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Jan 3, 2009 12:53 PM

Why am I skimming foam on black-eyed peas?

We're late doing our New Year's dinner so I'm cooking my "peas" now. I always skim "foam" on things that make foam. But WHY am I doing that? It's not as if it's something unclean - or at least it won't be once I cook those peas. So WHY??? TIA.

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  1. I was "told" that the foam has a bitter flavor and skimming helps. I have no idea if this is true. I skim because I don't find the foam attractive, and just in case it is bitter. How is that for a non-answer?

    2 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      I know. It's like I DO it but I don't know why. I LIKE your answer :)

      1. re: c oliver

        Well, I don't know why people skim foam either. The foam is a product of the water soluble proteins in the beans. It recombines back into solution as the beans continue to cook. If you taste the foam and find it "bitter" (I've never found it to be bitter) then I suppose you might want to skim it off. Otherwise, IMO it's an unnecessary step that takes time away from other things I could be doing in preparing my recipe.

    2. *please take this with a grain of salt since I'm not a pro, and feel free to cross-reference with some serious technique cookbooks*

      the foam is supposed to add bitter flavor & unpleasant appearance to your broths and/or stews. Ideally, you shouldn't be boiling your peas/meats/whatever at a high temp, they should be set at a temperature that is barely above a simmer which will eliminate the foam and therefore the need for skimming.

      I'm sure there's some cool scientific explanation that involves high heat vs. protein but hopefully a more science-minded chef will post it. I *can* tell you that I make soup all the time and stew dried beans and once I relearned to do so at a lower temp there has been no skimming necessary. I'd say the flavor has improved as well but that could just be psychosomatic ;-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: micapu

        Lol.... I asked myself the same question... Foam looks gaseous to me... Therefore it must go

      2. I suspect it's at least partly a carryover from times when foods weren't nearly as clean as they are today and before adjustable heat stoves.
        The foam from foods that produced foam would also float detritus to the surface where it could skimmed and dumped.