This page tells you about the main techniques involved in boiling food and explores this common cooking method.
Thickening Agents
Procedures of Boiling
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Boiling is the cooking of foods in a liquid either at or brought to boiling point.

Although boiling appears to be a simple method of cookery care must be taken to prepare, time and finish the items. Boiling pasta

Complex sauces and soups are the result of boiling. Fine meat dishes are boiled as are many vegetables. The humble boiled egg must be carefully timed if the ideal consistency is to be achieved be that a lightly cooked Breakfast egg or "oeufs mollet" or a cold hard boiled egg.

There are several liquids in which food can be boiled are:

1) water
2) stock
3) a blanc (water with lemon and flour mixed in)
4) court bouillon
5) milk

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Keywords :

Simmering: boiling gently with gentle surface motion.

Blanching: is the pre-cooking or part cooking of food by plunging into boiling water e.g green vegetables

Refreshing: is the cooling of food after blanching or boiling by plunging into cold water or running under cold water

Blanc: is the name of the liquid used to cook delicate items where colour may be lost . Lemon juice and flour are added to the cooking water to give a more gentle cooking movement, to prevent breaking up and to discolouration.

Al dente: is from the Italian "to the tooth" usually applied to pasta and describes the point in cooking when the food is still chewy when bitten into.

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Methods of Boiling

There are two basic methods of boiling:

1. Food is placed in cold liquid and then brought to the boil and cooked.

  • - this method is safer than dropping into boiling water
  • - it helps tenderise fibrous structure
  • - it helps extract flavour
  • - it prevents items loosing shape
  • - helps to preserve clarity of the liquid

2. Food is placed in boiling liquid and cooked.

  • - retains as much colour as possible
  • - reduces enzymic action that destroys Vitamin C

Test your knowledge and identify six other types of food that should be
cooked by one of the two methods:

Leaf vegetables

Root veg


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1. Select correct equipment, check it is clean/undamaged and the correct size and type.
-i.e. big enough - does not boil over - allow for stirring
-a minimum amount of water should be used when cooking vegetables to cut down vitamin loss.

2. Collect ingredients in the correct quantities and prepare.

3. Check that the heat source is ready, electric stoves should be pre-heated.

4. Use sufficient liquid - pasta, rice, and eggs should be cooked in large quantities of water so that the water returns to the boil quickly.

5. Decide whether the food should be placed into cold or hot liquid and how long it takes per Kilogram.

6. Melt fat and add flour if making a roux. Season, or thicken as appropriate e.g. Bouquet Garni, salt & pepper.

7. Temperature control - simmer as required, prevent drying out.

8. Skim impurities and fat from the surface as appropriate.

9. Cook evenly to prevent burning, stir if boiling vigorously.

10. Remove food when cooked or blanched - refresh as appropriate, serve or maintain at appropriate temperature.
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A varirty of equipment can be used you have to choose the most appropriate for the item to be boiled:



-Boiling pans (directly/indirectly heated)

-Brat(t) pans

- Induction pans - contain an electrically generated magnetic field - heat is created by the changing direction of electric current.

-Steam-jacketed kettles or boilers.

CLEANING - saucepans should be washed in hot water and rinsed in clean hot water.

Steam-jacketed kettles, brat pans, and free standing stockpots should be turned off and allowed to cool before cleaning with a mild detergent solution.

MAINTENANCE - check regularly for cracks, oil tilting mechanisms and counterbalanced lids.
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To Test your Knowledge define the following terms and give four examples of food appropriate for each:






Holding for service

Batch cooking

  • Simmering- should follow boiling because:
    it reduces evaporation & shrinkage
    it gives more even cooking
    it prevents foods breaking up

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Thickening Agents:

Cornflour: is made from maize - mix with a little cold water and add to liquid/sauce - must be cooked for a few minutes to reduce raw taste.

Arrowroot: thickens more effectively and tastes less than cornflour - often used in jus-lie (U.K.)

Tapioca: i.e. available in ball form- used to thicken sweet pudding.

Wheat-flour: plain flour used to form a roux to which hot liquid is gradually added, it is then cooked out to reduce floury taste. The fat in the roux keeps the starch grains apart and generally prevents lumpiness.

Semolina: a coarse form of milled wheat/rice/maize- usually used in sweets.

Vegetable or fruit puree.

Egg yolks: used in warm egg sauces i.e. hollandaise, béarnaise - in cold egg sauces i.e. mayonnaise and in custard sauces.

Beurre Manié: equal quantities of butter and flour kneaded to a smooth paste and added to boiling liquid - most common in fish sauces

Blood i.e. jugged hare.
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