WHAT IS A SIMMER?
Whether you’re just curious about the difference between a simmer and a boil or interested in cooking soups and stews, learn what a simmer looks like and how to use it.
What does simmer mean?
A simmer is a method of cooking that uses a moderate heat to gently soften foods while slowly combining seasonings and ingredients. It’s often used for soups, stews and slow cooking meat, especially in a cast iron Dutch oven on the stovetop. The definition of simmer is to cook a liquid just below the boiling point (212°F), with a range around 185°F to 205°F.
What is a simmer vs. a boil?
Simmering cooks at lower temperatures with less agitation, allowing you to slowly incorporate flavors into your dishes. A simmer allows lower heat to penetrate food more slowly and is a better choice for delicate foods that might break apart in a rapid boil. It’s also ideal for proteins like a large cut of meat that will become tender if cooked low and slow and become tough if cooked quickly at high temperatures.
Boiling cooks at higher temperatures of 212°F or more and is better suited for pasta, grains and root vegetables. Boiling breaks down and softens food at a more rapid rate, with the increased evaporation creating concentrated flavors.
What does a simmer look like?
To most easily gauge a simmer, simply watch the amount of bubbles rising from the bottom of the pot to the surface of your liquid. At a low simmer the liquid will have minimal movement with only a few, tiny bubbles rising intermittently, accompanied by little wisps of steam. As the heat is increased to a full simmer, more steady streams of small bubbles will start to rise and multiply. The bubbles will break the surface occasionally, but most of the motion should remain under the surface.
In contrast, when you boil a liquid expect to see large bubbles throughout the pot, rapidly breaking the surface. There will be much more rolling motion in the liquid and larger amounts of steam.
Reference your recipe before starting a simmer
Most recipes call for two primary methods of simmering, either to heat to a rapid boil then reduce the temperature down to a simmer or to slowly work your way up from a low to a medium heat and then maintain it. Always read your recipe beforehand to ensure the best results and to avoid overcooking.
How to simmer
A simmer has some variance in temperature below boiling point, ranging from a low simmer to a full simmer. You may need to adjust the temperature accordingly based on your stovetop, cookware, ingredients and recipe of choice. Be aware that above sea level air pressure is reduced, causing liquid to boil at lower temperatures and evaporate faster. Cooking temperatures and times will need to be adjusted accordingly to ensure that foods are thoroughly cooked.
STEP 1: FILL YOUR COOKWARE WITH LIQUID
Start by filling your cookware with enough water or liquid to fully submerge and cover any ingredients that will be added. If you’re using a recipe, reference it for an exact amount.
STEP 2: PLACE YOUR COOKWARE ON THE BURNER
Set your stovetop to a low to medium heat, slowly increasing it until you reach the desired simmer. Be aware that adding new ingredients may cause the temperature to drop slightly.
STEP 3: ADJUST THE TEMPERATURE IF NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A SIMMER
A steady simmer can quickly develop into a boil if it gets too hot. Watch the bubbles to gauge a simmer or use a cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust accordingly. If your simmer does boil over, it is good to know how to remove your electric stove burners to clean.
STEP 4: SET YOUR TIMER AND STIR AS NECESSARY
Once a simmer is established, stir as often as needed according to the recipe or ingredients used.
Shop Maytag® gas and electric cooktops for simmering, sauteeing and more
The simmer burner on Maytag® gas cooktops provides 800 to 5,000 BTUs of precise, adjustable heat to give your cooktop both a full-power simmer burner and warming setting all in one. And with a Maytag® electric cooktop, you can enjoy options like the Power™ burner that can boil water faster or get a wok ready for stir fry. Choose the best option for you from a variety of dependable Maytag® cooktops.
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