Can You Steam Meat?

Cooking food in water robs them of nutrients and flavor, while frying adds fats. Harvard Medical School recommends steaming as a healthy alternative that prevents vitamins and minerals from leaching out of food. You can steam-cook rice, vegetables, fish and even meat.

A bamboo steaming basket with vegetables inside. (Image: Teresa Kasprzycka/iStock/Getty Images)

Types of Meat

All types of meat are suitable for steaming including seafood such as crab legs, lobster and shrimp, poultry and red meat such as beef and lamb. Choose smaller and thinner cuts of meat to allow them to steam-cooked faster. Some cuts of meat may have a label stating that they are "USDA-Certified Tender or Very Tender."

Steaming Methods

The most convenient way to steam meat is to use vacuum-sealed plastic pouches that can be placed in a microwave or convection oven. The bag seals in the meat's natural juices and allows them to be heated to high enough temperatures to steam-cook it. More traditional methods to steam meat involve using a stove-top metal steamer, rice cooker or bamboo basket steamer. These types of steamers trap steam vapors that rise up from the boiling water below the meat.

Benefits of Steaming Meat

Steaming is a moist cooking process that gives you tender, juicy and well-flavored meat, with very little weight loss or shrinkage. The meat does not come into contact with water or other liquids, allowing more of its natural flavor and nutrients to remain in it. Steaming under pressure is also fast and saves energy and cooking oil.

Food Safety Considerations

Handle raw meat carefully and ensure it is well-cooked to avoid contamination with bacteria. FoodSafety.gov advises that poultry should generally be cooked to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, while cuts of beef, lamb and veal must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 F. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your meat is evenly steamed to this temperature. Additionally, avoid leaving high-risk foods such as meat and seafood at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Defrost raw meat by placing it in your refrigerator and store any left-over steamed meat in the fridge as well.

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