Enriched with herbs and spices, a gently simmering broth infuses seafood with subtle yet alluring flavor.
Credit: Greg DuPree

Just like marinating packs meat with bold flavor, steaming perfumes seafood with enticing aromas. In this moist-heat cooking method, fish fillets rest above a small amount of scented, simmering liquid. When the pot is covered, captive aromatic heat gently cooks the seafood. 

Surprisingly simple, this is a practical and fun method for home cooks. Start with your favorite aromatics—ginger, herbs, and citrus peel provide a fresh punctuation mark; spices like cinnamon, clove, and star anise add complexity. Place them in a large pot or skillet with a tight-fitting lid, and add just enough liquid to the pan to measure 1/2 inch. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Set a rack (or build a vegetable “raft” from celery or fennel stalks) above the simmering liquid, and place seasoned fish on top. Cover and steam until the fish is cooked through, about 7 minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness. 

Want to try the technique at home? Here are some of our favorite seafood recipes:

There’s just one more tip you should know—be sure to season fish well with salt before cooking. Unlike poaching, the steaming process doesn’t flavor the fish with any salt.