HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


not bringing to boil

if it isn't over heat and the recipe says "bring to a simmer" and you dont bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to simmer,how would you bring to a simmer? Would it be safe to say any heat setting can use to get it to a simmer like low ,med. high and once there reduce to maintain a simmer? Of course at low longer get to simmer ,med.little faster and high faster. I really would like some advice on this.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Depends on your stove. If you have electric coil burners, use high heat, and lower the setting once the liquid simmers, there will still be extra heat long enough that the liquid will continue to get hotter, possibly boiling. You can control that to an extent by moving the pot partway off the coil. If you have a glass-top electric, the heat may reduce faster, or not, depending on the model of the stove. With a gas stove, the heat responds quickly. With an induction burner, the heat responds instantly. In general, avoid high heat settings when you need the liquid's temp to get lower quickly.

    1. why is it rec. have bring to a simmer over low heat, medium heat and some say even over high heat is it just how fast they want you to get to a simmer?

      1 Reply
      1. re: walnut

        I think a lot of your confusion comes from semantics. You can get from point A to point B in a recipe via a variety of instructions, all basically saying the same thing, but in a different way.
        I hope that makes sense.
        What's important is that you know WHY something should be simmering and not boiling, or WHY something should be boiling for a while.
        And, know your cooking apparatus to know what works for your specific equipment to effect the result you're looking for.

      2. Bringing to a simmer over a low heat prevents agitation which can cloud a sauce or consomme when profuse boiling ensues.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hankstramm

          Also, when making stocks and broths, bringing the water to a simmer from cold very slowly helps draw the juices out of the meat, making a nice stock.

        2. Usually when a recipe says to bring to a simmer, I use a higher level of heat and just keep my eye on it to bring the heat down, once I see the liquid has reached a level of simmer. Of course, that depends somewhat on what I'm cooking--the ingredients and the level of liquid. If making a custard-type sauce, or hollandaise (really anything with eggs), for example, the heat is always kept low. But if I'm cooking a soup or stew or vegetables that need to simmer, using a high heat at the outset to quickly raise the temperature of the liquid is a time saver, and energy saver, and does no harm to food.

          1. jannie cooks would i be right to think as simmer like i do a boil as far as the heat is concern .. Sometimes i do over low or medium instead of high for boil depends on food and liquid in pot

            1 Reply
            1. re: walnut

              Sorry, walnut, your question isn't clear to me. Here are some articles that might explain things for you:


              Hopefully you will read them all; should clarify things for you.

            2. I usually bring the heat up at higher heat level and then turn it down.

              1. jannie cooks what i am saying when i boil something depending on the ingr. in the pot i boil either at med heat or high. So i was thinking for simmer i would do the same when it comes to bring to a simmer. Depending whats in pot the ingr. i would bring to a simmer over either high heat or low heat ...(like for eggs) or some times med. heat. Would this be right

                1 Reply
                1. re: walnut

                  walnut, it is very difficult to give you a definitive answer. If you were to you reframe your questions to make them specific, you would probably get better information. It is nigh impossible to give specific answers to generic questions, and it seems you seek specifics.

                  What exactly are you cooking? Is it a stew, a soup, a pot of lentils, stock/broth, a fricassee of chicken, marinara sauce, a curry, a bechamel, etc. etc. If you could explain the specific recipe you're cooking and what in the recipe is giving you trouble, you would probably value the responses you get more.

                  If you're just reading and wondering, rather than cooking something specific, then I suggest reading the Cooking Class: boiling and simmering thread I linked to earlier from Cooking Light website, and maybe looking at these additional "Cooking Class" topics on the same site:


                  Many of the topics on the cooking class search I entered are useful, they have videos on the site that may allow you see the difference between a boil and a simmer, etc.

                  What no one can tell you is how YOUR cooktop behaves. They are mostly all different from one another. As other posters have pointed out, one needs to get to know the idiosyncrasies of one's equipment.

                  But don't give up seeking out information. Posters on this site want to be helpful, they really do, but you gotta give us more to go on.

                2. what i am asking on some rec. say gradually bring up to simmer over medium heat or even some say low heat , why is it they say on some things med. heat others low.? Would this have anything to do with the ingr. in the pot? Here never go to high for a boil then reduce to simmer.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: walnut

                    it depends what you are cooking.

                    soooooo... what are you cooking?

                    1. re: walnut

                      <why is it they say on some things med. heat others low.? >

                      I think it is just because the each stove is different and the pot size also matters. One stove's medium can be one stove's low, and the heat requirement to simmer 1 quart of liquid is different than the heat needed to simmer 10 quarts of liquid.

                      I am guessing that these may be the reasons.

                    2. This is now your third thread about simmering.


                      As many people have told you on many of your other threads, cooking and cooking terminology are not exact sciences. Unless your recipe tells you to heat a specific way (e.g., "bring to simmer slowly over a low heat"), you should feel free to experiment and find out what works for you when you simmer.

                      1. thank you for keeping track on my threads. I have questions that cant find answers to so i thought this site would be helpful.and it is.

