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Should I use water from steaming to make stock or gravy?

Does it depend from what I have steamed (e.g., potatoes or vegetables)?

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I'm not sure there would be any advantage, since the water in steaming doesn't actually touch the food being cooked, and therefore can't take on any flavor. – Martha F. Aug 19 '11 at 1:09
Possibly somewhat tangential, but my grandmother always used some of the water she boiled potatoes in for her pan gravy when making fried chicken or chicken fried steak. I'm not sure how much starch would get into water used to steam, rather than boil potatoes though. – AaronN Aug 23 '11 at 18:42

It shouldn't matter if you re-use the water you used for steaming or use fresh water. I would only use it in a few situations:

  1. You want to season the gravy with whatever flavors ended up in the water
  2. You want some of the starch in the water to help thicken the gravy
  3. You want to be frugal and reuse the water and not pour it down the sink

The benefits of one and two are mostly negligible because the amount of flavor or starch isn't going to be that much.

Situation three is really the only reason I would reuse the water, but most of the time cooking water ends up watering the plants.

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In general I would not reuse steaming water to make gravy. As devin_s said you are unlikely to get much flavor from there. Depending on what you're steaming (e.g. spinach), however, you are likely to pick up some bitterness or other off flavors.

Water used for boiling, on the other hand, can be very useful. For example, if you have boiled shrimp with aromatics, that water can be very useful as a flavor foundation for a soup or stock. Pasta water (or potato water, I suppose) could be useful as a thickener. For example, I will often add a splash of pasta water to loosen up a thick pesto.

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Just as my Mother did, I use potato and steamed vegetable water in gravy, why waste any flavour and nutients in the water.

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As noted in the comments to the original question, the water left in the pot is unlikely to have gotten any flavors at all, as it hasn't actually touched the vegetables in question. – razumny Mar 31 '14 at 7:36

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