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Steamer or microwave?

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When my wife died fifteen years ago, I dutifully followed her cooking examples as closely as I could.  One thing she did was to steam vegetables so I did the same.  I noticed that the water left in the steamer was of the color of the vegetable when it was ready and I wondered how much flavor and nutrition was lost to the water?  I also didn't want to spend a lot of time cooking when I got home from work because I was tired and hungry so began microwaving my vegetables, without any added water, instead. My question is, which is better and why?  Are there some vegetables that respond better to one method or the other?  Is there any reason not to microwave?  I've been wondering for many years but never thought to ask. . . 

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You're on the right track.  Cooking with less water, for a shorter time will preserve more nutrients so steaming is better than boiling and microwaving (with little added water) is even better. 

 

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Wonder what percentage of nutrients are lost. Still gotta be a lot left in the food.

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1 hour ago, gfweb said:

Wonder what percentage of nutrients are lost. 

I think the percentage will vary depending on the heat stability of the nutrient being measured, the cooking time and temp and characteristics of the vegetable that would encourage plant fluids to either "leak" into the cooking liquid or be retained in the vegetable.

 

1 hour ago, gfweb said:

Still gotta be a lot left in the food.

Exactly.  As this article concludes, "Vegetables, pretty much any way you prepare them, are good for you,..."


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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1 hour ago, blue_dolphin said:

I think the percentage will vary depending on the heat stability of the nutrient being measured, the cooking time and temp and characteristics of the vegetable that would encourage plant fluids to either "leak" into the cooking liquid or be retained in the vegetable.

 

Exactly.  As this article concludes, "Vegetables, pretty much any way you prepare them, are good for you,..."

 

 

A link in the article also makes it clear that many types of plastic containers are not suitable for microwaving food.  Many of those containers are ones that have been used to package food for resale, such as yogurt and cheese containers.

  • If you're concerned about plastic wraps or containers in the microwave, transfer food to glass or ceramic containers labeled for use in microwave ovens.
  • Don't let plastic wrap touch food during microwaving because it may melt. Wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, white paper towels, or a domed container that fits over a plate or bowl are better alternatives.
  • Most takeout containers, water bottles, and plastic tubs or jars made to hold margarine, yogurt, whipped topping, and foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard are not microwave-safe.
  • Microwavable takeout dinner trays are formulated for one-time use only and will say so on the package.
  • Old, scratched, or cracked containers, or those that have been microwaved many times, may leach out more plasticizers.

 ... Shel


 

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Unless you are undernourished in general, I feel your concern need not be in nutrition.

 

I would be more interested in flavor for enjoyment.

 

To me microwave or steaming is about the same in nutrition. The water you see after steaming are mostly from steam condensation, not from the vegetable.

 

dcarch

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The microwave can be a great option, especially since it is so easy. It also concentrates flavor, if you cook the vegetables plain without added water. That said, I do not have one.

 

I use a Chinese bamboo steamer. I don't like those metal steamer baskets, as I feel that the metal heats up (it is touching the pan bottom) and can become hotter than steam and overcook the vegetables. With the the bamboo steamer, I do not recall getting colored water, ever. The vegetable sit very high and the bamboo remains cool. There's a little condensation, but not much, the steam mostly passes on through.

 

For me, the added bonus is the ability to cook something in the water in the pot, like some pasta or rice. When I was just out of college and sharing a house with three other women, I used to make dinner like this all the time because I could make a meal on one burner. I would take a tempered glass cup, like pyrex, and put some sauce in it and heat it with the vegetables. Sometimes, it was some tomato sauce or some other pre-made sauce. Other times, I would put in creme fraiche or sour cream or butter, plus herbs, maybe grated lemon peel, and minced garlic or onion and kind of assemble a simple sauce.

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Steamer. I keep multiple steamers (3-piece metal steamers) in my kitchen. I also hard-cook eggs in a steamer. I cook my potatoes in a steamer. and so on ...

 

I don't seem to have the "colored water" problem. I watch my veggies carefully and take them off of the steam as soon as they are done. Broccoli, for instance,  takes about 6 minutes maximum after the steam has built up properly.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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None of the above.

