Poaching, simmering and boiling are
techniques that call for a food to be completely submerged in a liquid
that is kept at a constant and moderate temperature. The distinction
between them is a slight difference in cooking temperatures. At one end of
the temperature range, from around 160 to 185oF (70o
to 82oC), foods are considered "poached". There should be
relatively little flavor lost from the food to the cooking liquid.
At the middle range, from 185 to 200oF
(82 to 85oC), foods may be referred to as either simmered or
"boiled". Simmering temperatures encourage a greater transfer of flavor
from the food being prepared into the liquid, but it is important to
monitor these temperatures in order to properly cook foods such as
less-tender cuts of meat, stewing hens and some vegetables. This is the
same approximate temperature necessary to make rich broths or stocks,
where the goal is producing a richly flavored liquid.
Boiling, done either at or close to a true
boil (212oF / 100oC), is best for grains, beans,
pasta and some vegetables. Often, foods are referred to as boiled when it
might be more accurate to say that they are simmered. Simmering and
boiling will be considered together, however, since they are used with the
same types of foods.
The major areas of concern with all of these
methods are proper development of flavor, color, and texture in the
finished dish, a proper balance between the main ingredients and any
aromatic, seasoning or flavoring ingredients, and careful monitoring of
cooking speed. As you become more comfortable with these skills, you will
be able to produce perfectly poached, boiled and simmered foods that have
rich, full, satisfying flavors, textures, aromas and colors.