet, roll it into a log and cut in slices. This type of composed item would disintegrate in a poaching liquid. But, suspended above steaming liquid helps it retain its shape.

A disadvantage of steaming is that you may not have the most visually appealing item through moist convection. Those grill marks on a steak, or nice brown color on a sauteed chicken breast come from caramelization of sugars at 320F. Since steam is never hotter than 212F, a steamed item will never be brown. However, you can bet it will be moist and flavorful.

Steaming takes advantage of the highest moist heat without boiling and subjecting your food to violent motion. This type of cooking method is the best to make vegetables even your children will want to eat. The gateway to healthier eating goes through steam.

The correct Steaming Procedure is:

1) Compose Your Item Ė If itís a simple chicken breast, season it with salt and pepper. If youíre steaming asparagus spears, trim the ends. If youíre steaming a Flounder and Shrimp Pinwheel as shown in the video, create the item and get it ready for the steam.
2) Lay the Item On a Rack - The key to steaming is that your food is suspended ABOVE simmering liquid, and never touches it. So, this rack should have holes that allow the steam to penetrate.
3) Bring a Flavorful Liquid to a Full Boil - In a cooking vessel in which the rack will fit, create a flavorful broth, or use chicken stock, but never water. Water is flavorless.
4) Lower the Rack Into The Steamer Ė And place a lid over it to create the convective motion of moist heat.
5) Your item is done with a digital thermometer. 165F is generally the final finished temperature.
6) You can use the steaming liquid to create a sauce by reducing or thickening it.


When you know how to steam food correctly, youíll be using this basic cooking method more often than in the past. Itís fast, itís simple, itís low-fat, itís flavorful, and you can never burn something that youíre steaming. Itís fool-proof, whether youíre in culinary college or not.

See Chef Toddís live How To Steam Food In Culinary College

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