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A Dumpling Steamer Basket is one of the most iconic tool in a Chinese Kitchen. In almost any Chinese TV show, it will be shown as a utensils along side a wok. They are used to steam vegetables, Brioche, Dim Sum and more. In a Dim Sum restaurant, they even use the basket as a serving tray. However, figuring how to actually use the basket is a little confusing. The options available can be a little daunting. This article will list some of the Best Dumpling Steamer Basket and demystify any confusion.
Benefits of Steaming
The Chinese actually use steaming as their main method of cooking. Most Chinese home kitchen dont even use the oven. Its main purpose is for storing pots and pans. As to the reason why, I guess its mainly due to the different cooking style. Traditional Chinese cooking has been around for a lot longer than the oven baking method. Their techniques are remanence of the past.
However, there are some advantage to steam cooking for over baking. One of which is how even the cooking is. Since the whole food is encapsulated in steam, your food will usually come out perfect cooked. If you look at the modern Combi Oven that restaurant uses, they inject steam while baking to get a perfectly even bake. This is a feature that most home oven does not have.
Steam is also a lot more gentle than the harsh heat of a oven. Cooking food under intense heat can squeeze out a lot of the juice. With steam, food turns out more moist than traditional baking method.
Bamboo Steamer Basket vs Stainless Steel Steamer Basket
Bamboo Dumpling Steamer Basket are the most traditional design. They are economical to make and cause very little carbon foot print. To use it, all you need to do is place it on top of a Wok with water and steam will permeate through it. Since the weave on the base is loose, you can add many tiers to it. The issue with a Bamboo Steamer is that its made of bamboo. Since its exposed to so much moisture, it can develop mold and deteriorate over time. You need to take precaution during storage. If its not completely dry, the next time you grab it, it can be full of moldy web.
Since a professional kitchen needs to be regulated, using a bamboo steamer basket isnt always allowed. To remedy this, they use stainless steel basket. These basket are durable and resist the growth of bacteria and mold. Having said that, the major issue that I see with the metal basket is simply the heat. Since metal can transfer heat readily, you can easily burn your hand when handling it. Rust is a possible issue if you buy a cheaply made version. In general, its recommended that you dry it properly much like bamboo basket.
There are basket where the steamer based is used for storing and heating water. These are generally really huge and used in professional kitchen. However, if you steam food a lot it might be beneficial for you.
How to Use a Dumpling Steamer Basket
Its pretty simple to use a Dumpling Steamer Basket. You need either a wok or a Frying Pan. Wok tends to work better because of how tapered the base is. This lets water pool at the bottom without the basket touching it. With a Frying pan, the amount of liquid that you can put is dramatically reduced. You need to constantly check the water level to make sure you wont burn your pan. Regardless, follow the step below to start steaming food.
1) Fill the base of the Wok with Water.
2) Find the correct sized basket for your wok. It should sit at least a few inch from the base of the wok. The water cannot touch it.
3) Place the basket on the wok and fill it with food. At the base of the food, place a parchment paper to prevent it from becoming too soggy and sticking.
4) Open the fire and use a medium heat. Just hot enough for steam to develop.
5) Stop when the food is done cooking.
Can I use a Vegetable Steamer to Steam Dumpling?
Yes but its not recommended. There are two main issue that I see. First is the odd shape of the vegeable steamer. At the sides, it will be raised, while the center is flat. This will cause uneven cooking. Second is the volume. Do you really want to spend hours just steaming a batch. If you only plan on making only 3 or 4 dumpling then its fine. But the main benefit of a Chinese Steamer Basket is the tiers. You can cook quite a bit of volume in one go.
Best Dumpling Steamer Basket List
Below, you will find a list of some of the best steamer basket. Since there are many option, choose the model that best suits you.
Stainless Steel Dim Sum Steamer (Best Overall)
If you want a simple to use and low maintenance steamer, then get stainless steel. It wont mold nor will it deteriorate like bamboo. This model is the most basic version and is used in a lot of professional kitchen. Just be aware, that they come in many different size and you should get one that fits your wok. Also, watch your hand, it can get hot.
Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen 10″ Bamboo Steamer Basket (Best Bamboo Steamer)
Helen Chen’s makes a wide variety of Chinese Kitche Cookware. Their basket are well made and generally works well. But really, theyre almost all the same. Its just with this one, you can rely on warranty and customer service. This model is the 10 inch variety, make sure your wok fits.
CONCORD 3 Tier Premium Stainless Steel Steamer (Best for Batch Cooking)
For those who really need to churn out steamed food. Getting a dedicated steamer might be a good idea. This 3 tier model is wide and lets you steam a large volume of food. The base is designed to store water so you dont need a wok. However, it also takes up a lot of room. I would only get it if you have the space and have a large family.
While most people think of the bamboo steamer as the most traditional, they do have some drawback. Mainly maintenance and the possibility of mold. The good thing is that they are generally affordable and light. A good alternative is stainless steel, they are durable and wont mold. If you have volume and cook it on a regular base, then a dedicated dumpling steamer basket might be better.
Want to make some rice noodle, check out our article on the Best Rice Noodle Maker Machine.