Steaming vegetables is part art, part science. Do it too long and you risk soggy stems. Not long enough and they might be too crispy for your liking. The key is to know which vegetables are well-suited to steaming, figuring out how you like to eat them, and then mastering your technique to make the veggies appeal to your taste buds and texture preferences. Here’s a guide to help.

Why Steam?

In short, it’s a healthy way to go—it’s also fairly quick and easy to prep and clean up. In fact, the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians recommends steaming, as it helps retain nutrients in vegetables. This study found that all cooking methods except steaming caused significant losses of chlorophyll and vitamin C in broccoli.

Steaming in the microwave

According to Harvard Medical School, the cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats up food in the shortest time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Steaming in the microwave meets those criteria, and it’s just as nutritious as traditional steaming. Using a small amount of water, the steam heats up food from the inside out, preserving more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method.

Which vegetables to steam

Not every vegetable lends itself to steaming. The ones that do tend to be somewhat sturdy, and which soften slightly after a quick steam. My personal favorites include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and beans. I tend to like my veggies to maintain a bit of body, a bit of crunch, so I usually just give them a quick dose of heat. But each vegetable has its own properties: denser ones, like potatoes, take longer to soften than lighter ones, like green beans.

Remember that you can steam from fresh or frozen. And freezing vegetables that are pre-cut is a genius way to make a healthy meal come together fast. It’s just another way to make your #dailygoodness happen.

How to steam

Steaming veggies in the microwave doesn’t require any special equipment. Just place your veggies in a microwave-safe dish with a little water in the bottom. Cover and heat. If you’re steaming on the stove, it helps to have a steamer basket, either bamboo or metal, which you layer over a saucepan. Here’s how to use it.

  • Chop your vegetables to the size you like, but be aware: make them too small and they’ll steam fast and get soggy. Too large and they will take a long time, or never soften up quite right.
  • Put water in the bottom of the saucepan so that it’s half an inch to an inch below the steamer basket, and get it boiling. You don’t want to flood the steaming basket—your veggies will get soggy.
  • Place your chopped veggies in the steaming basket. For a bit of flavor, add garlic, ginger or oil at the same time.
  • Steam the veggies until you’re happy with them. You should be able to pierce them with a fork without too much difficulty.
  • Serve them up! And enjoy.

Amp up the flavor

Want to add a bit of something special to your side dish? Here are a few great dressings that will add fun and flavor to your steamed vegetables.

Are you a master of steaming vegetables? Let us know your secrets in the comments below!

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