I'm not a big fan of single-use tools, especially ones that don't get used particularly often. And I'm especially not a big fan of seldom used single-use tools that take up a large amount of space.
One of these tools is the steamer, which is on the list of "kitchen essentials" despite being large, clunky, and not commonly used. Steamers are actually incredibly easy to replicate, so if you find yourself needing one, save $20 and some shelf space, and choose one of these alternatives instead.
You can build a surprisingly effective steamer with just two reusable aluminum pie tins. First, poke 12–16 holes in the base of both pie tins.
Next, use a rolling pin to flatten one of the pie tins. Don't worry about getting it perfectly flat; this is all about convenience, so just run over the tin with your rolling pin a few times.
Now you're ready to put your steamer together. Place the structurally sound tin upside-down in a pot with a little water. Rest the flattened tin on top of the first, and place your veggies (or whatever you're steaming) on top of it.
Turn on the heat and you'll have a perfect steamer in action! If you want to get really complex, you can even build a multi-layer steamer.
This steamer hack is as simple as it gets. All you need to do is place your food in a large kitchen strainer, and place it on top of your pot of water. You can also do this with a colander instead of a strainer.
You can also make a quick and easy steamer by placing a cooling rack across the top of your pot of water, adding ingredients on top, and covering them with aluminum foil. Make sure to use a cooling rack that doesn't have spaces larger than the food you're steaming, or else you'll end up with a lot of boiled veggies sitting in the bottom of your pot!
This one is fun to make, and makes cleaning easier as you can keep the food on the plate when you serve it. First you need to find a plate that is oven safe, and slightly smaller than your pot.
Then make three large, solid balls out of aluminum foil and place them in the bottom of your pot. Add water, and place the plate (with ingredients) on top of the aluminum foil balls, and you've got a steamer that's good to go.
If you're not steaming a lot, you could also utilize a splatter screen. Just throw it on top of your pot, lay down your veggies, then cover with a large bowl. (This method is great for sticky rice.)
You can also just use tinfoil if you don't have a splatter screen available. Just make sure it fits tightly around the pot so that it doesn't collapse when you put the food on top of it.
Do you have any other great ways of creating a steamer?