How to Steam Broccoli Without a Steamer in 3 Easy Ways

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

While roasted broccoli is our go-to way to serve the veggie, steamed broccoli has its merits too. It’s crisp, simple, quick-cooking and, when cooked properly, tastes bright and fresh. But if you’re highly selective about what merits space in your kitchen cabinets (or you misplaced your steamer basket years ago), you’ll have to find another way to harness the power of steam. Easy peasy. Here’s how to steam broccoli without a steamer—and what’s more, we’ll show you three different techniques, so you can choose the method that’s right for you.

First, what is steaming?

Steaming is a cooking method that—surprise—uses hot water vapor to heat the food. A quick refresher from 7th grade science class: When water reaches its boiling point (that is, 212°F), it begins to vaporize and turn into steam. The steam then cooks the vegetables (in this case, broccoli) delicately but quickly, rendering it crisp-tender without losing flavor, nutrients or color.

So why steam broccoli?

Like we said, steamed broccoli is crisp and fresh-tasting—that is, if you’re careful to not over-steam it. It should be bright green and pierceable with a fork, but not so done that it’s gone limp or mushy or turned an unsavory shade of olive. 

Since it’s like a blank canvas, steamed broccoli pairs well with all kinds of sauces and seasonings. It’s healthy, too, since it requires no extra fat for cooking. But the real reason we like to steam broccoli (aside from its versatility) is that it’s fast. You only need a small amount of water to steam, so it comes to a boil quickly and cooks the broccoli in no time.

So now that you’re sold on steaming, here’s how to do it. (And no, you don’t need a steamer basket if you don’t already have one.)

How to steam broccoli without a steamer:

Stovetop Method

What you’ll need: A pot or skillet with a lid and a colander

Step 1: Wash the broccoli, then prep it by trimming the florets from the stalk and cutting the florets into bite-size pieces. (You can also peel the stalk, trim away the tough end and slice it into bite-size pieces if you’d like.)

Step 2: Fill the pot or skillet with about 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water is boiling, place the broccoli florets in the pot and place the lid on the pot. Cook the broccoli until crisp-tender to your preference, about 5 minutes. (The exact time will depend on the size of the florets, so use the texture to determine doneness rather than the time.)

Step 3: Using a colander, drain the water from the broccoli. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Why this method works: With just a shallow layer of water in the pot, the broccoli won’t be fully submerged and therefore won’t get boiled. (Boiling is not our preferred method for cooking broccoli, unless you’re OK with a mushier texture.) Using just a small amount of water also means that it will quickly convert to steam when introduced to heat; by placing the lid on the pot, you can trap the steam to quickly cook the broccoli.

Microwave Method

What you’ll need: A microwave, a microwave-safe bowl, a microwave-safe plate large enough to cover the bowl and a colander

Step 1: Wash the broccoli. Prepare the broccoli by trimming the florets from the stalk and cutting the florets into bite-size pieces. (You can also peel the stalk, trim away the tough end and slice it into bite-size pieces if you’d like.)

Step 2: Place the broccoli in the bowl and add about 1 inch of water. Place the plate on top of the bowl to cover it.

Step 3: Place the bowl in the microwave and microwave the broccoli for about 3 minutes, or until the broccoli is crisp-tender. Drain the water from the broccoli using the colander, then season with salt and pepper before serving.

Why this method works: Similar to the stovetop method, the microwave generates heat that turns the water to steam. The plate traps the steam inside the bowl (it’s more eco-friendly than plastic wrap), cooking the broccoli. Again, it’s important to check the doneness of the broccoli rather than relying solely on the cooking time, because different microwaves vary in strength.

Colander Method

What you’ll need: A large pot with a lid and a colander that fits inside it

Step 1: Wash the broccoli. Prepare the broccoli by trimming the florets from the stalk and cutting the florets into bite-size pieces. (You can also peel the stalk, trim away the tough end and slice it into bite-size pieces if you’d like.)

Step 2: Place the colander inside the pot and add about 1 inch of water, or enough to fill the bottom of the pot without reaching the colander.

Step 3: Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water is boiling, add the broccoli in the colander and cover the pot with the lid. Cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender, then remove from the heat and carefully remove the colander from the pot using pot holders or a dry towel. Season the broccoli with salt and pepper before serving.

Why it works: A colander can act just like a steamer basket, as long as you have a pot large enough to fit it inside (and that has a lid). This method gets bonus points because you don’t even have to drain the broccoli when it’s done.

A final word of advice when steaming broccoli:

No matter which steaming method you choose to cook your broccoli, the key is to not overcook it. Instead of getting too attached to cooking times, assess the texture (use a fork, not a sharp knife), keep an eye on the color (you’re going for bright green) and, our favorite method of all, taste a piece.

Seven Broccoli Recipes to Add to Your Repertoire:

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