How Much Water Do You Really Need To Steam Food?

Steaming food at home can be one of the quickest ways to get tender veggies, juicy chicken, and succulent seafood. Although it's pretty easy to do, it's a key technique in many recipes, such as steamed beef dumplings or a Korean steamed egg dish

Steaming can even be a great way to reheat leftovers – Food 52 shares that the best way to reheat pizza is to let it sit in a hot, covered pan for a few minutes with a bit of water. The steam will warm the pizza without making it soggy as the microwave would, and you won't have to wait for an oven to preheat.

While even the most novice cooks can usually accomplish steaming, there are various ways to do it. You can get an actual steamer, which may come in the form of a stainless steel basket or a bamboo steamer, which is useful for East Asian dishes. Some of the absolute best uses for your vegetable steamer include cooking vegetables (of course), rice, cake, and even baby food. 

But according to The Spruce Eats, you don't need an extra appliance. If you have a pot with a lid or a microwaveable bowl and plastic wrap, you're on your way to perfectly softened veggies. What is important to get right, however, is how much water to use when steaming.

Using a little bit of water goes a long way to steam food

When making pasta, you'll want to boil a large pot of water. When it comes to steaming foods, however, you don't need nearly as much — in fact, you don't want your food to be covered in water at all. According to Asia Society, steaming is effective because it creates moist heat. When the water boils, it evaporates and turns into steam, which warms the food and makes it tender. Because you're only using water here to create steam, you don't need to submerge your meat or veggies.

So how much water should you use? According to The Spruce Eats, a good rule of thumb is to use about an inch deep. If you are using a steamer basket, A Couple Cooks suggests adding an inch of water to a pot, then placing the basket on top so that the bottom of it goes just under the water's surface. The same goes for a bamboo steamer in that only the bottom rim should be submerged in about a half inch of water, per The Woks of Life

If you're adding food to a covered pan to steam it, fill the pan about a quarter of the way full with water before adding your food (via That Girl Cooks Healthy). When steaming in the microwave, Birds Eye states you only need a tablespoon or two of water to get the job done. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that only the bottom of your food should touch the water.