Steamer basket inserts for your pressure cooker can be used to steam vegetables, fruit, fish and even eggs!
With multi-level or compartmentalized steaming basket you can cook several vegetables at the same time – the items that require the most cooking time should be at the bottom near the heat source and the least at the top.
The water used for steaming can be flavored with vinegar, wine, herbs, or the liquid itself can be broth, wine, or even tomato sauce (as in the Stuffed Zucchini recipe).
However, the steaming liquid should then be used as a sauce. The flavor imparted by the steam is only 1/1700th the strength of the liquid being used. Choose the steaming liquid carefully since, on its own, it will impart very little flavor to the food cooking in the steamer basket.
Steaming liquid from vegetables and seafood can be saved and refrigerated for up to a week. Then, top-off the stock with this nutritious liquid to make another recipe like pressure cooker risotto or super-fast polenta.
If your pressure cooker did not come with what manufacturers call a “perforated insert”, your best bet is a collapsible stainless steel steamer that opens and closes like a flower (below). They come in several sizes so purchase the biggest one that will fit in your cooker- to maximize the size of the flat area (important when wanting to make straight flans). The center stem of a petal-like basket should be easily removable (the one illustrated un-screws from the flat base) in case you want to steam one large item (like a heat-proof bowl).
If your pressure cooker did come with a steamer basket, very likely it also included a trivet – which should always be used in conjunction with the steamer basket since most manufacturer steamer baskets do not have feet to keep the basket raised out of the steaming liquid.
Suitable Substitutes for Steamer Baskets
In a pinch, in place of a steamer basket, a colander made of heat-proof material or wire mesh basket may be substituted.
Novel uses for pressure cooker steamer baskets
In addition to steaming food, a steamer basket in the pressure cooker may be used to…
- cook foods on multiple levels, as seen in this three-bean salad recipe – where the longest cooking beans (chickpeas) boil in the liquid in the base and steam the shorter cooking beans in the steamer basket above.
- keep containers from touching the base of the pressure cooker as seen in this pressure cooker bread recipe – where the bread might burn if the container were in contact with the base.
- as part of a set-up for extracting juice as in this pressure cooker juice extraction tutorial.
- as a substitute for a trivet.
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Please note that electric pressure cookers with non-stick interiors should use silicone steamer baskets to avoid scratching the interior of the liner.