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Cooking Processes - Boiling

The word boiling originates from the French bouillir, to boil, i.e., to be in bubbling motion.  The term bubbling applied to cookery, means cooking in boiling liquid.  Both boiling and steaming are known as the simplest, most economical, as well as the most common forms of cooking.  Meat loses less weight by boiling or steaming than by any other process.

In case of boiling, the liquid i.e., the water in which meat is boiled can be turned to good account.  Boiled food is considered wholesome, and is easily digested.  Special points to be observed in boiling are: That the water should at all times be kept so as to cover the meat or vegetables or other things to be cooked.  If it evaporates, it is best to add boiling water, because the sudden introduction of cold water will lower the temperature, which is not always advisable.

In boiling meat, the addition of vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, onions, or celery, is a decided improvement, for thereby the flavor of the article boiled, as well as the liquor or broth, will be much better.

The exact time for boiling and steaming cannot be fixed in an arbitrary manner, as is the case with roasting.  It varies from ten to forty minutes to the pound.  Discretion, as well as experience are the best guides to decide this question.

Boiling meats, fish and vegetables is, within certain limits, the simplest and easiest process of cooking.  Boiling implies a process of cooking effected by immersion for a certain period in boiling water or stock.

Literally, the expression boiling is both vague and often incorrectly applied, as in most cases we do not really boil the food actually; it is only the surrounding liquid that bubbles or boils.

All liquids do not boil at the same degree; but to boil water or stock means raising them to a temperature of 212 degrees F., though in the strict sense, there is very little cooking performed at this head; most, in fact, is done a little below, which is the degree for simmering, slow boiling, steaming; or else considerably above it, as is the case with fats or oils, and these also have their boiling point.  Milk will boil at a lower temperature than water, whilst slow and gentle simmering often works out as low as 170 degrees, never reaching 212 degrees,

Proper simmering heat is 180 degrees.  Boiling embraces two distinct objects which differ considerably.  One is to retain as much as possible of the juices in the flesh, and the other is to extract the juices and to mix them with the water or other liquor in which the article is boiled.  To effect the first named purpose, that is, to retain the largest practicable proportion of gravy in a joint of meat, the meat to be boiled should be put into fast boiling water, and be allowed to boil sharply for a few minutes only, whereby the closing up of the pores of cut ends of the soft fibers will be effected, for as soon as these ends have become hardened from the coagulation of the albumen, the leakage or exudation of the juices will cease.  It is stated that albumen coagulates at as low a temperature as 120 degrees, so that a few minutes' immersion in boiling water, which has a heat of 212 degrees, should amply suffice to prevent much of the juice from escaping.

After this is effected, the cooking must be continued at a lower temperature till the joint is thoroughly done.  On the other hand, if meat is put in cold water and allowed to boil up slowly and is then simmered until tender, it will be found that much of the nutritive juices have become incorporated in the water, which is then called broth.  If this be carefully done, both meat and broth can be consumed, so that there cannot be much loss of nutritive matter.

Salt meats, such as salt beef, salt pork, tongues, ham and other salt, pickled or smoked meat should be put on in cold water.  The time allowed for boiling meats is from twenty to twenty-five minutes for every pound, according to the size and kind of meat, and from fifteen to twenty minutes over.

A leg of mutton weighing from ten to twelve pounds will require from three to three and a half hours, if gently cooked.

Fowls take from forty minutes to one and a half hours, according to size and age.

Smoked ham and tongue should always be soaked in cold water for at least twelve hours.  A large ham requires from five to six hours to cook.

Table Talk: The American Authority upon Culinary Topics and Fashions of the Table, Vol. XXVII, 1912, A Series of Articles Published Throughout the Year. Published Monthly by The Arthur H. Crist Co., Cooperstown, NY. A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of American Housewives, Having special reference to the Improvement of the Table.  Marion Harris Neil, Editor.

Boiling is cooking in boiling water. Solid food so cooked is called boiled food, though literally this expression is incorrect. Examples: boiled eggs, potatoes, mutton, etc. Water boils at 212° F. (sea level), and simmers at 185° F. Slowly boiling water has the same temperature as rapidly boiling water, consequently is able to do the same work, — a fact often forgotten by the cook, who is too apt "to wood" the fire that water may boil vigorously. Watery vapor and steam pass off from boiling water. Steam is invisible : watery vapor is visible, and is often miscalled steam. Cooking utensils commonly used permit the escape of watery vapor and steam ; thereby much heat is lost if food is cooked in rupidly boiling water.

Water is boiled for two purposes: first, cooking of itself to destroy organic impurities; second, for cookiug foods. Boiling water toughens and hardens albumen in eggs; toughens fibrin and dissolves tissues in meat; bursts starch-grains and softens cellulose in cereals and vegetables. Milk should never be allowed to boil. At l>oili»g temperature (214° F.) the casein is slightly hardened, and the fat is rendered more difficult of digestion. Milk heated over boiling water, as in a double boiler, is called scalded milk, and reaches a temperature of 196° F. When foods are cooked over hot water the process is called steaming.

Fannie Merritt Farmer, The Boston Cooking-school Cook Book, Revised Edition, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company (1912), p. 18-19

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