Many recipes have instructions to set the simmering temperature on the stove and let the dish simmer for minutes. But what is it, and how do you simmer?
Simply defined, simmering is bringing the temperature of a liquid on the stove to just below the boiling point. When simmering, you should see a lot of tiny bubbles forming and rising to the top of the liquid.
Read on to learn more about setting the simmering temperature on the stove and why you should do this.
What Is the Simmer Temperature on the Stove?
Simmering is when you bring the temperature of a liquid to just below boiling. This means seeing the formation of tiny bubbles at the bottom of the pan if you are dealing with water. You will then see them slowly rising to the surface. The liquid will still be hot but not scalding.
If what you are cooking starts to boil, you need to turn the heat down. This is so you can reduce it to a gentle boil. Simmering is an important technique to know if you like your rice soft and fluffy. It is also helpful if you want your stewed meats to become fork tender.
How to Simmer
Take your pot to a specific temperature range when you want to simmer. You can often use it to gently cook vegetables, stews, and soups and even for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.
What is the simmering temperature on the stove? In technical terms, when you simmer a liquid, you bring it anywhere between 180°F to 205°F.
This means that it is still hot but not aggressively boiling. You will see bubbles forming in the pot. However, they are not quite as large as when the liquid is boiling.
Types of Simmer
Yes, there are different simmering temperatures. You do not technically need to memorize every one of them, but they come in handy with certain dishes:
1. Bare Simmer
This simmering comes with a couple of small bubbles breaking through the surface every several seconds. You can often use this cooking technique to make clear stock, one that you should slow-cook for hours.
Clear stock is only attainable using this technique. It does not agitate the cooking liquid, making sediments settle at the bottom.
This is when you find small bubbles constantly breaking the surface of the cooking liquid. You might also find a couple of wisps of steam coming out at certain parts.
This is the ideal cooking temperature for cooking rice. It also works when you want the flavors to mingle gently while slowly tenderizing the ingredients. One example is when you are cooking chili.
3. Vigorous Simmer or Gentle Boil
A simmering water temperature indicates having a constant stream of bubbles breaking the surface. It also indicates a significant amount of steam. Also called a gentle boil, vigorous simmer causes bubbles to form. This is possible even without splattering as much as when you do a full boil.
This simmer is ideal when thickening a liquid for use as a sauce or gravy. Because there is no splattering, you can leave the pot uncovered. This means your kitchen will still be clean when you come back.
Your pot is boiling if large bubbles form at the bottom and rise to the top quickly. It should also constantly create a lot of steam. For water, the boiling point is 212°F. It cannot go higher than that as it will turn to steam beyond that point.
Vegetables, usually root vegetables, are often boiled to make them tender. However, you can’t boil them for more than ten to fifteen minutes, as they may turn to mush.
5. Rolling Boil
A rolling boil is when the cooking liquid reaches the upper limits of the boiling point. This is when bubbles appear at the top. No amount of stirring or even adding ingredients to the liquid will disrupt them.
When do you use a rolling boil? It would be when you need to cook ingredients quickly in most cases. You can also usually use this for pasta and blanching leafy vegetables.
How Do You Know When to Simmer?
When do you need to simmer when you are cooking? When a recipe requires setting the pot to a simmer, it needs to cook the ingredients gently. Here are the different scenarios that require simmering:
1. Grains and Legumes
Simmering is ideal for cooking rice. Setting the heat too high can make the bottom of the pot burn before successfully cooking the top layer. You can also simmer when planning to cook lentils, beans, and other grains.
2. Making Stock
Simmering is also ideal for making stock, whether vegetables or meat stock. The reason is that simmering is hot enough to break down the cartilage. It does so without creating large bubbles and agitating the cooking liquid. The agitation will cause the stock to turn cloudy, so you want it to cook low and slow.
There are only very few ingredients to cook using a rolling boil.
3. Tenderize Tougher Cuts of Meat
Simmering is also great for when you need to tenderize the tougher cuts of meat. It is specifically helpful for those that contain a lot of connective tissue.
