Poaching, simmering, and boiling all mean cooking a food in water or a seasoned or flavored liquid.The temperature of the liquid determines the method.
1. To boil means to cook in a liquid that is bubbling rapidly and is greatly agitated. Water boils at 212F (100C) at sea level. No matter how high the burner is turned, the temperature of the liquid will go no higher.
Boiling is generally reserved for vegetables and starches.The high temperature toughens the proteins of meats, fish, and eggs, and the rapid bubbling breaks up delicate foods.
Cooking Methods 69
2. To simmer means to cook in a liquid that is bubbling gently at a temperature of about 185F to 205 F (85C to 96C).
Most foods cooked in a liquid are simmered.The higher temperatures and intense agitation of boiling are detrimental to most foods.The word boiled is sometimes used as a menu term, as when simmered fresh beef is called "boiled beef."
3. To poach means to cook in a liquid, usually a small amount, that is hot but not actually bubbling.Temperature is about 160 F to 180 F (71C to 82 C).
Poaching is used to cook delicate foods such as fish and eggs out of the shell. It is also used to partially cook foods such as variety meats in order to eliminate undesirable flavors and to firm the product before final cooking.
4. A rule of thumb:Whether a food is to be simmered or boiled, the liquid is often brought to a full boil at first.This compensates for the lowering of the temperature when the food items are added.The heat is then adjusted to maintain a steady temperature.
5. To blanch means to cook an item partially and briefly, usually in water but sometimes by other methods (as when French fries are blanched in deep fat).
There are two ways of blanching in water:
• Place the item in cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer briefly. Cool the item by plunging it into cold water.
Purpose: to dissolve out blood, salt, or impurities from meats and bones.
• Place the item in rapidly boiling water and return the water to the boil. Remove the item and cool in cold water.
Purpose: to set the color and destroy harmful enzymes in vegetables, or to loosen the skins of tomatoes, peaches, and similar items for easier peeling.
6. Altitude note: The boiling point of water decreases as altitude above sea level is in-creased.At 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level, water boils at about 203 F (95C).Thus,it takes longer to boil foods to doneness at high altitudes because the temperature is lower.
To steam means to cook foods by exposing them directly to steam.
1. In quantity cooking, steaming is usually done in special steam cookers, which are designed to accept standard-size pans. Steaming can also be done on a rack above boiling water.This method is more cumbersome, however, and is used only occasionally in food service. Cooking in a steam-jacketed kettle is not steaming because the steam does not actually touch the food.
2. The term steaming also refers to cooking an item tightly wrapped or in a covered pan so that it cooks in the steam formed by its own moisture.This method is used in cooking items en papillote, meaning wrapped in parchment paper (or foil). "Baked" potatoes wrapped in foil are actually steamed.
3. Steam at normal pressure is 212F (100C),the same as boiling water. However,it carries much more heat than boiling water and cooks foods very rapidly. Cooking times must be carefully controlled to avoid overcooking.
4. A pressure steamer is a steam cooker that holds in steam under pressure.The temperature of the steam then goes higher than 212F (100C),as the following chart shows:
Pressure Steam Temperature
5 psi (pounds per square inch) 227 F (106C)
Because of these temperatures, pressure steaming is an extremely rapid method of cooking and must be carefully controlled and timed.
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