How To Clean A Bamboo Steamer With Black Tea Bags

Bamboo steamers are more than just visually appealing; they are versatile enough to cook a wide range of foods, including wontons, dumplings, meat, fish, and vegetables. Their functionality is deeply rooted in Chinese culinary tradition, where they have been used for thousands of years. These stacked baskets are placed over a wok or similar cooking pan, allowing steam from heated water to cook the food through the bamboo slats. This method is not only ingenious, but also enables food to be cooked swiftly. One common concern, however, is the perceived difficulty in cleaning the baskets after use.

Yet, this concern isn't entirely warranted. There are several effective methods for maintaining the cleanliness of these versatile cooking tools, including one lesser-known technique: using black tea bags. Black tea is rich in tannins — more so than any other type of tea. These tannins, a structural component known for its presence in wine and dark chocolate, offer a unique cleaning benefit. When used as a cleaning agent, black tea bags act like scrub brushes, effectively removing food residue that clings to the surface of the bamboo steamers.

Black tea bags effectively break down greasy residue

Bamboo steamers require frequent cleaning due to the porous nature of the wood, which can easily retain odors from previous uses. Additionally, stuck-on food particles present another challenge. While tackling this latter issue with black tea bags is effective, it should not be the sole cleaning step. The tannins in the tea bag are highly effective at breaking down greasy residues, facilitating the easy removal of food bits.

To start, steep the tea bag in hot water, creating a focus-friendly beverage to enjoy while you clean (though keep in mind that black tea has a higher caffeine content than other teas). After rubbing the steamer baskets with the tea bag, rinse them thoroughly with hot water and allow them to dry naturally.

For stubborn food particles, black tea bags can be more effective than soap and scrub brushes. However, combating persistent food odors requires a different approach. A solution of white vinegar and water, with twice as much water as vinegar, is effective for this purpose. Soak the bamboo baskets in this mixture, then rinse and dry them.

The cleaning power of black tea bags

The need for the black tea bag method on bamboo steamers can be reduced by using liners that prevent food from directly contacting the baskets. While parchment paper is a popular choice, traditional options like cabbage or lettuce leaves are also effective. However, the tea bag technique isn't confined to cleaning bamboo steamers alone.

Tannic black tea bags can break down grease, making them an effective cleaner not just for bamboo steamers, but for other cookware as well. Instead of rubbing the tea bags on traditional pans, it's better to fill the pans with a bit of warm water and add the tea bags. Letting the pans soak for a few hours allows the tea bags to work on the grease, simplifying the cleaning process later.

Additionally, water-steeped black tea bags are effective for polishing mirrors and glassware. Simply rub the tea bags on the surface, and then dry it with a lint-free cloth.