5 Best Bamboo Steamer Alternatives for Tasty Cooking

Bamboo steamers offer a healthy and versatile way to cook, but if yours is unavailable, consider using a metal pan steamer, tabletop steamer, or a bowl, plate, and wok for delicious results without the need for oil or fat.

alternative to bamboo steamer 5 Best Bamboo Steamer Alternatives for Tasty Cooking

A bamboo steamer is one of the best cooking methods to provide fresh and fast flavor to snacks, dinners, meat, and side dishes without adding any oil or fat! We love this healthy way to steam dumplings, spring rolls, and bao buns. 

But what if your bamboo steamer broke? Or maybe you want to make steamed veggies but can’t find your steamer. What now? 

Don’t worry – multiple creative alternatives to a bamboo steamer can still create delicious meals you will be talking about for ages. Let’s check out a few options! 

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What Is a bamboo steamer?

Joyce Chen Steamer, Bamboo, Tan Medium

First thing is first — what is a bamboo steamer, and what is it used for? A bamboo steamer is a handy cooking tool that has risen to prominence in Western cultures due to its versatility and ease of use. 

Bamboo steamers were created over 5,000 years ago in China and have helped shape the way Chinese culture has made and prepared food

In today’s world, bamboo steamers can be used at home or in restaurants to make Asian-inspired dishes. These steamers are designed so they can be placed on top of one another or on a rotating table during food service. 

The bamboo steamer is made up of two steamer baskets, a tight-fitting lid, and woven bamboo strips. Since this cooking method is easy to replicate, you can find alternatives that effectively steam food in the same manner. 

How To Use a Bamboo Steamer

chinese steamed buns and shumai in bamboo steamer

There are a few steps for how to use a bamboo steamer that can be good for chefs to understand:

  1. Find the correct saucepan — We recommend using a saucepan at least 2” wider on each side than the steamer basket. This ensures that the flat bottom of the basket does not rest directly on the surface of the work.
  2. Line the steamer — Many chefs choose to line the steamer basket with parchment or wax paper to help with the clean-up process and prevent food sticking to the side walls. 
  3. Boil water in a pan — We recommend placing a few inches of water at the bottom to create enough steam without fully covering the bottom basket. 
  4. Put the steamer on top of the boiling water
  5. Place the lid on the steamer basket
  6. Steam the food for the recommended amount of time 

What Can I Use Instead of a Steamer?

There are a few options when it comes to finding a suitable alternative to bamboo steamer recipes. Let’s check it out! 

Metal pan steamer

Unrecognizable hand lifting the lid of the steamer. Cooking pot.

A metal pan steamer is one of the best choices for an alternative to bamboo steamers. This metal steamer comes with a glass or metal lid that lets heat escape and condensation build up inside of the steamer mechanism. 

Chefs can help prevent the food from becoming soggy by lining the metal steamer with greaseproof paper for protection, preventing food from touching the sides of the steamer, and covering the pan with a clean towel to absorb the moisture.

Tabletop steamer

The second alternative is a tabletop steamer, which we love using for vegetables. Chefs can line the steamer with paper, place the food in the middle of the steamer, and cover the lid with a towel. This helps collect condensation and prevents soggy food! 

Bowl, plate, and wok

The third alternative to a bamboo steamer is a creative way to use items you already have in your kitchen to provide the perfect amount of steam! Use one bowl, plate, and a wok to make your favorite Asian dinner in no time. All you have to do is the following steps:

  1. Add a small amount of water to the wok
  2. Place the small bowl into the wok
  3. Place the plate on the greaseproof paper on the top of the bowl
  4. Boil the water
  5. Put the food (bao buns) on the greaseproof paper
  6. Put the lid on the wok 

What can I use instead of a Chinese steamer?

The best choices are metal pan steamers, tabletop steamers, and a combination of a bowl, plate, and a wok. Not only are these viable alternatives, but they can help you save money and get the same results. 

How do you steam without a bamboo basket?

The easiest way to steam without a bamboo basket is by using a metal pan. However, if you do not have a metal pan, most houses will have a wok that is the correct size. 

How to cook bao without a steamer?

Bao buns are a popular Cheese bread roll that requires at least 8 minutes of steaming. You can use any of the alternative methods to cook Bao buns with boiling water. Bao buns usually take around 40 minutes to prep and 20-25 minutes to cook. 

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