Boiling vs. Steaming – What’s The Difference?

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Cooking food can be overwhelming for a lot of reasons; many reasons contribute to that. We mean you have to get the ingredients, prepare them, cook, and then wash the dishes. That’s a lot of work.

But there is another thing that confuses newbies and intermediate chefs; which type of cooking method is best suited for a particular type of food. In general, it is best to cook the food according to its composition. This means if the food you are cooking is mostly fat, then cook it in oil (which is almost entirely fat), and when cooking meat and vegetables, water is the best medium. 

But cooking is not as straightforward as choosing the right medium; there is a lot more to it than that because cooking is a broad term, and there are tons of different methods of cooking which include boiling, braising, roasting, frying, blanching, deep-frying, and steaming etc. but two of the most misunderstood ways of cooking are boiling and steaming. 

Both of these ways utilize water as the medium for heat transfer, but they have a different effect on the food, especially its nutritional value. So, it is very important to choose the right option if you are going to boil or steam your food, and we are here to make things easier for you. 

This article discusses the differences between these two ways of cooking, their advantages and disadvantages, and much more. So, keep reading to find out all you need to know!

Which Method for Which Food?

Before we get into details, let’s talk about which foods are better boiled and which ones we should steam. The first food that comes to mind is meat, and the best way to cook meat is through steaming. The meat is usually marinated with various herbs and spices, and steaming is the best method for letting the flavor get deep and leave its effects. 

Another reason to steam meat is that you don’t have to turn the food while you’re steaming, so there is no danger of breaking it, and the final presentation is top-notch! In addition to meat, seafood like fish and shrimps are often steamed. Steaming seafood can make them flaky, but the superior flavor is worth the trouble. 

You can also steam grains like quinoa and rice to make them super soft. Pasta is also frequently steamed to make it Al-Dante. Boiling can only be considered suitable for veggies, and if you’re going to boil them in a stew or broth, then it is better to steam them. But we have to admit, making stew or broth with vegetables and meat has a vibe of its own, and the flavor is incredible!


Steaming and boiling are frequently used for vegetables, so we will take them as a standard to explain everything. Steaming vegetables is very easy and takes a short period of time. There are different types of steamers available in the market, like stove-top steamers and electric steamers that you can use. 

The steamers use the basic principle of steaming. The water is boiled until it starts converting into steam; this steam rises towards the top, as it is hot and hot gasses have less density than cold ones. As the steam rises, it comes into contact with the food item placed above the boiling water.

The steam then cooks the food without it coming directly in contact with the water. In the case of the vegetables, you’d put the vegetables above the steam on the porous surface through which the steam can pass and then turn the heat up, let the water steam and do its magic. Preservation of taste, color and texture is the most prominent advantage of using steaming as a cooking method. 

In addition to that, you don’t have to worry about overcooking your food, which is always a possible problem while boiling. Steaming also eliminates the need for using any fats for cooking, which means that you won’t add any extra calories to your food while cooking it. So, steaming is the way to go for those of you trying to shed some extra pounds.


Boiling is an immersive way of cooking. Because when you are boiling food, you must dip it in the water and then the water is heated to reach just around its boiling temperature, Unlike steaming where the food does not come in contact with the water. For example, if you want to boil potatoes, you’d leave them submerged in the boiling water. 

This method of cooking has an unfortunate side effect, though. The food that is being boiled might lose nutrients while it’s being cooked, especially the B vitamins and vitamin C, which are both water-soluble. So, the more time your veggies spend in the boiling water, the more nutrients will leach out, and the lesser nutrient-dense your food will become. 

Like steaming, boiling does not involve any use of fats, so no extra calories here as well. And when you’re boiling food, you don’t usually have to stand over the stove, keeping an eye out. You can also cook large batches of food in one go while you’re boiling, but you’d need a large pot or utensil if you’re boiling large batches. 

Nutrient, Taste, and Texture Preservation

While boiling has its advantages, steaming is way above in terms of preserving the taste, texture, and nutrients in the food. But this doesn’t mean that there is no nutrient loss during steaming, some nutrients are lost, but that amount is negligible. The taste of steamed vegetables is also superior to the boiled ones. 

So What’s the Difference Between Boiling and Steaming?

  • Boiling is an immersive way of cooking in which the food is immersed in the water, while during steaming, the water does not come into contact with the food. 
  • Steaming is better at preserving the taste, texture, and nutrients in the food than boiling.