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Jul 16, 2013 10:04 AM

What to use to steam shrimp

I've seen some reviews of asparagus steamers/pots suggesting they are good for steaming shrimp. What are your thoughts on this or can you recommend a better way to steam shrimp? Thanks.

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  1. You could get one of those bamboo steamer baskets which are great for steaming all kinds of things -- veggies, dumplings, fish, shrimp....

    1. Hi, kimbers:

      Talking trash about their mother really steams them. :o

      I'm thinking the ideal setup would be a wide shallow pentola set into/over a large saucepan or oven. I'd be concerned they wouldn't cook evenly in a tall, narrow shape like an asparagus steamer.


      1. To me, an asparagus steamers/pot (the tall pot) is not a real steamer.

        If you are to cook your shrimps in one of these asparagus pots, then you will be boiling the shrimps and not steaming them. Nothing wrong with this. It is just not steaming.

        A bamboo steamer basket is great, but many other steamers will work too. Just make sure the opening holes are large enough.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hey, ChemicalK -- I'd take exception to your assertion that an asparagus steamer is not a real steamer. I have one that I use for steaming asparagus. An inch or so of water on the bottom cooks the thickest part of the stems, and maybe that's why you don't consider it a "real" steamer, but the rest of the asparagus stalk is definitely steamed.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Right, but if you are going to use it to steam shrimps... how will you do this?

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Oh, I absolutely would NOT use an asparagus steamer to steam shrimp. I do think it's well-designed for steaming asparagus, but shrimp would never cook evenly in an asparagus steamer.

              1. re: CindyJ

                Thanks for the explanation. This makes sense. Appreciated.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                You could have them stand on there head! :-)

          2. How about using a (-wait for it-) . . . . Steamer pot.

            This is an oval roaster with a steam tray insert. I add water, minced garlic, and few herbes below the tray. Above the tray is the shrimp, and other vegetables. In this case Bok Choy, and mushroom. The heavy, well fitting lid is the key. It cooks very quickly on medium heat.

            I agree that an Asparagus steamer ( Photo - or what we call a SpargelTopf ) is not really suitable to steam shrimp in. We have one which is very narrow, and another wider pot, for pasta and potatoes that is almost identical. Even if the water level is low, it cooks unevenly.

            The problem I face is that I like shrimp cooked head on, and my wife does not. She says the "whiskers" on the shrimp give her the willies.

            1. I don't want to seem testy, but Im scratching my head here: steam is steam, no? I would think any steamer would perform just fine.

              That said, there could be some difference between wider and narrower steamers. Presumably, a wider steamer would expose the steam heat more evenly to the shrimps or whatever else.

              12 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing

                You are correct.

                The wider the pan, the more even the steaming process.

                The tall pot that Chem refers to is a steamer.

                The volume or amount of water added determines if it is actually steam cooking, or boiling. In Asparagus, or Spargel season, I have seen many here fill such pots up with water where the result is that the vegetable is boiled, rather than steamed.

                Many use the same pots to cook pasta, minus the steamer rack inside. Ours ( Spargeltopf ) was also demonstrated to us that way when we purchased it. This is probably where the trend to boil vegetables originates with many cooks.

                There is a difference too with steaming the European white asparagus much beloved here, versus the smaller, thinner green variety usually sold in North America.

                The large, thick white asparagus species require cleaning and peeling, an art form itself where the cook holds each asparagus spear in the palm and forearm, peeling and rotating towards the brachial area of the arm.

                You don't have such worries with the green varieties, which rarely need peeling. Just clean and steam.

                Thinking about it now, steamed shrimp and asparagus is a good combination.

                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                  oh, how I love spargel.
                  One of the few unitasker I made room for is a spargelschaler - a German-made peeler especially made for peeling white aparagus.

                  But on topic -- I just use my metal petal-type steamer to steam shrimp.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    It's funny they sell extra "Spargelschäler" in Germany, as I find any regular peeler works just fine.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      this one is made by WMV -- it's like a pair of small tongs with the peeler mechanism on one "wing" of the tongs -- it holds the spargel and makes it markedly easier to peel. it also has a small (ridiculously sharp) knife at the end of the other "wing" -- so you can cut the dried ends off of the asparagus.

                      I quite like it, and find it much faster than cursing at the carrot peeler. (the WMV store in Cologne had it on clearance just after spargel season)

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Huh. Maybe I'll pick one of those up when I'm back in the homeland. Although of course I have zero use for it in PA, since I don't peel green asparagus and the white stuff we get here is inedible.

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      Yes! No kitchen should be without a spargelschaler. In my kitchen I have three -- I brought them back from trips to Holland and Germany, intending to give them away, but I ended up keeping all of them. I use mine for thick green asparagus, too.

                      Mine are made by Monopol.

                  2. re: Bada Bing

                    Steam is steam, and steam travel fairly efficiently. However, what makes me scratch my head is that an asparagus steamer is not a full steamer. It is meant to partially boil the asparagus lower stem, and steam the upper stem.

                    Unless the shrimps are somehow levitated, they will be boiled in an asparagus pot.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      The picture you linked did look like it would drop several shrimp into water unless they were really large...

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        It isn't just about the size of the holes/spacing. It is that there is not much space between the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the basket.


                        So the water is meant to fill up 1/3rd of the way or more.



                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Steaming does not require much water to be effective. One or two cm, perhaps an inch or so at the most.

                          That level requires attention to the water, adding as necessary over the cooking time. Especially more so if you add garlic, or herbes as we do to enhance the flavour. If you don't, or if you get distracted as I did once, you end up with a nice thick brown mess coating the bottom of the pan.

                          Ergo, why some feel the need to fill the pan or pot with 33% water or broth to cook. Fill it up, forget about it for 30 minutes or more, and let it cook. At that point one is as you say boiling food, and not steaming.

                          The lid on the pan or pot used is also vital. It should be heavy or well fitting enough to keep the steam in, and if it is, you can turn down the cooking level to medium or under.

                          The multi-purpose pan, or pot is where we get into a little cooking confusion. Note the box label in the photo below. Asparagus, and Pasta ( and potatoes, shrimp, crab, fish, on and on ) as marketed. I bought this for our induction cooktop, and it certainly is efficient. But pasta is boiling, and spargel, or asparagus is steaming.

                          Two entirely different cooking techniques, using two different water, or liquid levels.

                          1. re: SWISSAIRE


                            Yours looks like a real steamer. My guess is that the basket in your steamer pot sits at least an inch and possibly two inches above the bottom. This is different from the typical asparagus steamer. Look closer. A typical asparagus steamer looks like this.



                            It has less than 1 cm spacing. It is called steamer, but it is not meant to work like a pure steamer

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Yes, there is a good space between the steam insert (Dampfeinsatz) and the pan bottom.

                              We prefer the shallow or deep oval-shaped Teknika pans with the steam insert tray. Heavier, more expensive, but they do a better job. I have used these pans on electrical cooktops, gas burners, induction, and even in a BBQ ( The Christmas Gammon ).

                              Additional schools of steaming: Some of the steam inserts here are close to the bottom of the pan as mentioned above, while others fit well above, almost against the lid. The latter are to steam wurst, or sausage, but unless one has a dome lid, you cannot cook much under them. 1 or 2 people only.