Simmering is a moist heat method of cooking food by immersing it in hot water which is just below its boiling point, but not completely still. Simmering emerged as a variation of boiling by cooking foods at a temperature slightly lower than that of boiling. Simmering point of a liquid is the temperature at which the bubbles have just started to form and the liquid is gently moving. Simmered dishes include stews and gravies.
Origin of Simmering
The origin of simmering can be dated back to the origin of boiling, which was several centuries ago. Simmering evolved as a method for cooking tough cuts of meat and vegetables in a liquid maintained at a temperature which was slightly below boiling temperature but a little above poaching temperature. Simmering thus developed as a process of liquid cooking between poaching and boiling. Just like its predecessor, simmering became a widely used method in almost every cuisine of the world, and is still used not only to prepare individual dishes but also to process certain ingredients like meats and vegetables for further cooking by another process. Slow cooked crock pot dishes and meat stews are commonly prepared simmered recipes.
The Process of Preparing Simmered Dishes
Simmering is carried out by completely immersing the food inside water, stock or any other cooking liquid which is continuously kept at a temperature just below its boiling point (180-200 degrees Fahrenheit in case of water). In most cases, the liquid is first brought to a boil, after which the heat is reduced so as to keep the liquid simmering. The liquid used for simmering may be discarded or served along with the cooked food, as in the case of gravies and sauce-based simmered dishes. Simmering is often used to cook tough cuts of meat, which take a long duration of time to break down the tough connective tissues present in the meat. Root vegetables and other foods, which require prolonged cooking in a gently moving liquid, are also better cooked by this method. The equipment required for preparing simmered recipes includes a controllable heat source and a container to carry out the simmering process. Simmering is a fast process, though more time consuming than boiling, but the length of the cooking time actually depends on the ingredient or dish being cooked. The usage of the method ranges from everyday dishes to complex gourmet preparations.
Popular Simmered Recipes
Simmered dishes include stewed beef, chicken curry, and a wide variety of soup, sauce and crock pot recipes. Some dishes are also prepared by first cooking by another method and then simmering so as to allow the flavors to concentrate and thicken the gravy or sauce. Most of the firm and tough meats and vegetables are suitable for simmering, as it cooks the food all through, at the same time preventing it from breaking up, since the liquid is hot but boils gently. Simmering is widely practiced in the Western cuisine while preparing crock pot dishes and stews. In the East, it is more commonly applied in the preparation of curries and soups.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Simmering
Simmering is advantageous over boiling as it saves fuel, since the temperature to be maintained is lower in case of simmering. It also helps in tenderizing meats, which is an added advantage while preparing delectable dishes out of inexpensive, tough meats.
Disadvantages of simmering are that it is a time consuming process as compared to boiling, and excessive simmering can destroy the nutrients present in the food.
Techniques Similar to Simmering
Both boiling and poaching are methods very similar to simmering. The only difference lies in the temperature; boiling is performed at the highest temperature, followed by simmering at a slightly lower temperature, which is followed by poaching at an even lower temperature.
• Simmering temperature changes with the change in the altitude.
• New age gas ranges come equipped with a Simmering Burner, in order to carry out the simmering process with ease.
• When a simmered dish is prepared by using milk or cream as the simmering liquid, the dish is termed creamed, instead of simmered.