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How to Steam Without a Steamer Basket

Steaming is a great technique to preserve the nutrients, color, and flavor of an ingredient in its most pure form. But, steaming often requires a basket of some sort, either the round bamboo style or a metal contraption that fits into a pot. Don’t have a steamer basket? Not to fret – here are 2 ways to make your own with things you already have in your kitchen:

  1. Use a metal colander: Place a metal colander inside of a large pot and fill with just enough water so ingredients in the colander won’t touch the water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover.

    How to steam without a steamer basket

  2. No colander? No problem! Make 3 large equal-sized balls out of aluminum foil and arrange in a triangle in the bottom of a large pot. Place a heat-proof plate, such as a pie plate, on top. Fill the pot with water up to just below the plate, bring to a simmer, and cover.

    How to steam without a steamer basket

The colander works great for ingredients that can be steamed in bunches, such as broccoli and the plate technique is better for flat-laying items such as asparagus, dumplings, fish, and eggplant. Now you don’t have to shell out extra bucks for a uni-tasking piece of equipment by making your own.

  • Southernsugarlandbelle

    thank you, thank you, thank you, this helped out a ton!I am a beginning cook that doesn’t own a steamer, & I love steamed veggies. This post was a life saver and I will recommend to others :o)

    • @southernsugarlandbelle:disqus I’m glad it helped! Which “no-steamer” steaming method worked best for you, the colander or the tinfoil?

      • Camilla D Lyons-Rasul

        I used the foil trick love it!! Steamed tasty fish here I come! NOM NOM NOM

    • Athena


  • Mommy of four

    I love this post! Thank you for sharing it! IT saved my night as I could not find my steamer insert, I was worried I would have to replace it, but I wont even bother! I used a round cake pan and the foil balls and it steamed the tamales I was making great! Thanks again for sharing

    • @a1ed1f2a64e86be90005cab515ea02d0:disqus Wow, that’s so wonderful to hear. We love saving the day whenever we can =)

  • T

    Isn’t aluminium foil toxic? Or is it ok if it’s not touching the food? Please answer quickly!

    • Hi T! Aluminum foil (from what we know) isn’t really toxic because it’s widely used in many cooking applications when it is touching the food. In this tip, it’s heat resistant so it can be on the bottom of the pan with no problems.

      The only thing we have seen is that when cooking with tomatoes (like a marinara sauce) you don’t want that to directly touch aluminum foil as the acid in the tomatoes can be corrosive to the foil.

      • julie

        some people are concerned about the “no stick” aluminum foil because they use chemicals to treat one side. I personally love that aluminium foil but that is were the concern over it being toxic comes from as far as I know

        • Pat

          The problem with aluminum is that it is aluminum, which is a neurotoxin and is linked to alzheimers and possibly other neuro diseases such as Parkinsons. You shouldn’t wear deodorant with aluminum in it either.

  • floyds07

    Thank you! I love the fact that your example is one of the things I’m trying to steam tonight – Boa :-)

  • runner

    I think this is the best steaming tip ever!!!
    Does this work for dumpling and bapoa’s too?

    • @4995b73553c154c9498165c382031f0f:disqus Thanks! glad you found it helpful. For dumplings, I would recommend the first tip, using a colander, so you get full circulation of the steam around the dumpling

  • Anonymouse

    You are AWESOME!!

  • ellie

    i dont have a pie plate for method 2 – is it safe to use a microwavable container instead? or a melamine bowl?

    • @a6162c26bb96098dc9ec964544d533cd:disqus Great question. We actually used a small microwave-safe plate in the picture and it works great. I’d suggest using something flat instead of curved, like a plate, so the steam can circulate around it easier and the items are in one layer.

  • jen

    can I use a porcelain bowl for the tinfoil method? or a metal plate?

    • @a6162c26bb96098dc9ec964544d533cd:disqus A metal plate (like a cake pan) or a microwave safe bowl would be preferred to porcelain!

  • Aisha Sahil

    Just added your page to my favorites.. :-) thanx

  • HottieFry

    Thank you so much! I am trying my hand (and my taste buds) at songpyeon for the first time and I don’t own a steamer. This is going to make my job much easier.

  • Mou

    I love these ideas! just a question, what are heat proof plates?

    • Great question! If the plate can go into the microwave, you can use it here. You just don’t want to use any delicate plates that may shatter from the heat.

  • vinie

    thnq thnq thnq….i m planning on steaming the chicken b4 frying to let the masala seap inside n the colander way is gonna work wonders for me..

    thnq thnq so much for tgese anazibg non steamer owners tricks n tips.

    saved the day just in time….:)

  • Trish Smith

    Great idea! Now I can steam without a steamer. Thanks so much.

  • Will

    Much appreciated! Just made crab legs for the first time by myself this evening, and the tin foil trick was the easiest and best way ever! It worked wonders!

    • Great, Will! Congrats on your first crab legs experience and happy that we could help! Make sure to send us a pic next time!


  • Estie

    The best idea ever. Thank you so much for sharing ur technique, I steamed fish and didn’t have a streamer big enough. So used a roasting pan with lid placed the three foils and a plate 12 mins later, voila the best fish ever. Thank u again.

  • marta

    this is really great, thank you very much :)

  • Aaron Carter

    This was so helpful. I have never been able to find a legit steam basket. This will help me steam things without needing one.

    Aaron Carter |

  • Athena

    Thank you so much this helped my Project

  • cwarisss

    does it have to be a metal colander?

    • ian

      yesss because plastic can melt!! don’t use plastic. it could also leach toxic chemicals into your food from being heated up so much

    • Metal is preferred since it’s heat resistant but a strong plastic sturdy one that is dishwasher safe should work too.

  • miss Hurkmans

    Thank you for sharing this tip.

  • sotiredofthebs

    Thanks! Love the tin foil version. Less loss of nutrients.

  • Sue Marie

    THAMKS FOR THE TIP(S)! I knew there had to be a way to make a steamer. I thought of the colander trick already but I want to do dumplings and mine doesn’t have much of a flat bottom, so I don’t want them all stacking up the sides or doing 3 or more separate batches. I like the foil and pie plate idea and will use it for veggies, but I do think I need holes on the bottom for dumplings like a real steamer has. I guess I could poke some holes in the bottom of a foil pie plate but I thinking I could buy a cheap round cake cooling rack and rest that on a plate that’s on top of the foil. Would that give the proper circulation of steam?

  • Thanks! I just posted a Pork Steamed Bun recipe and someone asked me this question. Pinned it!

  • Charell Star

    Thanks for the tip. This is awesome.

  • Thomas Taylor

    Great, Thanx! I have a plastic colander which I WILL NOT use, the the foil method should work!

  • Fanatoli Guyoff

    Can make one out of pie tins too