 

Brassica and most other green vegetables I prepare in copious amounts of boiling water.  An exception is tonight's baby spinach that I am about to go and lightly steam.  And of course haricots vert, which by now most people know I pressure steam for thirty seconds.

 

To me nutrition matters little.  What's important is the taste and texture.

 

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6 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

None of the above.

 

Brassica and most other green vegetables I prepare in copious amounts of boiling water.  An exception is tonight's baby spinach that I am about to go and lightly steam.  And of course haricots vert, which by now most people know I pressure steam for thirty seconds.

 

To me nutrition matters little.  What's important is the taste and texture.

 

 

I'd agree with that.  I generally don't use water for vegetables, unless I'm blanching them or making soup.  I prefer to cook a lot of them à l'étouffée (in a little fat, covered with a lid - carrots, especially) or just sautéed.  That way you don't lose any of the stuff leaching out, and the flavoured oil helps dress the vegetables.

 

ETA: I seem to remember huiray talking about Chinese cooks doing this - cooking vegetables in fat rather than in steamers.  Seemed like a good idea :)


Edited by jmacnaughtan (log)

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38 minutes ago, jmacnaughtan said:

ETA: I seem to remember huiray talking about Chinese cooks doing this - cooking vegetables in fat rather than in steamers.  Seemed like a good idea :)

 

I've mentioned this many times, but in over twenty years in China, I've never, ever seen anyone steam vegetables. Fish, yes. Eggs. Pork. Bread and buns, of course. But never vegetables. They are always stir-fried (in lard (pork fat) or oil) or used in soups/hot pots..

 

As I've also said before many times, I've never seen a bamboo steamer in a domestic kitchen in China. None of my friends have them and I wouldn't know where to buy one if I had to. There is a street full of kitchen supply shops only ten minutes walk away. They don't have them. They are only used in dim sum restaurants and dumpling/steamed bread shops, although even there they are dying. The metal ones are deemed to be more hygienic.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

I've mentioned this many times, but n over twenty years in China, I've never, ever seen anyone steam vegetables. Fish, yes. Eggs. Pork. Bread and buns, of course. But never vegetables. They are always stir-fried (in lard (pork fat) or oil) or used in soups/hot pots..

 

As I've also said before many times, I've never seen a bamboo steamer in a domestic kitchen in China. None of my friends have them and I wouldn't know where to buy one if I had to. There is a street full of kitchen supply shops only ten minutes walk away. They don't have them. They are only used in dim sum restaurants and dumpling/steamed bread shops, although even there they are dying. The metal ones are deemed to be more hygienic.

 

 

Sorry, it must have been you I was thinking of.  My apologies.

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I am a combination of methods (being an Italian married to a Chinese). Most often I stir-fry the Chinese way. Or if a want a lighter taste and a little healthier I cook in a wok, using just the water I estimate will be enough for that vegetable (I especially like green beans and broccoli and cauliflowers in this way). So I put the water required in a wok and bring to boil, add some salt, the vegetables (also I don't overfill) and cover about 3-4 minutes depending from the vegetable and the size, I keep it at fast boiling. Then I uncover and, at this point, only a couple tablespoon water should be left in the wok and the vegetables should be al dente. I stir the vegetable to make sure the sides don't scorch and add a little bit of oil (only extra virgin for me) to coat for flavour, adjust for salt if necessary. In the microwave the vegetable I like best are zucchini coins, cooked with no water and a touch of salt.

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2 hours ago, jmacnaughtan said:

ETA: I seem to remember huiray talking about Chinese cooks doing this - cooking vegetables in fat rather than in steamers.  Seemed like a good idea :)

 

1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

I've mentioned this many times, but in over twenty years in China, I've never, ever seen anyone steam vegetables. Fish, yes. Eggs. Pork. Bread and buns, of course. But never vegetables. They are always stir-fried (in lard (pork fat) or oil) or used in soups/hot pots..

 

As I've also said before many times, I've never seen a bamboo steamer in a domestic kitchen in China. None of my friends have them and I wouldn't know where to buy one if I had to. There is a street full of kitchen supply shops only ten minutes walk away. They don't have them. They are only used in dim sum restaurants and dumpling/steamed bread shops, although even there they are dying. The metal ones are deemed to be more hygienic.

