busyfood.net – How to Cook Dumplings – How to Steam, Fry, and Boil Fresh Dumplings and Frozen Dumplings

Before you even start making your dumplings, first think about how you want to cook them. There are three basic ways: steaming, boiling, and steam-frying. There is also deep-frying or serving with a crispy lacy “skirt.”

While the cooking method depends heavily upon your mood and what you are craving, it also depends on the shape of your dumpling. Some methods of cooking hinge on certain dumpling qualities, such as iron-clad seals to prevent bursting (boiling), flat bottoms that offer surface space to crisp up (pan-fried potstickers), or thicker skins to withstand the pressures of boiling.

The following instructions are the same for fresh or frozen dumplings. Generally, I find that store-bought frozen dumplings are better suited to steaming and steam-frying, as their skins are often quite thin—make sure to check packet instructions to check the preferred cooking methods. Importantly, when cooking frozen dumplings (store-bought or homemade), do not defrost, so always cook them from frozen.


Steaming will produce silky, tender dumplings with skin that is slightly firmer than that of boiled dumplings, but still stretchy. If you are making your own dumpling wrappers, use the hot water dough for this method, as this will give you a softer morsel. Find a bamboo or other basket steamer that fits over a saucepan, pot, or wok. My preferred vessel is a bamboo steamer—they are cheap to purchase and hold a good number of dumplings. The smell of dumplings steaming in bamboo is very nostalgic to me.

Line the steaming vessel with parchment paper or Napa cabbage leaves. If you are using parchment paper, poke a few holes in it to let the steam through. Fill your pan or pot with water that is about 1 inch deep and bring to a boil. Place the steaming vessel over the boiling water, cover, and steam for about 10–15 minutes (this depends upon what you have inside—if you have raw ingredients like meat, steam for longer, whereas cooked ingredients will take less time). If you are using store-bought wrappers, the skin will become slightly transparent and you’ll be able to see the colors of the filling inside. Homemade wrappers won’t become transparent, but they will look plump and puffed.


Boiled dumplings are wonderful served on their own with chile oil/crisp or black vinegar, or as part of a dumpling noodle soup. Wontons, for example, are the quintessential boiled dumpling. Growing up, my mother’s goldfish-shaped wontons were always made with the signature yellow-hued store-bought wrappers which are now sometimes sold as “Hong Kong Style Wonton Wrapper.”

Of all the cooking methods, boiling applies the most pressure to the dumpling, which can cause them to burst and disintegrate in the water. I have personally experienced much dumpling loss. Most store-bought dumpling wrappers should hold up to boiling but they are delicate, so tread carefully. The key is to expel as much air as possible—after spooning the filling onto the wrapper and folding it over to seal, press out any extra air around the filling.

Reducing the cooking temperature slightly can help too—the dumplings should be gently boiled rather than tossed around aggressively.

If you are making homemade wrappers for boiled dumplings, use cold water (water straight from the tap is fine) as this will give you a thicker skin that’s more suitable for the pressures of boiling.

Frozen dumplings can usually be boiled, but check packet instructions to make sure they are robust enough for this cooking method.

Steam-frying (potsticker method)

Steam-frying, or the potsticker method, is employed for dumplings like gyoza and gow gee (also known as jiaozi or guo tie). The dumplings are seared on their base to create a golden, crispy bottom, and then water is added, and they are covered to steam through. When the water evaporates, lift the lid and let them cook a moment longer. This method of double-frying is what gives potstickers their signature crispy crust.

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