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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Kitchen Things – the Steamer Pot

Every kitchen needs some good tools that really work or help make work easier. I am going to try to give you some reviews on various items that I have found to be especially useful in real life. I say, “in real life” because before I was married I collected a lot of things for my hope chest – some of those things proved useful to me once I started keeping house myself. Some did not. In fact, I got rid of some things long before I ever married because I could see that they weren’t worth carrying back and forth across the country as much as my family moved. Either I didn’t figure I’d use them, or I figured I’d find something when I needed it.

If you already have a kitchen of your own, or if it’s a dream for someday when you have your own home to keep, maybe these posts will give you some ideas about what is useful and what is not. Not everyone has the same needs, but at least you may get some idea as to whether you could use a particular item.

I would call this a steamer-stew pot combination. It is stainless steel (with no non-stick coating). As you can see in the picture, the stew pot part is not invaded by the steamer part, which sits only slightly nested into the bottom. This actually makes it more useful.

We received this as a wedding gift from some friends and it is one of my favorite kitchen tools. At the time that I put it on our registry (we were only registered at Amazon.com), I think that I didn’t really anticipate using the steamer part much since I wasn’t fond of steaming vegetables. I don’t remember if it was the only model that had the size and type of pot that I wanted at the time or what. I just knew I needed a large stew pot for making soups, stews, roasts, etc. for larger groups. Since there are six adults when my family here are all eating together, this is kind of necessary for my kitchen. If I had to get a steamer with it, well, that was OK too.

I used the pot for stews and stove top cooked roasts several times and it turned out to be a good pot. Then I made a great discovery. I could cook meat (and potatoes) in the bottom of the pan and steam the vegetables in the steamer part all at once, thus getting the whole meal cooked on one burner! (Plus it added flavor to the veggies and vice versa.) Wow. What a great idea! :-) That was a real plus.

Then last spring we had an abundance of greens (that was before the real drought hit Central Texas). I needed to help out by processing them for later use since there was too much to eat at the time and the weather was getting hot (not good for most greens). Back in the day when my family still used a microwave, Mom used to blanch greens for freezing by putting them in the freezer bags and putting them in the microwave for some seconds till they got warm and started to wilt. Since we no longer use microwaves, it occurred to me that maybe I could just steam the greens in my steamer and then put them in bags and freeze them. This sounded a lot better than the traditional dipping method.

Well, it worked great! Bringing the water to a boil first, I’d put a batch of greens in and let them steam for a few minutes on one side then turn them over with tongs and let them steam on the other side briefly. Then I carefully put two servings of greens into each bag, let them finish cooling, labeled them and put them in the freezer. I could do several batches of greens with the same batch of water. It turned out beautifully. :-)

(Side Note: The rich broth left in the pan after this is done can be used as a soup base or an “energy drink”. There are a lot of nutrients there, as the color indicates.)

So, a good combination stew pot-steamer is a very useful tool if you:

- cook for larger groups.

- like to conserve energy.

- process large quantities of greens or other vegetables that could be steamed before freezing.

We have used this pot to make large amounts of East African style tea. :-) A pot like this is also handy for canning things like jams or jellies.

Cons -

The only problem I’ve had with this particular model is that the handle on the lid, which is metal, gets hot to the touch. I have to be careful to use a hot pad or over mitt whenever I’m cooking in it. However, I think I can put the lower pot with the lid on it in the oven because all the parts are stainless steel or glass, which could be useful at some time.

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