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What Is a Fish Steamer?

Cynde Gregory
Cynde Gregory

As almost everyone knows, fish is good for you. Low fat, easy to digest, and filled with omega 3 oil, there's a lot to recommend it. Of course, when the fish is battered up and dropped into bubbling oil, it loses its claim to healthy fame. That’s why more and more home cooks are investigating commercial or homemade fish steamers, which permit fillets, steaks, or whole fish to be gently cooked to perfection.

Most cooks prefer a fish steamer made of stainless steel or copper. It should be long and narrow so that fish of different lengths can fit without folding. Water is poured into the bottom of the fish steamer, with a rack placed above it, and the fish set onto the rack, ready for its relaxing steam bath.

Steamed fish.
Steamed fish.

Almost all fish steamers are designed for use either in the oven or on the stove top. The idea is to bring the water to the barest possible simmer and keep it there long enough to heat the fish to the point of moistly tender completion. Steaming offers the gentlest possible way of cooking fish, and many cooks favor it because it results in overcooking much less often than other methods.

When shopping for a fish steamer, look for one that is dishwasher safe. Copper steamers are far more costly and are favored by restaurateurs and caterers. Stainless steel steamers fit most home cooks’ budgets; 18/10 surgical stainless steel offers a nice weight. The steamer should measure a minimum of 18 inches (45 cm) in length.

There’s nothing wrong with steaming a fish using plain water, but the results will be considerably blander than if some tasty additions are tossed into the swim. A handful of chopped carrots, a little onion, and some lemon will softly perfume delicate fish. Heartier fellows such as tuna and salmon can handle a little garlic added in as well.

For that matter, there’s no water-only rule when it comes to steaming foods. Creative home cooks might try experimenting with other liquids by adding white or red wines, beer, or vinegar to the fish steamer. Chicken broth or coconut milk will give the fish a distinctive flavor as well.

The addition of ginger, sesame oil, and tamari sauce offer steamed fish a Chinese accent. Substituting a stalk of lemongrass or some chili pepper will permeate the fish with a subtle suggestion of Thai. Thyme, red pimento, and scotch bonnet peppers added to the simmering liquid transforms steamed fish into a mini Jamaican vacation.

Discussion Comments


@heavanet- You can also use your steamer to make variations of this type of meal by using different varieties of fish. Your options are limitless, all you have to do is experiment.


You can use a rice steamer to make an entire fish dinner. Simply place your fish fillets in the steamer basket along with some of your favorite vegetables and set aside. Next, fill the steamer with water and rice and place the basket of fish and vegetables in place. Steam until cooked thoroughly.

A variation of this dinner is to make pasta in place of the rice. Both cook in about the same time, though you may need to rinse and reheat the pasta.

Using a steamer is not only convenient and easy, it is also a great way to cut back on cooking oils that add extra fat and calories to your diet.

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    • Steamed fish.
      By: FOOD-pictures
      Steamed fish.