Why It's Crucial To Dry Your Bamboo Steamer After Cleaning It

Anyone who owns a bamboo steamer knows that it's a miracle tool for serving up perfectly steamed food, especially when it comes to dumplings and rice. Unlike steamers made from other materials, bamboo baskets can soak up excess moisture and drastically reduce condensation under the lid that might otherwise result in soggy patches all across your dumpling skin or sticky rice. Unfortunately, this also means that it's absolutely crucial for you to dry them after every time you clean them: The absorbent and porous nature of bamboo makes it extremely prone to molding and/or cracking if improperly cared for.

While it depends on the natural humidity of where you live, you should leave your bamboo steamer in a dry, well-ventilated space for at least one or two days before putting it away for storage. While it might be tempting to wrap up the delicate basket to keep dust out of the woven slats, you should only use paper or other breathable material to do so.

The tricky part is that it's crucial to not over-dry the basket as well. If you live in a region with year-round arid weather, you should rub the bamboo with a thin layer of vegetable oil before drying to keep it from cracking or losing its flexibility. Most importantly, you should never let the steamer dry in direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure will most likely break or warp the wood.

Be gentle with the bamboo steamer while cleaning it

Unfortunately, proper maintenance of a bamboo steamer doesn't start nor end with the post-clean drying. The cleaning in and of itself requires patience and care if you want any kind of longevity from the bamboo. While the instructions might vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the general rule of thumb is to be as gentle and careful as possible when cleaning: Avoid putting it in the dishwasher, don't soak it in water for more than five minutes, and never scrub it with any kind of sponge or brush that's harsher than nylon.

You should also try to stick to natural cleaners if you can. A little bit of dish detergent won't necessarily harm the basket, but you run the risk of getting a faint soapy smell from the next batch of food you steam in it. Unless there's a patch of caked-on food to scrub off, you can probably get away with rubbing the insides with a lemon slice or a pouch of black tea that's been dipped in hot water. Just give it a gentle rinse afterward, dry it carefully, and it'll be ready for your next round of delicious sticky rice or steamed dumplings.