Many vegetable steamer baskets have short legs that allow only a small amount of water to be added beneath its base. For vegetables that take a while to cook through, use this ingenious tip that eliminates the need for replenishing the water during steaming: Place three crumpled balls of aluminum foil in the pot and then place the steamer basket on top of the foil. The foil elevates the steamer basket, creating room for extra water.
When using just a little bit of water and a steamer basket, it’s easy to let the pot run dry, causing a potentially dangerous situation. When steaming foods that take a long time to cook, such as artichokes, here’s how to figure out when the pot needs more water. Before cooking, place a few glass marbles in the bottom of the pan. Add the water and the steamer basket, cover, and cook as usual. When the water level drops too low, the marbles will begin to rattle around, and the racket will remind you to add more water.
Rather than scratching your saucepan's nonstick surface with the metal legs of a steamer insert, protect it with parchment paper.
Like these? See more quick tips at Cook's Illustrated.