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whats up with this

is there any reason why some recipes when they want u to simmer say bring to a boil first than to a simmer,and other recipes never say anything about boil first just say simmer ingr. ,is there reasons for this? any one have an idea why this is?

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  1. The very definition of simmer is to bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer which is only a few bubbles. It is just the quickest way to get a pot to simmer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hank Hanover

      I would define simmer as just below boil. It does not require you to bring it to a boil first. However the quickest and easiest way to bring something to a simmer is to use high heat to bring it to a boil, and then back off on the heat. Without the visual clue of boiling it is hard to target a simmer.

      There may be some items that benefit from a period at boil before simmering. Beans come to mind. Rice is almost always brought to a boil first, but I'm not sure that's a requirement.

      On the other hand, when 'scalding' milk, you want to bring it up to a simmer, staying away from a boil. The temperature difference isn't big, but boiling milk boils over.

    2. it's fastest to get it to a boil then just reduce the heat.

      1. then why isnt all rec. written like that.

        2 Replies
        1. re: walnut

          It would help to point to specific recipes. We could then discuss whether the author just omitted the boil step (assuming the cook would still do it), or whether you should stay away from a boil in that case. Recipes are not all refined to the same degree, or make the same assumptions about the cook's knowledge.

          1. re: walnut

            Because different recipe writers have their own way of writing (and their own assumptions about what the reader is likely to know about techniques).

          2. the recipe i was looking for was for sloppy joe.....one i think was on this site and they didnt boil first and another recipe for sloppy joe i have said boil and then bring. to simmer. Sloppy Joes (from Allrecipes.com)

            2 pounds lean ground beef
            1/2 cup chopped onion
            1 cup chopped celery
            1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato
            1/4 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon white vinegar
            1/4 cup packed brown sugar
            1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
            8 hamburger buns

            1. Place ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until evenly browned, stirring to crumble. I like to use a potato masher to even out the lumps. Add onion and celery, cover the pan, and cook until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Drain off any grease.
            2. Stir the tomato soup (undiluted), ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce into the beef mixture. Season with salt and garlic powder. Heat to a simmer over low heat, and cook until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning on the bottom.
            3. Spoon the hot beef mixture onto buns, which may be toasted first, and serve.

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            By Gail on May 7, 2011 12:39 PM

            why the difference

            2 Replies
            1. re: walnut

              I think the author is worried about burning if the heat is too high. It looks like the sauce part is thick and sweet, and could easily burn. If you have good heat control (gas or induction), and are diligent with stirring you could get by with higher initial heat. Otherwise stick with lower heat.

              The boil then simmer direction makes more sense with the sauce/stew/soup is initially quite soupy.

              1. re: walnut

                The recipe writer says why they recommend using a low heat to bring it to a simmer - "to prevent it burning on the bottom". Absolutely correct advice with all that sugar in the recipe.

              2. where did u see where the writer said that ......never mind i see it. one of those days

                1. The reason is this; You bring the food to boiling temperature fast over high heat, and then keep it at just right below that temp by turning down the heat and covering, which adds pressure to the contents of your pot/pan, allowing it to "simmer", or cook. If you left the pot uncovered and tried to boil, you would lose moisture; reducing and thickening the liquid, and probably end up scorching the food to the bottom. This is pretty basic stuff! You'll do this a lot making stews, soups and sauces. Sloppy Joes too, apparently!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: stiritup

                    but you don't always leave the lid on things while they're simmering -- in some things, like soups and stews, for example, you actually don't WANT the lid, as you WANT to reduce and thicken the liquid (which also concentrates the flavors).

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I know what you mean, but my point is that unless I'm trying to reduce liquid, then I don't continue to cook such dishes uncovered over a higher heat. Meat sauces especially, very often develop a better flavor by cooking "low and slow". You can always reduce the liquid in the final minutes before serving if you need to though.

                      1. re: stiritup

                        ever made homemade chicken stock? Low, slow -- and uncovered by necessity (otherwise you'll just have a big pot of very hot water that vaguely tastes of...something.)

                        If you're braising a piece of meat, then you need the lid to keep the moisture in.

                  2. My theory has always been that water has a maximum temperature of 212 before it steams, so if its steaming you've pretty much hit maximum temperature, regardless of bubbles. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. I don't like to let it come to a boil, because from everything I've read, boiling it emulsifies back into the liquid (if you're making something like stock where this matters).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: schoenfelderp

                      No - you can have something that steams long before it boils.

                      Witness how a cup of coffee steams like crazy if you take it outside on a cold day -- that coffee isn't boiling -- but it sure is steaming.

                      The water in a stock is not separate from the stock -- it is an integral part of the stock, and it doesn't matter whether it's boiling or not -- it's in there.

                      1. re: schoenfelderp

                        Here is a link to the reason that water "Steams" under a boil