6 Things You Need To Know About a Bamboo Steamer

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Bamboo Steamer - Do you need one?

bamboo steamer

Thinking buying a bamboo steamer but not sure if you are going to use it often?

Well, we did buy one and we do actually use it quite a lot. 

A bamboo steamer works wonder whether you want to make dumplings, bao buns or even fresh vegetables.

All you have to do is start steaming to make healthy and delicious food in an efficient and easy way.

A bamboo steamer or a bamboo steamer basket is made of interlocking trays having perforated bottoms. These trays stack one on top of the other.

You are supposed to place the whole basket over a pot of simmering water, making steam rise through the layers and cooking the food. As long as you know how to use it, you can really cook anything in a bamboo steamer.

If you are about to use a wooden steamer for the first time or you are thinking about buy one, give these 6 things a read to learn everything about them:

1. It’s a Valuable Addition to Your Kitchen

First things first, if you are into cooking meals at home and you wish the food you cooked preserved its nutrients, flavour, texture, and minerals, this steamer is for you.

Once you cook food in an authentic bamboo steamer, you would never want to go back!

chopsticks and bamboo steamer

2. Bamboo Steamer > Metal Steamer

The concept of cooking with a bamboo steamer is almost similar to that of stainless steel cookware with a metal steamer.

In this case, a wok or a wide pan must be filled with 2 inches of water. It must be kept on medium heat without a cover or steamer on top. As the water simmer, it cooks the food

A metal container is prone to overcooking food, which defeats the purpose of cooking food more healthily. Also, these metal containers often leave an after taste whilst the bamboo variety does no such thing. 

bao buns in bamboo steamer

3. How to Buy the Right Bamboo Steamer

Investing in the right dumpling steamer is the key to making good food.

But how do you which one is the best?

Consider these tips to make a good purchase:

  • Invest in a steamer made from the finest quality bamboo. This ensures no odour interacts with your food and everyone gets to savour the real flavour.
  • Ideally, go for a BPA-free bamboo steamer to ensure no nasty materials are in your steamer.
  • Check its lid. It must fit tightly to ensure no steam escapes.
  • Measure the size of the lid just to be sure it fits the steam basket.
  • If you have a large family, get a two-tier bamboo basket to cook more serving.
  • Make sure the bamboo slats between the baskets layers are wide for the steam to pass.
  • There shouldn’t be any metal on this steamer. Otherwise, it may get hot and you might burn your hand while handling the pot.
dumplings cooking in bamboo steamer

4. How to Use a Bamboo Steamer

If you have ever used a Chinese steamer, using a bamboo steamer should be a piece of cake.

Regardless of the food you wish to cook, the basics are pretty much the same.

Here are the steps on how to use a bamboo steamer for the first time:

  1. Start by filling the steamer basket with some lining. Line up the bottom of each layer with cabbage, lettuce leaves or parchment paper. This is to prevent the food from sticking to the basket. Add the food you want to cook in a single layer. Cover the top layer with a lid.
  2. Make sure the basket fits tightly over the pot. Likewise, make sure the bottom layer of the food sits above the water line and isn’t submerging. You may use a wok but if you are wondering how to use a bamboo steamer without a wok, then get a shallow skillet. It works just fine.
  3.  It’s time to fill the pot with 2-inches of water and bring it to simmer. To infuse flavour into your food, you can always use broth instead of water.
  4. As the water simmers, place the basket over the pot. Watch the water level and add more if the pot dries up. Keep on checking the food as well.
dumplings in bamboo steamer

5. Cooking Your Favorite Food in a Bamboo Steamer

Now that you know the basics of how this steamer works, you are ready to cook some of the most common dishes, which include:

Cooking Rice in a Bamboo Steamer

Want to learn how to use a bamboo steamer for rice?

The steps are easy:

  1. Clean the rice and soak them in water like usual.
  2. Once you have prepared the layer with cabbage leaves, drain the rice and place them on top of the leaves evenly.
  3. Set a wok and add 3 cups of water (or any other depending on the quantity of rice).
  4. When the water starts boiling, lower the flame and place the bamboo steamer in the water.
  5. It will take about 30 minutes to prepare the rice.


Let’s learn how to use a bamboo steamer for dumplings:

  1. First of all, use your favourite recipe to assemble the dumplings and add the filling of your choice.
  2. Once they are prepared, follow the same steps mentioned above.

The ideal tier for placing dumplings varies based on the filling.

Ideally, you must stack the bottom layer with cabbage leaves. Then, place the dumplings and cover the layer with a lid. You will need to steam them for 15 to 20 minutes.

dish in steamer

6. Cleaning the Bamboo Steamer

It’s not enough to how to use a bamboo steamer basket. It would be best if you also learned how to clean it.

Luckily for us, cleaning it is no hassle at all.

Use a soft nylon brush and hot water to scrub away leftover food. Be gentle, though and be careful not to scrub too hard.

Also, clean the baskets from the outside. You may add a little dish soap if needed. Rinse it and let it air dry. Bamboo steamers are delicate hence they are not dishwasher safe.

cooked dumplings

Summing Up

No matter what type of food you are cooking in the steamer, it would take 15 to 30 minutes to cook with all the natural flavours intact.

Once you start cooking food in it, you wouldn’t want to use any other steamer. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require much maintenance. When paired with a beautiful ramen bowl, you will be transported to Asia without the air miles! 

A bamboo steamer is indeed a great investment if you would like to introduce natural flavour to food and want to give your family healthy food.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!