What is waterless steaming? What’s the difference with traditional steaming? What are its advantages? What related dishes I can try to make? In this article, Little Couple is going to answer all these questions!
咩係無水蒸? What is Waterless Steaming?
Steaming without water sounds non-sense, right? The term waterless steaming is actually coined in contrast to traditional steaming. In traditional steaming, there is external source of water (e.g. a hot pot of water as shown in the photo below or steam released inside a steamer) to produce steam to cook the food. In waterless steaming, the external source of water is absent. Instead, the water in the food itself is vaporised and then steams the food. There is no external source of water so it’s 「waterless」 and the food is cooked by steam so it’s 「steaming」.
A friend from France has once shared with us that this technique originated from France and it’s called 「à l’étouffée」 in French which literally means cooking food in a choking style. Normally French use this method to cook vegetable and during which no water and little oil would be added. Cover the pot lid and then switch on low heat, the juice in the food will then become steam and make the food steamed.
We all have tried steaming. It uses the heat released by the steam of hot water in the pot to cook the food.
In waterless steaming, we put the food in the pot and heat the pot directly on stove. The food is cooked by the vapor comes out from the food itself.
無水蒸有咩好處? What are the advantages?
Same as traditional steaming, we don’t use oil in waterless steaming so it’s a healthy way to cook.
The best thing we like is the fact that it keeps the juice in food so it can be juicier and have nicer flavor. The first time when we made Fermented Bean Curd Chicken Wings with this method, the rich flavor and the juiciness just blew our minds.
After margination, we put the chicken wings in a pot and heat it directly. The chicken wings will become very juicy and rich in flavor. It’s really impressive!
無水蒸要點整? How to make?
- 唔易痴底 – 由於食物直接放上煲，痴底既話成煲食物可以報銷
- 保溫能力強 – 用無水蒸既方法，開火時間一般都係幾分鐘既事，之後就要熄火焗佢，保溫力弱既話食物就會煮唔熟
- 鎖水能力強 – 如果個煲好易令蒸氣散失，唔單止會唔夠熱力煮熟食物，食物仲會越煮越乾，失去無水蒸意義
First we need a suitable pot. The pot should fulfill the following requirements:
- Non-sticky – That’s straight forward. If the food sticks on the pot, we can dispose it right away
- Good heat insulating capability – We only switch on fire for a few minutes. After that we let the lid closed and let the food rest and continue to cook. If the pot is not good at heat insulation, the food will still be raw after cooking
- Good water retaining capability – If the pot just let vapor out easily, not only is it not able to heat the food done, the food will also be drier and drier upon cooking
A cast iron pot can fulfill all these 3 criteria. We normally use the Le Creuset buffet as shown to apply this method. We are actually big fan of LC. You may take a look at our collection at:
- 開中火 – 令煲內溫度短時間提升到足夠煮熟食物既程度
- 轉細火 – 保持住適當又穩定既高溫烹調食物
- 熄火焗 – 用餘熱將食物徹底煮熟之餘，又可減少食物受爐熱既時間，保留更多食物水份同令佢食上口更腍滑
The process can generally be divided into 3 steps
- Medium heat on – Set the temperature in the pot high so there is sufficient heat
- Switch to low heat – Keep an appropriate and stable temperature to cook the food
- Heat off and rest – Continue to cook using the remaining heat in the pot. By reducing the time on stove heat, more juice can be preserved
The method can be applied to a wide variety of ingredients including seafood, chicken, pork etc. In this article we will also share with you dishes we have previously made.
有關無水蒸的常見問題 FAQs Regarding Waterless Steaming
Steaming must involve water. Is waterless steaming pseudo-science?
People still having this question in mind is advised to re-read the content above. Thank you.
明明係炆/ 慢煮/ 烤，做咩要叫無水蒸？
Obviously this is braising/ simmering/ sous vide/ roasting. How come now a term “waterless steaming” is coined?
係有唔同既。如果簡單咁講，炆/ 慢煮/ 烤所需既時間一般受熱時間都比較長，無水蒸就一般開火10分鐘內完成。而煮出黎既效果都好唔一樣，無水蒸最接近蒸，同其他方法煮出黎既食物好唔同。
Because they are different. To put it simple, the duration of heating the food in braising/ simmering/ sous vide/ roasting is generally longer whereas in waterless steaming we normally heat the food for less than 10 mins. The results are also different. Food undergone waterless steaming tastes closest to steaming. It’s quite different from food cooked by other methods.
