Double Boiling vs Steaming – What’s The Difference?

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double boiling vs steaming

What is the difference between double boiling and steaming?

The main difference between double boiling and steaming food is the method of cooking, with steaming requiring the food to be lifted above the boiling water and sealed with a lid to be cooked by the steam, and double boiling requiring the food to be cooked in a closed-lid inner pot submerged in the boiling water whereby the food is not in contact with the steam.

steaming vs double boiling explained

When food is steamed, it is cooked with an inner pot placed in a larger pot where the food is not in contact with the boiling water but directly in contact with the steam. In this case, the highest temperature at which the food cooks is at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (boiling point of water is at 100 degrees Celsius).

When food is in double boiling, it is cooked with an inner pot (lid closed) submerged into a larger pot of boiling water so that the steam of the boiling water does not contact with the food. Double boiling ensures that there is no additional moisture or liquid evaporation from the food, and therefore no loss of nutrients or change of flavor.

What is double boiling?

The food or soup is not boiled twice as the name suggests. Double boiling is a slow and gentle method of cooking whereby the food is placed in an inner pot (usually ceramic) submerged within the outer pot of boiling water. The food will start to cook when the inner pot is heated by the hot boiling water from the outer pot.

The double boiling technique is said to achieve the maximum extraction of flavor with little compromise to the flavor or texture of the ingredients used. Double boiling is frequently used for making Asian soup or desserts like the shark’s fin, bird’s nest, or peach gum dessert. Depending on the type of ingredients, it is a much slower cooking method and sometimes can take up to 5 hours in order to have full flavor extraction of the ingredients.

How to double boil?

Asian’s double boiling pots are made of ceramic which conducts heat slowly but has good heat retention for cooking. It is composed of two ceramic pots, a smaller inner pot, and a big outer pot. The inner pot has a lid that must be closed at all times during the double boiling process, and it is placed in the boiling water within the larger outer pot. The ingredients of the soup or dessert must be filled inside the smaller inner pot with the lid closed so that it is not in contact with the steam of the boiling water within the out pot. The water of the outer pot must be replenished from time to time, whereas the inner pot must be covered from the start to the end of the double boiling process. This will ensure that there is no additional moisture content or water evaporation from the ingredients, thus maintaining the nutrients and flavor of the product.

What is steaming?

Steaming is a method of cooking food using steam or moist heat. The food is placed on a dish or tray above the boiling water in a pot, wok, or food steamer with a closed lid. The boiling water in the pot starts to vaporize into steam and circulates throughout the pot. It then cooks the food when the hot steam is in contact with it.

Steaming is said to be a relatively healthy cooking method compared to frying or grilling because it doesn’t require oil or butter. Steaming also helps to preserve the texture of the food (e.g. fish) since the boiling water does not touch the food and agitates it. Make sure to control the time used for steaming food, the food can be easily overcooked and becomes soft and mushy.

How to steam food?

To steam food, place the ingredients on a dish over a pot of boiling water (make sure the food is not immersed into the water). The dish of food is usually supported above the boiling water with a collapsible pot or bamboo steamer stand. Cover the food in the pot, boil and simmer the food. The cooking time varies depending on the food or ingredients that need to be steamed.

If you are a fan of steaming, get yourself an electric steamer. Choose a steamer that is transparent in color so that you can see through it while the food is being steamed. Some steamers come with multiple levels where you can steam several dishes at one time, saving you time and effort.


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