Steaming is an ideal method for cooking boneless chicken breasts and small whole birds such as Cornish hens. It retains the flavor, tenderness and moisture through the use of steam. It is a healthy method of cooking because no additional fat is used. Chicken can be steamed with a traditional steamer that fits on top of a saucepan, by using a rack that sits in the bottom of a tightly covered pan, suspending the chicken above the water, or by the use of an electric steamer.
When steaming chicken with a traditional steamer, fill the steamer pot half full of water and bring it to a full boil using a high heat. For additional flavor, herbs or other flavorings can be added to the water. Place the chicken in the steamer in a single layer, leaving a little room around the pieces. This allows the steam to circulate freely, cooking the meat at a more even rate. Place the steamer in the pot over the boiling water and make sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. If using a rack or tray in the bottom of a large pot, add at least one inch of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Place the chicken in a heatproof dish and place the dish on the rack in the pot of boiling water. Be sure water is not boiling up over the heatproof dish. Cover with a tight lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Check for doneness and if thoroughly cooked, remove chicken from steamer and use the water for a broth to be eaten on its own or to make a sauce to serve with the chicken.
Marinate the chicken before steaming to infuse the chicken with a distinctive flavor.
Infuse flavor into the chicken by adding ingredients to the steaming water, such as onions, carrots, celery, and fresh gingerroot.
Making a few cuts through the top and bottom surface of the chicken will allow the heat to penetrate more evenly throughout the cooking process.
Other ingredients, such as vegetables, can be steamed with the chicken, but do not overcrowd.
Avoid removing the cover to the pot during the cooking process. This will allow heat and steam to escape, resulting in extended cooking times.