Can a Pressure Cooker Steam Food?

If you want to cook food healthily, steaming is the best way to preserve vital minerals and nutrients. 

To steam food, most people would generally use a food steamer, but what if you don’t have one?

What if you have a pressure cooker or a combination slow cooker and pressure cooker? 

Can you use these? 

If you ask, “can a pressure cooker steam food?” the answer is yes.

So let’s find out how.

What Does it Mean to Steam Food?

When you steam food, it uses hot steam created by boiling water to cook. 

Unlike boiling food, where the food is submerged in water, steaming requires only small amounts of water under the food.

That water is heated to its boiling point, releasing steam that envelops the food and cooks it.

Steaming is a better option than boiling food because the water-soluble nutrients stay in the food instead of leaching into the boiling water.

There are other benefits to steaming food compared to boiling. So, what kind of kitchen gadget would most people use to steam food?

Related: Steaming vs. Boiling Vegetables.

What is a Food Steamer?

Food steamer

A food steamer is a kitchen gadget that, as the name implies, is designed to steam food. 

Food steamers feature a water reservoir in the bottom that needs to be filled with water. Then, there are heating coils beneath the reservoir that boil the water and turn it into steam.

There is a second, and possibly a third compartment on top of the first one, designed to hold foods—mainly vegetables. 

The steam created by boiling the water circulates in the steamer, surrounding the food and cooking it.

Related: Can an air fryer steam food?

What is a Pressure Cooker?

Then, there’s the pressure cooker, another kitchen appliance for cooking, although there are significant differences between pressure cookers and food steamers. 

Pressure cookers feature a large pot, not unlike a standard cooking pot, into which food is placed.

Underneath, on the interior, you will find a small grate or flat colander that the food rests on, and the water goes underneath that. 

Finally, the top of the pressure cooker features a lid that entirely seals so that no air, water, or steam can get out.

Therefore, when the water boils and turns into steam, that steam is trapped inside, cooking the food with pressurized steam.

pressure cooker

The benefit of using a pressure cooker is that air pressure builds up to massive levels because the container is sealed. 

This allows water to get much hotter than its usual boiling point because there is nowhere for the hot steam to escape. 

This will enable you to cook food at much hotter temperatures than regular boiling, which speeds up the cooking process.

Although pressure cookers are not the same as steamers, both use steam for cooking food. 

However, pressure cookers also feature the pressure component, allowing steam to get much hotter than regular food steamer.

Can a Pressure Cooker Steam Food?

Yes, a pressure cooker can steam food. 

As established, a pressure cooker heats the water, turns it into steam, and then traps it inside a sealed area to build up massive amounts of pressure and heat.

Standard food steamers boil water and use steam for cooking food. 

Although there is no element of pressure involved; therefore, the steam in a regular food steamer is not nearly as hot as that in a pressure cooker.

Although the steam temperature is not the same in both devices, there is steam in a pressure cooker, which can cook food. 

So let’s move on and discuss why you would use a pressure cooker to steam food instead of a steamer.

Related: Can you steam food in an instant pot?

The Benefits of Using a Pressure Cooker to Steam Food

Consider the benefits of using a pressure cooker to steam food.

Pressure cookers are usually larger than steamers. So, if you want to steam a large quantity of food at once, you can do so in a pressure cooker.

Another benefit of using a pressure cooker is that it is much quicker to steam food.

The steam inside a pressure cooker gets much hotter than a food steamer. 

Therefore, food in a pressure cooker will take half as long to cook as in a food steamer, if not even less.

The other benefit is that it is the much more versatile of the two. 

Steamers are designed to steam and nothing else, while pressure cookers can be used for boiling, steaming, pressure cooking, and more.

The Drawbacks of Using a Pressure Cooker to Steam Food

One caveat is that food steamers usually come with trays or baskets to separate different foods, which a pressure cooker does not have. 

You can just steam one thing inside of a pressure cooker at a time.

You must also consider that with a food steamer, you can open it up to check on your food to see how far along it is. 

However, you cannot do this with a pressure cooker because they are dangerous to open mid-use, and most won’t allow you to open them up until the pressure has been released.

Therefore, you need to know precisely how long to pressure cook various foods before you start. 

Since you’re unable to check on your food, and because pressure cookers are extremely hot, you may end up overcooking your food and turning it into mush.


If you know what you are doing, a pressure cooker can be used to steam food. However, a standard food steamer is still the better option.