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Heating food in water is one of the simplest cooking methods
Cooking food in simmering liquid – whether water, salt water or stock – is one of the most classic preparation methods. Read more about the technique here.
The cooking technique refers to the heating up of a liquid to boiling point and cooking meat, vegetables or pasta in that liquid. This method of cooking with hot water became possible through the discovery of fire. The first traces of cooking places, or hearths, date back 500,000 years. At that time, meat together with some fruits, grains and roots, were commonly heated in simmering water above open fire or with the aid of a boiling hot rock. This technique made it easier to digest different parts of the hunted game.
Nowadays, many different substances are used to cook with - from bubbling hot fat for deep frying to liquid nitrogen in molecular gastronomy. All of these differ greatly in terms of their chemical make-up, meaning they all have different boiling points. Water begins to boil at 100°C and is clearly recognisable by the rising bubbles. When deep frying, heat the fat or oil to about 140 to 190°C, depending on their smoke point. Only fats with a high smoke point are suitable for this, such as palm oil, clarified butter or sunflower oil. Liquid nitrogen, on the other hand, only begins to boil at -196°C, making it an unsuitable option for everyday use.
Boiling food in water exposes the food to very high temperatures. Some products even require a long period of cooking in hot water in order to be enjoyed at all such as pasta, potatoes, or hard boiled eggs. Boiling vegetables runs the risk of losing some of the water-soluble vitamins. The more water you use and the longer you cook the vegetables for, the more valuable nutrients you lose. It is therefore important to remove the vegetables as soon as they are cooked. A sure indication of this is an aromatic smell coming from the pot. The cooking water can make a tasty addition to sauces or soups.
There are numerous other ways to prepare vegetables – some of which are more suited than boiling:
· Blanching: Plunge the vegetables for a short time in boiling salt water and shortly afterwards in ice cold water. This method is ideal for vegetables that require a short cooking time like spinach or cabbage.
· Stewing: Boil a small amount of water or stock and place the vegetables inside. The vegetables should cook from the steam produced rather than the water – for this, make sure the vegetables are barely covered in water.
· Steaming: Prepare the vegetables in a special steamer, or a pot with a sieve. This method retains the most amount of nutrients as the vegetables will soften because of the steam rather than the water.
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