Simmering versus Boiling - Vintage Cooking Process

Simmering at 185 degrees or even 200 degrees is undoubtedly far more effective for meat than violent boiling at 212 degrees.  With very few exceptions, the heat which is applied to do more than the smallest degree of simmering is practically wasted, the water being converted into useless steam. 

A fowl or any small joint which is put into boiling water and is allowed to gallop for an hour or longer can never be as satisfactory as if put on in boiling water or stock, made to boil for a minute or two and then allowed to simmer gently for an hour.  By this last process, it will be found that the same joint is tenderer, juicier and better flavored than would be the case by quick boiling.

Where Actual Boiling Heat Is Required

Boiling heat is required for only five purposes:

  1. In the first place, as a preliminary step in the cooking of meats in general.
  2. For all green and most other vegetables
  3. For rapid reductions of stocks
  4. For evaporating water from a sauce, an infusion or a decoction from vinegar, from wine, or from milk.
  5. For syrups of all kinds.

For these purposes, and these alone, a cook should resort to what is known as quick boiling.  Quick boiling can be brought to slow boiling or simmering by the addition of cold water or cold stock.  It is thus seen that boiling and simmering are quite distinct from each other.  Quick and constant boiling will never yield, as far as meats, soups, Râgouts and some sauces are concerned such good results as slow boiling, simmering or seething, as it is sometimes called, will produce.

When we speak of a boiled leg of mutton or a boiled fowl or turkey, it is really not boiled at all, with the exception of the first stage, which occupies at the most, not more than five to ten minutes, but merely simmered.

Boiling Meat

In boiling meat, a certain proportion of the nutritious qualities is sure to escape into the water and steam, for which reason the quantity of water should not be more than suffices to cover the meat, nor the saucepan an inch larger than is necessary to hold it.  Boiled too long, or too fast, meat becomes indigestible and hard.

Hard water is better than soft water for boiling meat in, more of its tenderness and richness being retained in the former than in the latter.  Too rapid boiling tends to overdo the exterior portion of the meat, while the interior remains underdone.  This is the reason that when the meat has been kept at the boiling point, about five minutes, the temperature should be reduced and the rest of the process be more slowly conducted.

Salted meat, in particular, should be very slowly cooked, kept simmering, and allowed to grow cool in the pot.  The scum which arises to the surface of the water should be carefully removed while the water is near boiling point, as otherwise it sinks, and looks very unsightly attached to the meat.

Genuine boiling at the stated temperature must, therefore, be described as a temporary process, being as a complete process only available for the five purposes already mentioned.

Simmering, on the other hand, is an operation with a varied scope in cookery, and as such can justly be described as the middle point of culinary heat applied for preparing certain foods.

Table Talk: The American Authority upon Culinary Topics and Fashions of the Table, Vol. XXVII, 1912, A Series of Articles Published Throughout the Year. Published Monthly by The Arthur H. Crist Co., Cooperstown, NY. A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of American Housewives, Having special reference to the Improvement of the Table.  Marion Harris Neil, Editor.

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