                        1. my concern is when i do a cream sauce or spag. sauce or any food really and the rec. says bring to a simmer i dont know where to start . I know usually btab and rts but bring up to to simmer i am lost if the rec. doesnt say bring up to simmer over med, heat say. If just say bring up to simmer...... I dont know what to do ...i dont know how else to say this.maybe i am missing something dont know on simmering? Starting in a cold pan bring to simmer.....

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: walnut

                            if had cold pan with say cream sauce or say veg. in it...... i could put the pan on any heat setting and bring it to simmer. how do you determine what heat source to use . Thats what i am asking.

                            1. re: walnut

                              It really depends on the likelihood that the ingredients you're using will burn and how willing you are to stand around stirring them to keep that from happening. It also matters what kind of stove you have and how much the temperature will coast after you turn it down.

                              If I'm making a tomato sauce or cooking vegetables in water, it doesn't really need to boil hard, but it isn't going to hurt it anything if it does, so I can start it on high heat, get it up to a simmer quickly and turn it down. If it boils a bit, oh well, and I save time by adding heat more quickly.

                              If I'm cooking a cream sauce that I don't want to boil or burn, I'll bring it up to temperature on medium or low. It takes longer, but it reduces the chances that I'll burn the milk on the way, and if I then turn it down, the element is holding less heat so the sauce won't coast past simmering into boiling.

                              As others have mention, it's really about trading off speed against the likelihood of screwing up your dish. If it's a dish with wide margin for error, go ahead and save time. If it's a delicate or sensitive dish where burning, boiling or losing a lot of moisture might damage the dish, take a slower more careful approach.

                            2. re: walnut

                              You aren't missing anything. You are making this way too hard for yourself. If you want to be safe, heat the pot over a medium heat until you start to see the first few bubbles, then turn the heat down. Give the pot a stir every once in a while to make sure nothing is burning at the bottom. If you have a really big pot of soup or stew or chili, feel free to use high heat to get to a simmer, then turn the heat down. Once again, give a stir every once in a while.

                              That's all there is to it. There is no secret, no magic.

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                why did you say medium heat ? and for soup or chili use high heat...why not medium for soup or chili. how do u decided? sorry just trying to understand

                                1. re: walnut

                                  I said medium in case you are afraid of burning whatever you are cooking. I said high for stuff like soup or chili because those are usually in big pots and not delicate. You can use medium for those if you'd like. Or low for everything. It just depends on how patient you are. Regardless of what heat you use, stirring will prevent burning.

                                  As janniecooks wrote above, it would help to know what you're actually cooking if you want concrete guidance.

                                  1. re: walnut

                                    The thicker the ingredients, or the more sugar they contain, the more likely they are to burn. So it depends on what you want to make. On America's Test Kitchen radio, they gave a tip to melt an ice cube in the (empty) pan before adding milk to prevent scorching from the heat being too high. The ice cube is not important other than as a way of getting just a little water. It could just as well be a couple tablespoons of water from the tap.

                                2. re: walnut

                                  Turn up the stove a little, wait a few minutes and see if it simmers. No simmering? Repeat.

                                3. thank you very much everyone,that helped me . Thanks again for putting up with me:)

                                  1. Need some of your expr. Help here. I have a rec. that I am working on and they say to bring up slowly over gentle heat to a simmer. Increase as need be. Please before you all start telling this is your forth thread etc.. On simmering.,I do get simmering. What I am asking is how long do you wait before turning up a bit the heat . If I have on low and not doing any thing ....do wait say 10 min...or what before you move the heat up? I am stuck here bec. You could just wait awhile here on low and would get there. But for some reason I don't think they want you to do this. So again I ask how long do I wait before I turn it up. I am very serious on asking this bec. I don't know.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: walnut

                                      These aren't the sort of questions that have very precise answers, unfortunately.

                                      Is there an overall cooking/simmering time given for the recipe? That might give you some guidance on how long these stages are supposed to take.

                                      Basically, though, the goal here is to bring it up to a simmer without a) boiling it or b) burning it. How you need to adjust the heat to do that is going to be a function of your pot and your stove as much as it is a function of the recipe, though the recipe -- particularly the volume of liquid you're trying to heat -- will have an effect as well.

                                      I know that for my electric stove, I can bring a smallish pot of water to a boil on high in about 7 minutes. If I put that same pot of water on high on my mother's gas stove, it would be boiling by 3 or 4 minutes and it would be half boiled away by 7 minutes.

                                      Maybe try an experiment on your stove where you bring water rather than your recipe ingredients up to a simmer on different settings on your stove. See how long it takes on each setting to get it up to a simmer, and which settings will then take it past a simmer to a boil if you leave it for longer. That should help you better understand the settings on your own stove and the kind of response you can expect.

                                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                                        Thank you.. I have tried the stove settings with water and understand that. It just the rec. threw me for a loop bec. Like I said could do on low but would take longer ..... ( again depends on my ingr. And how mich I have) too. I will see if there is a time listed in my rec.. Thank you again. Oh by the way am I correct to say gentle heat is low, med low, and maybe medium? I know all stoves are different but in general is this correct?

                                        1. re: walnut

                                          In general, lower heat settings are going to be more gentle, yes.