Does waterless steaming make my pot charred?
The duration of heating is normally under 10 mins. Before the heat can make our pot charred we have already switched off fire.
Can I just use a random pot for waterless steaming?
The major purpose of using waterless steaming is to have our food tenderer and more succulent. If we are using a pot without high capability of heat insulation and water locking, there is no way we can attain the desirable outcome of waterless steaming dishes
Is waterless steaming same as baking my pot in oven?
They are totally not the same. In oven baking we use stably high temperature to cook the food all the way through and we usually aim at pursuing dry and crispy texture. That’s different from the mechanism of waterless steam. You may also take a look at the next paragraph to know more about the mechanism behind waterless steaming.
But of course, you can just put a sealed cast iron pot into an oven, bake it until sauce is vaporised, and then take it out and let the steam inside cooks the food. But don’t you think that’s a bit more clumsy then just to put the pot on stove and heat it for a few mins?
What is the mechanism of waterless steaming?
We are so thrilled that you didn’t TLDR us and have arrived this section. In this section we would really want to give you a more serious answer for this question so we consolidate some information here and try to share the science behind waterless steaming. How does it cook our food? Why can it cook tastier food? What is the detailed reason waterless steaming should differentiate from other cooking method?
Waterless steaming starts with heating the pot for a few mins. During this process the moisture content in the sauces or around the protein comes to its boiling point and becomes steam. On the other hand, the protein farer away from the fire has a relatively lower temperature. Because of this temperature gradient, convection occurs and the protein is then cooked indirectly by the steam from the liquid below. As the food is cooked by steam, the outcome is closest to that cooked by normal steaming. This mechanism also explains why waterless steaming is different from cooking methods like braising/ simmering/ sous vide/ roasting.
Yet, both traditional steaming and waterless steaming are using steam, how are they essentially different from each other in terms of their mechanism? The key is in the cooking process when the heat is off. Because we cut the flame fairly quickly in waterless steaming, the wet heat continues to gently cook the protein until its interior is just cooked. It’s the lower temperature that makes the protein condensing less firmly and hence the food is tenderer. In addition, as a cast iron pot has the ability of retaining water, the food can also be more succulent.
As you can see, the mechanism behind waterless steaming is quite different from other cooking methods, it makes sense we coin a new name for this method. Yet, if you still don’t like the nomenclature, don’t bother too much and just call it whatever you like. After all what we want is to cook tastier food using this unique cooking method.
小夫妻無水蒸菜式 Recipes by Little Couple
We provide the duration summary of cooking time here. If you would like to read more about details of each dish, just click into the links below.
中火3分鐘 – 細火2分 – 熄火焗5分鐘
Prawns with Garlic and Glass Noodles
Glass noodles absorb lots of water. We may add 1-2 tbsp of water before cooking
Medium heat 3 mins – Low heat 2 mins – Rest 5 mins
中火3分鐘 – 細火2分 – 熄火焗5分鐘
Prawns with Garlic and Rice Noodles Rolls
Similar recipe as the glass noodles version but it tastes very differently. The rice roll will be very aromatic
Medium heat 3 mins – Low heat 2 mins – Rest 5 mins
中火3分鐘 – 細火5分 – 熄火焗5分鐘
Dragon Eel with Glass Noodles and Soy Sauce
This one is epic. The eel is very juicy and the glass noodles absorb all the essence. Note that the seasoning can be a bit lighter so that the glass noodles won’t be too salty
Medium heat 3 mins – Low heat 5 mins – Rest 5 mins
中火3分鐘 – 細火4分 – 熄火焗5分鐘
To have a nice dish of pork patty we must chop the meat on our own instead of buying minced pork. Using waterless steaming can bring pork patty to a new level
中火4分鐘 – 細火4分 – 熄火焗6分鐘
Fermented Bean Curd Chicken Wings
Another must have dish. Very rich in flavour and the wings are full of juice!
Apart from waterless steaming, we also use our cast iron pots as rice cooker
We also like this mold-proof cutting board. There’s no return after using it once