About Moist Cooking Methods:
Poaching, simmering, steaming, and boiling are all moist cooking methods. They are essentially different stages of the same cooking process. Each method cooks food by immersing it in a liquid, usually water or stock.
Poaching is done by heating the water to a low temperature (160º-180º F) where liquid in the pan is hot but not bubbling at all, although some bubbles may form at the bottom of the pot. Poaching is usually used for very delicate food items such as eggs or fish.
Simmering is done at hotter temperatures than poaching (185º-205º F). Bubbles will form and gently rise to the surface of the pan, but the water is not at a full rolling boil. Simmering is the standard method for preparing soups, stocks, and starchy items such as potatoes.
Boiling is the hottest of the three techniques (212º F). This is the method least likely to be used in cooking because it can destroy some delicate foods with its active action and the high temperature would toughen some foods like meat, fish, and eggs.
Steaming occurs when water is heated past its boiling point (212º F) and turns to steam. Steam carries much more heat than boiling water yet steaming is a very gently way to cook foods. It is an ideal method for cooking seafood, vegetables, and other delicate food items. Food that is steamed cooks quickly with very little loss of nutrients.
Tips for Successful Moist Cooking:
Poaching is a fast way to cook tender protein foods like eggs or fish. The food doesn't get stirred or disturbed too much so it doesn't fall apart or break up. The poaching liquid adds taste to the food and then can be used as the base for a sauce. Poaching is a good way to cook without adding fat to the dish. Poaching is done by heating the cooking liquid to a simmer and then gently slipping the food into the water. The temperature is then adjusted so that bubbles form on the bottom of the pan but don't break the surface. This allows the protein in the food to coagulate without toughening it. A full rolling boiling would break apart the structure of the foods.
Most foods cooked in a liquid are simmered rather than boiled because a full rolling boil is too hard on them. When a recipe calls for boiling foods, many times it is actually referring to allow boil or simmer rather than a full boil. Simmering is the most common method of cooking vegetables but requires careful management to prevent nutrient and color loss and to keep the vegetable from turning to mush.
There are a few times when cooking foods at a full rolling boil is necessary, such as when cooking pasta. If required to cook at a full rolling boil, bring pot of water to a boil, add the food, and bring back to a full boil. Start counting the cooking time once the water has returned to a full boil.
Steaming is fast and gentle. Steaming helps retain the shape and color of foods, especially vegetables, as well as conserves the nutrients. It is a great way to prepare your favorite vegetables.
Steps in steaming vegetables:
- Bring water to a boil in the bottom part of a double boiler or in a steamer.
- Place vegetables in the steamer or perforated pan that fits on top of double boiler.
- Cover and steam until tender. If the vegetables are green, leave the lid askew to help retain their color.
Best foods for moist cooking:
Everything from pasta, to vegetables, to fish lend themselves to these moist cooking methods.