Understanding Cooking Terms Part 3
Boil, simmer, poach, steam…
Confused by cooking terms?
In this 3 part series, we’ll summarize some common cooking terms.
Finally, in Part 3, we’ll review cooking methods that involve cooking with water.
Boil Boiling refers to cooking food in a liquid (typically water) that is heated to 100°C (212°F) at sea level. The liquid is in full motion, with bubbles rising rapidly to the surface.
Simmer Simmering refers to cooking in a liquid that is just below the boiling point. You can see bubbles forming, but they should be gentle. The surface of the liquid should shimmer, with a bubble coming up every few seconds. Simmering is the most common method of cooking in water.
Poach Poaching uses a lower heat temperature than simmering. There should be few to no bubbles in the water – but the water should gently ripple.
Steam When steaming, the food is not actually placed in the water. The water is heated to a boil, and the food is placed above the water in a steamer basket.
Blanch Blanching refers to placing vegetables in boiling water for a brief period of time. The vegetables are then removed and placed into an ice bath. Blanching brings out a vibrant, bright color without cooking the vegetable all the way through, resulting in a tender-crisp texture.
Braise and Stew These are basically the same thing. They use a combination of cooking methods. The food is first browned or seared (see Understanding Cooking Terms Part 2). Cooking is then completed in a liquid using one of the above cooking methods. It typically involves cooking something low and slow, and is often used to tenderize tough cuts of meat. We call it ‘braising’ when cooking large cuts of meat, and ‘stewing’ when the meat is cut into smaller pieces and completely submerged into the liquid.