Hey folks! Grant here.
Have you ever steamed bread? So many beloved bready things in the world—like Chinese steamed buns or Shanghai soup dumplings—are steamed instead of baked. However, as a culture, we got cemented into the idea that breads must be baked. We’re stuck in this notion that it’s not real bread if we don’t have the dark crust that comes from case hardening. But most people don’t realize that in baking bread you are steaming first.
If you bake bread in the Dutch oven, next time leave the lid on the entire time. If you really want to steam the bread entirely, mold a little dough along the lid to seal it. The bread will come out perfectly blond. It is soft, crustless bread. It’s every little kid’s dream.
Steaming is interesting to me. I’m particularly interested in why people boil food instead of steaming it. So many times I go to someone’s house for dinner and we all stand around the kitchen waiting for a huge pot of water to boil. Most of the foods they are making are going to be better off steamed, in a full humid steaming environment at 212 °F. Sure, if you are in a restaurant kitchen with lots of big boiling pots of water always going on a burner, it might be slightly faster to boil food. But if you are at home, boiling makes little sense. That’s why we did a video about why steaming is better than boiling.
We asked Dr. Douglas Baldwin to weigh in on the science of this for us. In the food science and high-end food world, he is a legend. (He is also the sweetest man in the universe.) Douglas is an insanely talented mathematician who has invented genuinely new areas in the industry. His book, Sous Vide for the Home Cook
, was one of the first and still one of the best guides out there. He is genuinely obsessed with food and cooking, so having him work on a piece about the science of steaming vs. boiling was a natural here
By the way, thinking about the science of cooking should lead you to choose the right tool. One that we use a lot in the ChefSteps kitchen is a Chinese spider. They are inexpensive and indispensable for safely scooping up foods out of boiling liquid.
If you’re looking for other useful tools like this, explore a restaurant supply store. Restaurant stuff is all metal and wood. It’s really kind of stunning. I like Dong Vinh here in Seattle, as well as the used section at Dick’s Restaurant Supply. Encore is an all-used restaurant supply store.