Understanding Water Cooking Terms - dummies

Understanding Water Cooking Terms

Cooking with water is simple, but not understanding water cooking terms can ruin a dish. It helps to know water cooking terms so you can do exactly what a recipe calls for.

  • Boiling: When bubbles form at the bottom of the pot and then rise to break the surface.

    • Rapid boil: Bringing water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Bubbles are breaking quickly and vigorously. Lots of steam.

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    • Slow boil: Bringing water to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Bubbles break slowly.

  • Simmering and poaching: Like a gentle pre-boil. In a simmer, tiny bubbles break the surface gently — like a soft summer shower on a still lake. No, really, that’s what it looks like! Simmering (or poaching) occurs at a lower temperature — just below a slow boil. Temperature is 185 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Parboiling and blanching: Pre-cooking tough foods in boiling water to soften their textures or to make their skins easier to remove.

  • Reducing: Boiling stock or liquid to thicken and intensify the flavor, typically for use in a sauce. Reducing actually reduces the volume of the liquid by boiling off the water, leaving a thicker, more richly flavored liquid behind.

  • Steaming: The gentlest way to cook and good for retaining a food’s color, flavor, texture, shape, and nutrients.