Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Steaming is a good method for cooking vegetables at the boiling point, but without the necessity of heating a whole pot of water, exposing the food directly to turbulent water, and leaching out flavor or color or nutrients. It doesn’t allow the cook to control saltiness, calcium cross-linking, or acidity (steam itself is a slightly acid pH 6, and plant cells and vacuoles are also more acid than is ideal for chlorophyll); and evenness of cooking requires that the pieces be arranged in a single layer, or that the pile be very loose to allow the steam access to all food surfaces. Steaming leaves the food tasting exclusively of its cooked self, though the steam can also be aromatized by the inclusion of herbs and spices.