The connective tissue in the cheaper cuts of meat is primarily made of collagen. This collagen will start to break down and turn into gelatin. Once you cook it at a simmer temperature in Fahrenheit between 160°F and 205°F for a long time.
It could also be at a simmer temperature of 72°C to 96°C. This will then cause the muscle fibers, turning them quite tender and still juicy.
You don’t want to boil meat. Instead of breaking down the collagen, boiling will denature the proteins in the muscle fibers. This causes the proteins to no longer be able to hold onto water. It will also make them clump up together. The result is a chunk of meat with the texture and toughness of boot leather.
Benefits of Simmering
Aside from being required in some recipes, there are other reasons why you need to simmer when using any cooking liquid. Here are some of them:
Simmering gives you a lot of versatility when it comes to cooking time. Not all recipes require that you simmer the dish for an hour. Some need ten minutes, maybe even just five.
Because of the low heat involved, you don’t need to worry too much about your dish burning. This means you can do something else while waiting for your food to cook. However, you should still check the pot from time to time to be sure.
2. Added Flavor
When simmering, say a soup or sauce, the low heat and extra time allow for blending ingredients’ flavors. The ingredients absorb the seasonings, and they will impart their flavors to the mix.
Also, when you simmer, some of the cooking liquid will evaporate. This can cause all of the flavors to concentrate and intensify.
3. Better Texture
When you simmer or braise meat and poultry, the low heat and extended cooking time break down the connective tissue. This can result in making the meat incredibly tender but still juicy.
The same goes when you cook grains and legumes. The low heat allows the vegetables to cook thoroughly without breaking them down.
4. More Nutritious
When you need to simmer a dish, you will also eat the cooking liquid. These include a soup or a sauce. This means you won’t be losing out on most of the combined nutrition provided by the ingredients.
In addition, simmering, stewing, or braising means cutting out a lot of oil and fat from your food.
Again, what stove setting for simmering? To simmer is to cook a liquid below its boiling point (212°F or 100°C), approximately between 185°F to 205°F.
How Long to Simmer Food?
Here are some foods you can simmer and how long you should do so:
1. Tough Cuts of Meat
If you are simmering meat, you need to place it in a pot of cold water. Bring it to a simmer slowly. Depending on the size of the meat, you should simmer it in a cooking liquid for one to four hours.
The simmering time could even be longer than that sometimes. You’ll know if the meat is ready if you can tear it apart using a fork.
2. Making Meat Stock
When making stock, you usually need to use soup bones. The reason is that they are full of connective tissue and collagen, the main sources of flavor. You want to get as much flavor out of the meat and bones when making stock. You can only do that by simmering them for a long time.
If you have a slow cooker, you can start cooking the broth after eating your dinner. It should be ready when you wake up the following day.
3. Poultry and Game Birds
You can cook chicken thoroughly after just 20 to 45 minutes of simmering. Of course, this depends on the size of the cut and if it still has the bones. Simmering chicken for an hour or more will make the meat so tender. You can easily pull the bones out with your fingers because of their tenderness.
If you are simmering a whole fish, start with a cold pot and water. Bring a pot to a gentle simmer slowly. Once simmering, cover and let the fish cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to cook the fish for too long, or it will damage its delicate meat.
Leafy and meaty vegetables do not need to simmer that long. You will have to add them last to prevent overcooking in most cases. However, root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and radishes can benefit significantly from simmering.
When cooking root veggies, you can check their doneness by poking them with a knife or fork. If the knife slides in easily, it is a sign that the cooking is already successful.
6. Grains and Legumes
Grains usually take a short time to cook. For example, rice only takes around 15 to 30 minutes to cook, depending on the amount. However, what you need to know about rice is that it will absorb all the water in the pot.
This makes it necessary to keep an eye on it. A couple of minutes after the rice puffed up and absorbed all the water, turn off the stove.
Beans and lentils, on the other hand, might take a bit longer to cook. For instance, white beans need to soak for a couple of hours before simmering on the stove. It will take at least an hour of cooking before the beans get soft enough to eat.
