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Apr 23, 2007 05:18 PM

Rules for par-boiling meat

Do you start with cold water or plunk the meat into already-boiling water? Salt or not? After skimming the froth & foam, cover or not? I know to simmer, not hard-boil, but that's all I'm sure of...

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  1. The rule is: Don't do that. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but I can't understand why anyone would want to do that. It turns any piece of meat into a tasteless mass. Then you add sauce or whatever and it becomes cardboard with that sauce on top. What are you going to cook? Let's talk about cooking it without the pot of water...

    10 Replies
    1. re: woodburner

      Actually, it's a common Chinese technique when making broth. You blanch the meat, throw that water away, rinse it, then reboil.

      Sorry, can't add any fine details as I have never actually done it that way, just read about it.

      1. re: Louise

        My various relatives would start pork or chicken in cold water, then, as soon as the water comes to a boil, drain the pot. Start with cold water again. It does make for much clearer broths.

      2. re: woodburner

        Par-boiling, as the other poster wrote, is not cooking it to death. It is a brief boiling, prior to further cooking, such as a longer simmer.

        One reason is to remove the scum and offensive flavors and odors, producing a clearer broth during the main cooking step. I've done this with tripe and tongue. Par-boiling is not long enough to extract much flavor from the meat (unless cut very small or thin), nor should it toughen it. I wouldn't do it for a fine piece of steak.

        Where it more controversial is whether to do this with ribs. Some view it as a way of removing excess fat, others think it extracts all the flavor from the meat. I suspect a true, brief par-boil does neither.

        Simmering meat till it is nearly tender, and finishing it in some way that develops a crust and browning is a different thing. One of the ways of making Mexican carnitas does this - simmer the meat till the liquid is gone, then fry in the rendered fat. Yes, flavor is extracted from the meat while simmering, but it remains in the dish.

        Boiled dinners are yet another thing. There are classic French and Spanish dishes that involve simmering a good flavorful piece of meat. But they use the broth as well as the meat.


        1. re: paulj

          Thanks, Paul. At least it starts to make some sense for me. Still, I'll hold my ground in relation to any BBQ effort.

          1. re: woodburner

            Yup, I'm w/ you woodburner. For a while I was parboiling chicken pieces before making barbecued chicken. Perhaps a caterer's shortcut. A bad idea. The flavor is in the (discarded) water, and the meat turns out rubbery.

            Better technique I've discovered is to use a spice rub in advance, barbecue over low heat (the side of the grilll w/o the charcoal) and add bbq sauce just at the very end (it tends to burn w/ sugar in it)

            1. re: NYchowcook

              I've frequently read of 'flavor in the discarded water'. I assume that most of this flavor is the juices that have been expelled from the meat as it cooks. I know that when ever I braise meat in a reasonably well sealed container (pot with lid, or foil package) that I end up with more liquid than I started with. What happens to this flavor when your roast, grill, or BBQ meat? Is less juice expelled? This could be tested by weighing meat, much as several people have done when they tested the myth about searing sealing in juices. Or do the juices evaporate, leaving flavor components on the surface of the meat? What about the juices and fat that drip on to the coals?

              In a Mexcian barbacoa, the meat juices and fat are caught in a pan under the meat, and are served as broth.

              Another possibility is that the simmering water actually leaches flavor components out of meat. That must happen with long simmering, such as when making stock. I'm less certain that happens when meat is cooked just long enough to be tender.


              1. re: paulj

                All I can tell you is that when I've seen ribs parboiled, they come out of the water literally gray (blech!) and flavorless. Then the sauce is added and they are grilled for a few minutes. Still blech! I want a dry rub on the meat, with smoke and low heat to melt the fat and let the seasonings, smoke and fat flavor that meat. I'm learning here that there are certain styles and dishes where the meat can benefit from a QUICK boil before full cooking... but it ain't for me.

          2. re: paulj

            I've also very briefly parboiled duck prior to roasting to remove some fat and ensure the meat stays moist while the skin crisps later. I cooled the duck after parboiling.

            1. re: mingerspice

              You don't need to parboil a duck if you use the amazing five-hour roast duck technique!

              1. re: NYchowcook

                Alton Brown did a duck episode, in which he steamed the duck (45 min?) before roasting.

        2. I par boil thick sausages, particulalry our favourite gourmet ones, bullboars, as they are very VERY think and it's hard to get a nice smokey and crispy skin AND get them cooked all the way thru. I add the sausages to cold water.. no salt and bring the water to a gradual simmer. I heat for about 10 mins, skimming as I go.. until the sausages are firm to the squeeze.

          This ensures I get a lovely cooked-thru snag, with a crusty BBQ smoked skin.

          4 Replies
          1. re: purple goddess

            Some recipes call for simmering sausages briefly to 'stiffen' them prior to other use (toad-in-the-hole comes to mind).


            1. re: paulj

              I'm with you Paul on the chicken rub, with some low and slow indirect fire, and finishing sauce if you like.

              Try this with sausages: instead of grilling, or boiling then grilling, just put the sausages on with indirect heat, covered, for about an hour (turn at 30 min.) Use some wood with the coals. You will get a smoked sausage that is fabulous, with crisped skin. You can use regular italian sausage and people will go crazy. Remember that when you slice it open, the pink ring near the exterior is from smoke -- it is fully cooked. If it was undercooked, the pink would be at the center, not the edge. It is a whole different taste. Ah gaaaa-roooon-teeee!

              1. re: woodburner

                Woody, I shall pass that on to Mr Goddess who is DA KING of the smoke and grill BBQ in out house...


            2. re: purple goddess

              I had the hardest time with brats the last time I tried to grill them. I wanted to just cook them fast and skipped the boiling in beer. Bad idea.

            3. A quick par-boil of rough ground beef and pork is the only cooking used when I make Lao/NE Thai laap.