Simma Down Now

Why you bring water to a boil before reducing it to a simmer
Photo: Alan Levine via Flickr

"Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer." You've read it in countless recipes, whether you're making a soup or cooking beans, but what's the point? If you're just looking to simmer, why bring your pot to a rolling boil first?

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The reason isn't complicated, but it is important. It all boils down to (sorry) timing, and as any cook knows, timing is everything in the kitchen.

Bringing water to a boil first before simmering is faster than simply bringing it to a simmer.

It sounds counterintuitive, because you're adding an extra step by bringing it up and then reducing the heat, but it's actually faster than directly bringing water to a simmer over low-to-medium heat. Letting it rip and then putting the brakes on will save you time in the long run, and not only that, will give you better control. Whether you're looking for a light simmer or a rapid one, it will be easier to achieve by backing down from a full boil than by raising the heat.

Sometimes you have to go up to get down.


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