Simmering Tips and Tricks
1. Add the Meat to the Cold Water
Place the meat into the cold cooking liquid before turning on the stove when making stock or soup. This will prevent the stock from getting cloudy.
Upon placing meat or poultry into a pot of boiling water, it will cause proteins to release into the water. This can result in it looking cloudy.
The protein gradually releases and clumps together if you start heating the water with the meat already submerged. This promotes ease in skimming from the surface.
2. Add the Seasonings to the Cooking Liquid
The food simmered in the cooking liquid also absorbs any flavor or seasonings. For instance, you can use stock or wine to infuse flavors into meat or fish.
You can also make a sachet of spices that you can place inside the pot. This is so you can impart flavor to the ingredients and then fish them out later before serving.
3. Save Money Using Cheap Meat Cuts
If you want to eat well while staying within your tight budget, you can buy the cheaper cuts of meat. After that, you can simmer or braise them in a flavorful cooking liquid.
Osso Bucco, lamb shank, and chuck are all flavorful cuts of meat. However, their prices are lower than the premium cuts because they contain a lot of connective tissue.
Place these cuts of meat in a pot. Cover them with stock or water. Then, throw in a couple of spices and seasonings. Simmer them for a couple of hours, and you’ve got a great dish.
However, the caveat is that you need to start cooking ahead of time. On the other hand, you can cook a large amount of meat and store the leftovers in the fridge.
How to Maintain a Simmering Pot
Simmering can be a challenge for most inexperienced cooks. You may also have to spend too much time just adjusting the flames of your stove.
It does not also help that not all stoves behave the same. Some have flames that are easier to adjust. Meanwhile, others seem like they can only go from a strong flame to off.
Here are a couple of tips that might help you get used to it quickly:
1. Put a Lid on the Pot
To make the pot get up to a boil faster, put a lid on the pot – This allows the contents to heat up without having to raise the heat. After that, adjust the flame to a simmer.
2. Remove the Pot from the Burner When the Mixture Is Boiling
If your pot gets too hot, remove it from the burner for around a minute or stir the contents. Stirring increases the surface area of the cooking liquid, allowing it to cool down faster.
3. Add More Water or Stock
If the liquid is still too hot, add more water or stock to thin out the cooking liquid. Cool it down immediately.
4. Use a Flame Tamer Ring to Control the Flames’ Intensity
Use a flame tamer ring to control the intensity of the flames – This nifty little gadget regulates the flames so that they are uniform in size. This can also make the burner heat up the pot more regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Do You Sometimes Need to Boil and Then Simmer?
Some recipes call for you to bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. What is the reason for that? There is nothing special about it. You need to do it to heat the food quickly and gauge the temperature.
When a cooking liquid boils, it is no hotter than 212°F (100°C). In other words, when the large bubbles form, you know that the pot is already too hot. Upon seeing the contents of your pot boiling, gradually reduce the heat. Do so until the bubbles are much less and smaller.
Turning the stove to a boil and then turning down the heat works fast. It is faster than setting the flame low and waiting for the cooking liquid to get up to temperature.
How Much Cooking Liquid Do I Need to Use?
The amount of cooking liquid depends on what you are cooking. If you are cooking grains, like rice, you will usually use the same volume of water as the ingredient. Keep in mind that grains and rice expand to more than twice their size when cooked. This can provide enough space in your pot.
When simmering other kinds of food, you will need a deep pot and enough cooking liquid. The liquid should completely cover the ingredients. This will allow for more even cooking.
Conclusion – Simmer Temperature on the Stove
Simmering means that you adjust the temperature of the cooking liquid down below the boiling point. There will still be bubbles forming on the top of the liquid, but it is not a rolling boil.
Many different dishes require you to simmer the ingredients. This makes it one of the most basic cooking techniques you need to master. Fortunately, setting the simmering temperature on the stove is relatively easy. You should be able to get the hang of it with some practice.