How to Boil Food
The common misconception about boiling food is that it will remove flavour and cause it to taste bland. While this may be true if you only use water, using different kinds of liquids can add great flavour to a wide range of foods. Boiled food is also tender, moist, and safe. That’s because, more than any other cooking method, boiling, helps eliminate any microorganisms that may exist in the food.
Benefits of Boiling
Properly boiling green vegetables ensures they retain their nutritious value and their deep, green colour. Older and tougher cuts of meat can also be boiled to make them more tender and digestible. Boiling is a relatively fast and simple cooking process that doesn’t compromise on taste and nutrition, which frees you up to spend more time with your family and less time in the kitchen.
A pot is all that is needed to hold the boiling liquid and food. A lid aids in keeping heat and steam inside, so that liquids don’t evaporate too quickly. It also prevents the liquid from splashing as it boils. Make sure the lid provides a good seal for the pot. It should also be able to rest slightly ajar, allowing a small amount of steam to be released from the pot for some boiling recipes.
How to Boil
For most foods, place the water or flavoured liquid into the pot first and heat it to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, add the food and any other flavourings. The contents are taken back up to a boiling point, then simmered until the food is cooked. In other cases, food is placed into the liquid at room-temperature and the entire contents are brought to a boil and simmered at the same time. Water is most commonly used for boiling, but different broths and liquids can be used to add flavour. Red wine and beef stock help break down tougher pieces of meat, allowing for tenderization. White wine and citrus juices are great for poultry and fish. Adding aromatics and vegetables like thyme, garlic, onions and pepper flakes to your water can also help create wonderful boiling bases.
Blanching vegetables helps to loosen the skins for peeling, and brightens their natural colours too. Blanching also prepares vegetables for freezing. To blanch vegetables, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Immerse the vegetables into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes then remove them and place in an ice bath of ice cubes and water. Once cool, remove them from the ice bath and pat dry.
Pastas are typically cooked in the same manner. Bring a large amount of salted water to a boil, enough to cover your pasta by 1.5 inches. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and stir immediately. Cook for as long as the directions indicate, typically 7-9 minutes. When removed, the pasta should be tender and soft with a slight resistance (al dente). If the pasta is snappy or chewy, it’s not done.
Kale, bok choy and chard respond well to boiling because the leaves are tough and durable. Rinse your greens prior to boiling, removing any excess dirt. Bring 2/3 of a pot of water to a boil, then add your greens and cover for 3-5 minutes. Once the leaves are bright green, remove them and place in an ice bath. Boiled greens are great served sprinkled with healthy oils such as sesame oil or olive oil. In order to avoid mushy, overcooked vegetables, boil them for a short amount of time to preserve their texture and nutrients. Cut the vegetables just before boiling to keep them as fresh as possible. Also, cut them into smaller pieces to decrease cooking time and vitamin loss. Add your vegetables to boiling water, using only enough water to cover them as this minimizes the nutrient loss. Boil until tender, and then remove from the water.
Larger or tougher cuts of meat such as brisket can be boiled to delicious effect. Corned beef is a great example of a flavourful boiled meat. Season your boiling water with salt, stock and aromatics as desired. Add your meat then return to a boil and simmer. For meats on the bone, cook until the meat leaves the bone easily. You can also test the boiling meat with a fork to ensure it is cooked all the way through.
Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with 1-2 inches of cold water. This prevents the eggs from cracking in the water. Heat the water and eggs over high heat until boiling. Once boiling, remove the eggs from the heat for a few seconds. Return the pot to a low heat and simmer for 1 minute; then remove from the heat and let sit for 12 minutes. This prevents overcooking and ensures you won’t get a grey ring around the yolk.
- Embrace Flavour: Use stocks, wine, herbs, spices and other aromatics to add flavour to your boiled food.
- Know Your Vegetables: Root vegetables should be boiled by placing them in a pot of cold water first, and then slowly bring them to a boil. Add salt when the vegetables have reached their boiling point. Green and leafy vegetables should be plunged into pre-boiling, salted water.
- Watch the Fluid: Ensure that the water constantly covers the food. You may have to replace any evaporated fluid as well as balance the flavourings.
- Shock Your Food: Once your food is cooked, refresh it in cold water or stock briefly to prevent the food from continuing to cook.
- Let Water Remove Salt: Before boiling salted meats, let them soak in cold water to leech out excess salt. Remove the soaked meat and boil in fresh water with herbs and spices.
- Parboiling: Parboiling food is a great way to extend its life. Parboiling means the food is no more than half-cooked, typically boiled in salted water. You can then move the parboiled food directly to another cooking method like roasting (e.g. potatoes) or braising (e.g. celery).
- Blanching Uses: Use blanching to shorten cooking times and rid stronger vegetables like fennel of their bitter taste. You can also blanch vegetables, fruits and nuts with peels such as tomatoes and almonds to help remove their skins. Plunge them into boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds and then place directly into an ice water bath. The peels will slide off with little effort.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.
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