Steaming Buns Sans Steamer: Mastering the Art of Steamy Perfection

How to steam buns without a steamer: A Comprehensive Guide

Steamed buns are a delicious and versatile staple in many cuisines, but what if you don’t have a steamer? Don’t worry. There are several alternative methods you can use to steam buns without a traditional steamer. In this article, we’ll explore these methods and provide step-by-step instructions to help you achieve perfectly steamed buns every time.

Why you should steam buns

Before we dive into the methods, let’s understand why steaming buns is essential to achieving the perfect texture. Freshly baked buns have a tender and fluffy texture, but over time they can become dry and hard. Steaming helps rehydrate the buns, restoring their softness and improving their overall flavor and texture.
When bread is stored, the air and moisture inside the bun will escape, causing it to lose its fluffy texture. Storing buns in the refrigerator can exacerbate this problem, as cooler temperatures tend to dry out food faster. Steaming the buns helps to reintroduce moisture and create a warm, moist environment that revitalizes the bread.

Traditional Steaming Methods

Traditional steaming methods involve the use of a special steamer or steaming pot. While these methods are effective, not everyone has access to a steamer. Fortunately, there are alternative methods you can try using common kitchen appliances.

Microwave Method

The microwave method is the easiest and most convenient way to steam buns without a steamer. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a damp paper towel and wrap the bun in it. Make sure the paper towel is slightly wet, not soaking wet.
  2. Place the wrapped bun on a microwaveable plate.
  3. Microwave the bun on high power for 5-10 seconds.
  4. Carefully remove the plate from the microwave and let the wrapped bun rest for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Unwrap the bun and check its texture. If it’s not soft enough, rewrap and microwave for another 5-10 seconds.
  6. Once you are satisfied with the texture, use the steamed bun as intended.

The microwave generates steam within the paper towel, effectively steaming the bun and restoring its softness. The damp paper towel creates a moist environment that helps hydrate the bun, preventing it from drying out.

Pan-steam method

If you don’t have a steamer or microwave, you can try the pan-steam method. While not ideal, this method can still produce satisfactory results. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, then reduce the heat to low.
  2. Add a small amount of water to the pan and check for steam. Adjust the heat if necessary until the water begins to evaporate.
  3. Gently place the bun in the center of the pan without pressing down.
  4. Pour water around the bun, creating small puddles. Avoid creating a large pool of water.
  5. Cover the pan and let the bun steam for 2-3 minutes.
  6. After steaming, let the bun rest in the pan for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and check the texture of the bun. If it’s not soft enough, repeat the process until the desired softness is achieved.

The pan-steam method uses the steam generated by the water in the pan to soften the bun. While direct contact with the pan can create excessive heat, this method can still produce satisfactory results, especially if you’re planning to toast the bun at the same time.

Air Fryer Method

If you have an air fryer, you can also use it to steam buns. Here’s how:

  1. Preheating the fryer to 175°C (350°F) is optional, but improves results.
  2. Wrap the bun in a lightly moistened paper towel. Be careful not to add too much water.
  3. Place the wrapped bun in the center of the fryer basket. Avoid using foil or parchment paper on the bottom to allow for proper air circulation.
  4. Set the fryer to 350°F (175°C) and steam the bun for 3-5 minutes.
  5. After steaming, carefully remove the bun from the fryer and let it rest for a few minutes before unwrapping.
  6. Unwrap the bun and check its texture. If it’s not soft enough, wrap it again and steam for another 1-2 minutes.
  7. Once the bun reaches the desired softness, it’s ready to use.

The air fryer method uses the circulation of hot air inside the appliance to create steam inside the wrapped bun. This method can produce excellent results and is especially convenient if you already have an air fryer in your kitchen.

Makeshift Steamer Method

If you don’t have a steamer, microwave, or air fryer, you can make a makeshift steamer using a pot and a heat-resistant plate or metal colander. Here’s how:

  1. Pour water into a pot, filling it about 1-2 inches high.
  2. Place a heat-resistant plate or metal strainer upside down in the pot, making sure it is above the water level.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Place the buns on the plate or in the colander, making sure they are not in direct contact with the water.
  5. Cover the pot and steam the buns for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Once steamed, remove the buns from the pot and allow to cool slightly before serving.

The makeshift steamer method mimics the functionality of a traditional steamer by using the steam generated from boiling water to cook the buns. It requires a bit more effort, but can be a viable option if you don’t have access to specialized equipment.

Enjoy your perfectly steamed buns

Now that you know how to steam buns without a steamer, you can enjoy the soft, fluffy texture of freshly steamed buns in your favorite recipes. Whether you choose the microwave, pan-steam, air fryer, or makeshift steamer method, each technique can help revive your buns and elevate your culinary creations. Experiment with these methods and find the one that works best for you!
Remember, steaming buns not only improves their texture, it also improves their overall flavor and makes them easier to work with. So the next time you don’t have a steamer, don’t worry-try one of these alternative methods and enjoy delicious steamed buns in no time!


Can I achieve the same result by simply heating the rolls in the microwave without wrapping them in a wet paper towel?

Wrapping the buns in a damp paper towel helps to create a moist environment that keeps the buns soft and prevents them from drying out. Skipping this step may result in a less desirable texture and less effective steaming.

Can I use a normal tea towel instead of a paper towel to wrap the buns for steaming?

It’s best to use a paper towel as it retains moisture better and helps to create steam. Regular towels can absorb too much moisture and may not provide the desired level of steam for the buns.

How long should I leave the buns after steaming before unwrapping them?

It’s best to leave the buns to rest for a few minutes after steaming. This allows the steam to distribute evenly throughout the bun, resulting in a more consistent and tender texture.

Can I reheat steamed buns without affecting their texture?

Yes, you can reheat steamed buns. To keep them soft, place the steamed buns in a microwave or steamer for a short time, just until they are warmed through. Avoid overheating as this can make the buns dry and less enjoyable.

Can I freeze steamed buns for later use?

Yes, steamed buns can be frozen. Allow them to cool completely, then place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. When you’re ready to use them, defrost the buns overnight in the fridge and then reheat them using your preferred method.

Can I steam other types of bread using this method?

Although these methods are primarily intended for steaming buns, you can experiment with steaming other types of bread. Keep in mind that different breads may require slight variations in steaming times and techniques to achieve the desired results.