If you’ve seen more than a handful of my meals, recipes and ideas you’ll have spotted that, by default, I will typically use the microwave oven and a microwave steamer – and if you look for steamed food recipes many books will be using a bamboo steamer. So that makes you ask the question …
Can you use a bamboo steamer in a microwave oven?
Luckily, there’s just one short answer from me on this point: No.
Ah … so the next question is “why not?”. Once you think about it you realise that this is a bad idea.
Using a bamboo steamer is a great way to steam all manner of foods – from steamed dumplings and dim sum through to rice, vegetables, puddings, fish and “envelope meals” where you wrap a variety of foods inside grease-proof paper to keep the steam in. These recipes put the bamboo steamer over a saucepan of boiling water, with the lid on – or inside a steamer pan …
In a microwave oven the bamboo is very likely to fail. Made of bamboo and glued or bent together, the microwave oven is very likely to make the structure of the bamboo steamer become unstable. It might not happen the first time you use it, or the second, but you’ll be disappointed when it does fall apart. The joints will fail, you’ll end up with pieces sticking out everywhere and it will never “go back to one piece” again.
So don’t use one. There are plenty of cheap and affordable, or expensive and branded, microwave steamers on the market. I happen to use a short and small microwave steamer, as I’ve no need to use the taller types.
Waveware Steamer with Bamboo Basket
Ah, I hear you say, but what about the Waveware Steamer? That has a bamboo basket! And I’d say to you “Yes, but they have made that specially for the microwave oven”. This is a product made specifically for that purpose and it isn’t like run of the mill bamboo steamers you can buy.
If you look at it, you’ll notice that it’s slightly different, it isn’t made up of thin woven bamboo leaves and it isn’t jointed in the same way: Waveware Steamer with Bamboo Basket. You can use this bamboo basket in the microwave oven, but it’s purpose is to give you a “microwave to table” attractive dish to cook and serve in.
This one microwave steamer has many functions that Waveware have brought together for convenience. Check the dimensions of your microwave oven before ordering if you have a tiny microwave as it’d be annoying if it turned out to be too large for yours (that happened to me when I bought the Faster Pasta dish!).
To steam food in a microwave steamer, instead of a bamboo steamer, there is no need for that additional “dish”. Simply put the food into the microwave steamer in exactly the same way that you’d put it into the bamboo steamer … that’s it, using grease-proof paper to create envelopes, not foil.
Yes, bamboo steamers “look nicer” – but you can’t have one as it won’t work in the microwave oven 🙂