[TRIVIA] Boiling VS. Simmering

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A pot of pasta boiling on a stove.

Trivia Question: What is the difference between a boil and a simmer?

Answer:

Simply a simmer is at a lower temperature than a boil. But check out below for more details.

A boil, also called a rolling boil, is when the liquid reaches a temperature where it bubbles and starts to vaporize. The liquid is really moving in a boil and there are lots of bubbles. A simmer is just below a boil where the liquid is moving and there may be a small amount of bubbles breaking the surface but only a few. There’s also, a third category which is a poach and this is even below a simmer where the liquid is moving but there are no bubbles breaking the surface.

They’re each important for different things – a boil helps pasta stay in motion and therefore doesn’t stick to each other or the pot as much. A simmer helps flavors come together and seep into each other which is why you will often simmer meats and soups. A poach is for things that do not need high temps for cooking like some fish and eggs.

It’s important to know these differences because many recipes will call for the liquid to come to a boil and then left at a simmer for X amount of time. But why, you may ask?

There are a number of reasons why going to a boil first is helpful:

  1. Cooking Time – to have a liquid go to a boil and then down to a simmer is much faster than to wait for it to come just to a simmer.
  2. Cooking Control – it’s easier to bring a liquid down to a simmer from a boil and it will be more reactive to heat changes.
  3. Cooking Evenly – bringing liquid to a boil helps you to know that it is all at the same temperature and therefore things are cooking evenly.

One last thing to note is that it’s important to make sure things are at a simmer when a simmer is called for. If it remains at a boil then the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the items may overcook. If it drops below a simmer then the food may not cook and it could take an awfully long time plus have too much liquid at the end.

Hope that helps you along on your journey to cooking your own food.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask! You can reach me in the comments below or via email: dua@duardn.com. If you are looking for some help with meal planning or getting started on cooking for yourself, then schedule an appointment with me today!

PS. Check out @duardn on Instagram to join in on the weekly trivia!

– Dua Aldasouqi, MA, RDN, Certified Health Coach

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