 

1 hour ago, jmacnaughtan said:

Sorry, it must have been you I was thinking of.  My apologies.

 

Perhaps you might have been thinking of what I described as blanching in simmering water to which some oil has been added. That I often do, with many types of vegetables, then dress with a sauce of my choice. I described it previously in this post

 

As for bamboo/metal steamers here's what I said in another old post. Other posters (e.g. Keith_W, Dejah) not residing in mainland China also chimed in on that thread about steamers.

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11 hours ago, Porthos said:

Steamer. I keep multiple steamers (3-piece metal steamers) in my kitchen. I also hard-cook eggs in a steamer. I cook my potatoes in a steamer. and so on ...

 

I don't seem to have the "colored water" problem. I watch my veggies carefully and take them off of the steam as soon as they are done. Broccoli, for instance,  takes about 6 minutes maximum after the steam has built up properly.

 

I'm curious......why do you cook your potatoes in a steamer?

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Thanks for all of the interesting answers.  I do most of my vegetable cooking in glass bowls with glass lids.  I don't add any water to steam in as the vegetables seem to have enough of their own and, indeed, there is usually a little liquid in the bowl after cooking.  At least until I retire and have more time, I'll probably continue microwaving most things.  It's nice to know the alternatives, though.

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Some days I really hate my smartphone. My reply didn't post so here it is again.

 

@ElsieD

 

Steamed potatoes cook faster and stay firmer. That is especially nice for potato salad. Also, I steam red potatoes for mashed potatoes and the firmness allows for small chunks in the mash, something my DW really likes.

 

In my ren faire kitchens I routinely steam 10 pounds of potatoes. It takes roughly half the time that boiling them does.

 

As an aside, this weekend kicks off the faire I do in the fall near Gilroy, CA. I wear this garlic pendant necklace in honor of cooking near Gilroy.

 

Garlic.jpg

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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46 minutes ago, Porthos said:

Steamed potatoes cook faster and stay firmer. That is especially nice for potato salad.

 

It is strongly suggested that, when cooking (boiling) potatoes for potato salad, the water be well seasoned with salt and sometimes  vinegar.  How does steaming accomplish this early seasoning?


 ... Shel


 

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1 hour ago, Porthos said:

Some days I really hate my smartphone. My reply didn't post so here it is again.

 

@ElsieD

 

Steamed potatoes cook faster and stay firmer. That is especially nice for potato salad. Also, I steam red potatoes for mashed potatoes and the firmness allows for small chunks in the mash, something my DW really likes.

 

In my ren faire kitchens I routinely steam 10 pounds of potatoes. It takes roughly half the time that boiling them does.

 

As an aside, this weekend kicks off the faire I do in the fall near Gilroy, CA. I wear this garlic pendant necklace in honor of cooking near Gilroy.

 

Garlic.jpg

 

Thank you!  I will try that next time I do spuds.

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I dislike microwaved broccoli. To me, it tends to stink. It also lacks the "mouth-feel" that blanching it in oiled simmering water gives it.

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8 hours ago, Porthos said:

Some days I really hate my smartphone. My reply didn't post so here it is again.

 

@ElsieD

 

Steamed potatoes cook faster and stay firmer. That is especially nice for potato salad. Also, I steam red potatoes for mashed potatoes and the firmness allows for small chunks in the mash, something my DW really likes.

 

In my ren faire kitchens I routinely steam 10 pounds of potatoes. It takes roughly half the time that boiling them does.

 

As an aside, this weekend kicks off the faire I do in the fall near Gilroy, CA. I wear this garlic pendant necklace in honor of cooking near Gilroy.

 

Garlic.jpg

Steam transfers heat better than water?

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1 hour ago, gfweb said:

Steam transfers heat better than water?

 

I had the same question.

 

dcarch

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When water has turned to steam has a high level of thermal energy in each molecular. When it come into contact with the food the thermal energy transfers the the food, causing the water to condense back into its liquid phase and drip down into the water below. This energy transfer is more efficient than contact with boiling water which has not been heated enough to have achieved the vapor phase.

 


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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