What are some good ways to use a 4-piece multi-cooker steam pot?

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Multi cooker steam pots (for those who aren’t familiar with them) are a common pot set including:

1.  a large deep pot (often called a stock pot by home chefs),
2.  a metal strainer insert that sits just inside that pot,
3.  a much shallower insert steamer basket,
4.  a lid.

How to use a multi-cooker pot:

The large pot can be used on its own for stocks, soups, & stews, just as you would any other large pot, but combining it with the strainer can make boiling food safer and much more convenient. 

No more pouring your food out with the boiling hot water into a strainer sitting in your sink, you just lift the strainer up (slowly) from the pot, and leave the water behind.  Not only does this keep your food from escaping during the pour, it’s also less likely to break delicate food (we recommend this setup for cooking Nuovo ravioli).

Of course, you don’t have to just use it to boil pasta.  Potatoes, vegetables, meat and poultry are all much easier to drain this way.  Pot strainers are a great way to lift the bones & vegetables out of your next batch of homemade chicken stock or veal stock…you’re much less likely to splash yourself than other methods.

You can absolutely use your steamer basket at the same time to save stove space and harness all that wasted steam.  Just remember that the food you’re boiling and the food you’re steaming will likely be done at different times, so test them separately.  I wouldn’t recommend just using the steamer without boiling food, as you’ll have to heat more water than you’d use in a smaller pot. 

Steaming requires no cooking fat, so it’s a great way to eat healthy and enjoy the pure flavor of your ingredients.  However, some chefs do put some butter atop vegetables in the basket, which can melt into a glaze (although some will obviously end up in your water below).

Some Simple Steam & Boil Dishes:

Pasta Primavera – Boil the pasta of your choice in the pot below, and steam a mix of fresh veggies above.  Sweat some finely diced garlic in a large frying pan, and when the pasta & veggies are just done toss them with the garlic.  You could also use a basic alfredo sauce (butter, cream & parmigiano reggiano) or add cooked poultry, sausage, or shrimp.

Seafood Pasta – Use the steamer basket to cook fresh clams or fresh mussels.  First wash & scrub them in the shell and discard any cracked ones, abnormally heavy ones (might have mud inside) or open ones that do not close when tapped. 

Steam them just until they open (if any do not open, throw those out).  Their juices will run down into your pasta water (to better capture these, cook the shellfish in a separate pot instead).  Toss in or out of the shell with your pasta, a little sweated garlic, parsley and butter.  You could also steam fish fillets in your basket if you’re only cooking for a few people.

Couscous – Traditional couscous steamers (couscoussière) actually have a similar design…all you have to do is line your steamer insert with damp cheesecloth.  Cook a stew below and use the flavorful steam to cook your couscous above.  You’ll want to use non-instant couscous for this (no boil & cover box varieties).  A Moroccan chef-instructor once cooked couscous from scratch for me using a steamer setup, and it makes a huge difference.

Steamed Dumplings – The steamer basket  is the perfect place to cook all sorts of steamed dumplings, you don’t need to buy a bamboo steamer.  For some dumpling varieties you may want to put a layer of muslin on the bottom of the basket to keep them from sticking and tearing.

Other Quick Tips:

  1. When boiling starchy foods like potatoes and pasta (unless boiling with other ingredients for a soup or stew), always fill your pot up completely (or just under the basket if steaming).  This ensures even coverage and dramatically reduces the risk of boil-overs by diluting the starch these foods release into the water.
  2. When boiling or steaming pasta, veggies, or potatoes intended to be served later or cold (like in a salad) shock them in an ice bath as soon as they’re done.  Otherwise they’ll continue to cook (carryover cooking).  If you’re planning on serving later, undercook the food slightly, so reheating won’t overcook it.
  3. Take care not to overcrowd your steamer basket.  It is possible to block the steam with food on the bottom, overcooking it while leaving food at the top underdone.

Question submitted by Sharon

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