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Boiling is a method of cooking, which requires the food to be immersed into a utensil which contains water or any other fluid such as milk, stock or other edible liquids which are consistently maintained at their boiling point. The cooked food can be removed from the fluid or even be served as boiled food along with the liquid in which it is cooked. Some of the most popular boiled recipes that are found in almost every cuisine across the globe include different kinds of boiled rice, soup and sauce preparations.

Origin of Boiling As a Method of Cooking
Although there is no specific record of time as to when boiling originated as a method of cooking, the presence of large pots in some of the earliest kitchens that could be traced proves the fact that boiling was used as a cooking process at least ten thousand years ago. The fact that boiling requires utensils that are fireproof as well as waterproof also supports and also implies that the boiling process followed pottery, which had developed during the same era. The liquid used to be placed on hanging cooking pots, and cooked over burning wood or coal in the early days, which has now been replaced with utensils specifically made for preparing boiled dishes and gas stoves and ranges. There is not one specific cuisine that uses boiling as a method of cooking. Due to its versatility, boiled recipes are a part of every cuisine.

The Process of Boiling
Although there are many different ways of cooking using moist heat, such as steaming, poaching, braising and stewing, boiling should not be confused with them. The most important characteristic of this method is that the liquid should be maintained at its boiling point during the entire cooking process. Boiled recipes are a part of everyday cooking, as it is one of the basic methods of cooking food. Certain basic guidelines that need to be followed are:

  • The food item that is being cooked should remain completely immersed in the liquid all the time, until cooked. In case the boiled dish is being prepared in an open container, the fluid should be replenished in case an excess amount of it gets evaporated while cooking.
  • When boiling meat, the flavor can be highly enhanced by adding herbs, spices and vegetables to the liquid. This however, depends on individual taste and preferences.
  • Gentle boiling should be applied for meats in order to preserve their flavor and juices, and fast boiling should be applied to vegetables so that they get cooked without losing their color and essential nutrients.
  • The Scum, a frothy substance that often rises to the surface while preparing boiled dishes must be removed and discarded, as it not only discolors the cooking liquid but also spoils the taste of the food being boiled.
  • When boiling meat and/or vegetables only for cooking purpose, the remaining fluid, in which it was cooked, can be used for preparing different gravies, curries or sauces, as it is highly flavorful and nutritious. This liquid is called pot liquor.
  • Pressure containers should be used for vigorous boiling, as they save time as well as money.
  • Root vegetables need to be placed in cold water and then placed on heat to boil. This process helps in enhancing the flavor.

Popular Boiled Dishes
The most popular boiled dishes are soups such as Chicken Noodle Soup, Minestrone, Onion Soup and Asian Hot and Sour Soup as appetizers and various curries and gravy dishes as main course preparations. The popularity depends across various cuisines as almost every cuisine has its own boiled recipes. Meats such as chicken and beef, vegetables like potatoes, beans and other root vegetables are best suited for preparing boiled dishes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Boiling
Boiling as a method of cooking has several advantages over other methods. Firstly, it is the easiest and one of the safest methods of cooking. Also, choosing boiling as a cooking method often produces stock, a nutritious and flavorful liquid that can be used to prepare a variety of dishes. Green vegetables are best cooked by boiling as it retains nutrients and natural color, when cooked to the right extent. Boiling also makes food easy to digest.

As with every other method, boiling also has certain disadvantages. In case the stock, or cooking fluid is discarded, it results in a loss of nutrients which have been transferred from the food to the liquid. Boiled food is not as visually appealing as food cooked using other methods, and boiling can also be a time-consuming cooking process.

Techniques Similar to Boiling
There are various other types of moist heat cooking methods very similar to boiling that are often confused with boiling. For example, Poaching is pretty much the same as boiling, with the only difference that the cooking liquid is kept just below boiling point while poaching. Poaching is generally used for very tender foodstuffs. Steaming is another process similar to boiling, with the difference being the fact boiling requires food to be immersed in the boiling liquid, while steaming involves cooking the food using the steam that is generated by boiling a liquid.

Tips on Boiling
Boiling drinking water and then cooling it prior to consumption can kill most of the disease-causing bacteria present in water. If you are in a disease prone area prefer boiled food over raw food.

Trivia on Boiling
100 degrees Celsius is the generally accepted boiling temperature, although it can vary due to factors like the fluid used, addition of salt/sugar, altitude above sea level etc.

Did you know that it is hard to boil food on high altitude as boiling temperature of water comes down. Water boils at 212F at the seal level but the boiling temperature drops by 1F for each 500 foot increase in altitude.