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Pro chef question: steaming vs. blanching

jono37 Oct 29, 2007 03:59 PM

OK everybody, answer me this one:

Why would you go through the trouble of heating and salting an entire pot of water to blanch a vegetable, when it would take a fraction of the time and water to lightly steam it? There would be nothing stopping you from shocking the vegetable after steaming it if you wanted to arrest the cooking process.

The only advantage to blanching that I can perceive is that the vegetable is cooked in salted water. To me, this is not a great enough advantage to make it worthwhile, as I can salt the vegetables afterward (or before).

My idea is contingent on having a nice large steaming apparatus to handle big quantities, which I do have, but is also cheap enough (esp. asian steaming baskets).

I actually think that my method works better, because of the inevitable problem of the drop in the temperature of the water when you blanch the vegetables, causing them to sit in tepid non-boiling water until the temperature comes up.

The only other factor that I can think of is if you actually want the vegetable to take up liquid, as you do when you boil noodles, but I can't think of a vegetable where this really applies.

So what do you think?

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  1. DanaB Oct 29, 2007 04:17 PM

    Blanching in salted water helps vegetables retain their color, much better than with steaming. If you use a large enough quantity of water, you should not have the problem with it taking too long to get back to the boil after the vegetables are added.

    1. digkv Oct 29, 2007 04:43 PM

      I think there's something where completely submerging the vegetable in boiling water provides this sort of even cooking. Blanching also makes it easier to know how long it takes for something to cook as it just floats up when done; preventing you from accidentally overcooking your vegetables to much. Though steaming does have the benefit of retaining vitamins.

      1. coastie Oct 29, 2007 04:49 PM

        Steaming is a cooking method, like roast - saute etc. Blanching is a process when a food product is partially cooked and then the cooking process is quickly arrested. You can blanch in a deep fat fryer .....you can blanch by steaming. If you have no need to hold the veggies - steam away

        1. tacostacoseverywhere Oct 30, 2007 06:14 AM

          If you're correctly blanching something, then it's not sitting in tepid water at all when it's finished-- it has been dunked in an ice bath to completely stop the cooking process where you want it stopped; at which point it can be removed to a dry pan and refrigerated, or put aside until the other components of the dish are finished. Proper blanching is the best way to maintain color (blanched vegetables have a much more vibrant color) and texture when the veggies aren't being used within a couple of minutes. Whomever told you that blanching allowed veggies to sit in tepid H20 doesn't know what the term means.

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