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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.

                  3. I use something like the one in the photo I linked. It's non-collapsible and fits on the inside rim of a saucepan.


                    1. Thanks for the clarification and suggestions, everyone. Here's what I ended up getting:


                      I like that it is a double-boiler, as well, and suitable for steaming shrimp or veggies for 2 people.

                      At some point, I do want to get a pasta insert - for now, it works fine for me to just dump the pasta into a colander.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: kimbers324

                        Hi Kimbers -

                        That looks great !
                        And at a very good price, too.

                        Enjoy !

                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                          Hi, Robert:

                          I would like this one: http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-antique-...

                          But since I just--FINALLY--got my long-awaited rondeau, I think you should have this one.


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            K -

                            Mon Dieu, c'est incroyable !

                            Rare indeed.

                            At first glance I thought it was a circular Daubière. I can see it bubbling away somewhere prominently in Bourgogne, or Alsace.

                            Your practice must be doing quite well these days.!

                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                              Mais non!

                              I'm too cheap to pay that kind of money! But she is beautiful, non?


                      2. I wouldn't use an asparagus pot for steaming shrimp. The tall, narrow basket just won't lend itself to even steaming.

                        Here's what I do to cook shrimp: I fill a large pot about 3/4 full with water. Add salt, lemon juice, a few bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring the water to a boil. Add the shrimp. Return the water to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the shrimp sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. Done! Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. It's important to have a big enough pot so that the shrimp are covered by at least an inch or two of water.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: CindyJ

                          10 minutes in hot water PLUS the time to return to a boil?

                          Not done -- overdone.


                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Yes... I think that's consistent with what's recommended on that link, which says, "Bring water (4 cups for each pound of shrimp) and seasonings to a boil. Add shrimp, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes per pound of shrimp. Stir occasionally and simmer until the largest shrimp is opaque throughout."

                            If I'm cooking 2 pounds of shrimp, which I usually do, that would call for the time it takes to return to a simmer with reduced heat PLUS about 8 minutes of simmering time. The way I typically do it, I return the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and let them sit for 10 minutes. That's two more minutes, but at lower heat. Sounds pretty similar to me.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              Granted, I've never cooked a whole lb. of shrimp at once, let alone 2.... but I generally bring a pot of water with a splash of vinegar and salt to a boil, take it off the burner, add the shrimp (maybe half a lb. tops), and they are usually done within 2-3 minutes.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  And 3 minutes is pushing it. They start curling up pretty fast.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    unless they're particularly large, they're done when they're pink at my house. The residual heat while draining and rinsing finishes them off.

                                    Get 'em off the heat, pronto.

                                    there's a pretty considerable time difference between returning to a simmer and returning to a hard boil - that plus the extra several minutes that you're cooking them means you should dial back your sitting time to 6-8 minutes, if that.

                                2. re: linguafood

                                  I can understand how a small amount of shrimp would take less time to cook. But if I were to add the contents of a 2-pound bag of (defrosted but chilled) shrimp to a pot of boiling water and then remove the pot from the heat, the water would likely cool down to such an extent that the shrimp might never cook.

                          2. I love my electric food steamer. It's easy to clean, unlike bamboo steamers which can get moldy. It starts steaming within seconds, unlike stove top steamers which can take like 10-15 minutes before the water even starts boiling.

                            1. Get a soup pot or large dutch oven,or something.Cut up several lemons,onipns,celery,and put in pot.Add hot sauce of choice,and sueeze the lemon juice into the pot,before dropping the carcasses into the pot.Add generous amt of salt,maybe a little vinegar,etc.Heat whole mess until very hot and steamy and drop a layer of shrimp on top.Move them gently down into the stuff,and remove as soon as pink.Can put top on, but just briefly.If shrimp is a little bland,you can spoon a little of the liquid over them as they are cooling.Takes a few times to balance everything,but shrimp is great.

                              1. need to use a lot of salt,but can't tell u how much,depends on amt of shrimp,size of pot,but really can't ruin shrimp,unless greatly overcook

                                1. If you steam it over liquid derived from lemons,onions,celery,hot sauce,etcyou enhance the flavor of the shrimp,and help clean out ur fridge.As w/ all seafood,don't overcook.

                                  1. This thread generated a digression about the film Les Saveurs du Palais, which we've split to its own thread on Food Media and News, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911986 . Thanks.

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