When braising meats or marrying sauces, you need to maintain a delicate simmer in order for them to come together. Learn more about what a simmer is and how to maintain it in this blog.
Over the last few decades, home cooking has become less of a necessary thing we all have to do, and more of an opportunity to flex our culinary muscles. This is due to the fact that restaurant-quality cooking utensils and equipment have become widely accessible to the public. So, now we’re able to pull off more adventurous meals and truly learn the basics of cooking.
As we’re learning more about these basics, it’s no doubt that there are several questions that budding home chefs ask themselves. “How do I julienne?”, “What is a sous vide machine?”, or “How do I sharpen my knife?” are some of the most common questions that populate the home chef’s mind as they navigate through the kitchen. Another question that’s frequently asked by home chefs is “What does a simmer look like?”.
If you’ve ever asked this question, this guide is for you. Keep reading to learn more!
What is a Simmer?
A simmer is a cooking method that uses a moderate heat to gently cook or soften foods. For it to be classified as a simmer, the temperature of the water generally stays just below the boiling point, 212 degrees Fahrenheit, with a range of 185 degrees-205 degrees. This method is great for slowly combining seasonings with ingredients to achieve maximum flavor, and is ideal for dishes such as soups, stews and braised meat and vegetables.
There are a few types of simmers that your water can reach, all of which can cook your foods differently.
A bare simmer is when there are a couple of small bubbles breaking through the surface every few seconds in different spots on the pot. This method is mostly used to create slow-cooked clear stocks, such as consomme, which would become cloudy if it’s introduced to too much agitation.
A true simmer is characterized by pockets of small yet consistent bubbling that gives off occasional wisps of steam. This method is ideal for braising meat, beans and other proteins that need to be gently cooked until they’re tender. This is also an ideal temperature to poach eggs.
A vigorous simmer, which can also be classified as a gentle boil, happens when there are constant small bubbles, the occasional larger bubble and frequent wisps of steam. This is the best temperature for creating sauces or thickening a liquid because it helps flavors and texture combine without causing splattering.
What is a Simmer vs. a Boil?
For new home cooks, the differences between simmering and boiling can be a little mystifying. Simmering cooks things at a lower temperature with less agitation, which allows cooks to slowly combine flavors to create a cohesive dish. It’s also a better choice for delicate foods that could break apart with the rapid bubbles that occur during a boil.
Boiling breaks down and softens food at a more rapid rate. When water is boiling, it reaches a temperature of at least 212°F, which is much more suited for cooking dry foods like pasta or grains, and root vegetables.
Is it Better to Simmer With the Lid On or Off?
Maintaining a simmer is actually much harder than it initially appears, especially if you’re new to cooking. It’s a delicate balancing act that needs relatively constant supervision. Using a lid when you’re trying to maintain a simmer does two negative things; first, it encourages the temperature to rise because there’s nowhere for excess heat and steam to go, and second, it prevents you from accurately monitoring the temperature of your water.
It’s best to keep the lid off of your pot so you can ensure that the heat is within the right temperature range for your specific dish. If you don’t, you’ll likely be met with boiling water and that could potentially ruin your dish.
How to Maintain a Simmer
Maintaining a simmering temperature can be tricky at first, but the tips below can help you master the technique in no time. Keep reading to learn more!
- If you’re in a hurry and need to get your water up to temperature quickly, cover your pot for a few minutes – just remember to take it off once you’ve reached your desired temperature!
- If your pot gets too hot, remove it from the heat for a few minutes or stir your liquid a few times to increase its surface area and introduce cool air to it. This will help cool it down to the temperature you want.
- Another way to cool down your hot liquid is to add a little bit more room-temperature broth or water to the mix.
- If you’re using a gas range, a flame tamer may be a tool you should consider buying. It helps to manage the heat of a particularly challenging burner.
- Stovetops can be tricky, especially if you’re not used to cooking or you’re in a new kitchen. So, to learn how to control the heat on a specific range, try simmering a plain pot of water to gauge your stove top’s temperature range.
- Once you start cooking, always keep your eye on things so you can be sure you’re maintaining a steady simmering temperature.
Public Goods: Providing You With Simmering Foods
There are so many things that can be cooked using a simmering technique, and once you master it, you’ll open yourself up to a whole new world of dishes. But, you have to walk before you can run, so in the meantime, you can try out this cooking method on foods that are already prepped. That’s where Public Goods can help you get started on your culinary journey.
From rich pasta sauces to mouth-watering ramen and soups, Public Goods has delicious options that you can use to practice your simmering skills. Browse through our sustainably sourced products today to find your next favorite meal!
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