Sometimes chefs forget that not everyone understands all cooking terms or that there can be a misunderstanding about a term.  Sometimes even “celebrity chefs”, some of whom are not really chefs, just celebrities, will bandy about terms and misuse them.  I often get asked in my classes about things that I don’t give much thought to such as what the difference is between a rolling boil (the liquid is ALL jumped up), a boil (the liquid jumping steadily)and a simmer (the liquid is at a very slow jog) or what how does one “fold” an ingredient into another ingredient? (a deep up and over motion).  One technique I get asked about a lot is BLANCHING.


The best way to preserve the color and the nutrients of vegetables is to blanch and shock them.  Blanching means: to boil them briefly in water.  Shocking means:to cool them quickly with a dunk in an ice bath.  This technique also helps firm the flesh of a fruit while loosening the skin, which makes peeling (peaches or tomatoes, for example) easier. And it works for herbs, too: Blanch and shock basil before making a pesto for a sauce that stays bright green (not brown!) even after it’s been tossed with hot pasta or stored for several days.


How to Blanch and Shock


Have ready:

Pot of SALTED boiling water.

Large bowl of ice water.

Cleaned and cut veggies.


Now, BCPD:


Boil the vegetables briefly without covering.

Check for desired doneness-you still want them very crunchy-this is not cooking through.

Plunge immediately into the ice water.


How long?  Think of what you are blanching.  Is it rock hard, like carrots slices?  Then maybe 3-4 minutes.  Delicate like spinach?  60 seconds, tops. For skinning things like tomatoes and peaches, 90 seconds to 3 minutes.  Pull a tomato out of the water, if the skin can be pierced by your fingernail and peeled, drain and shock immediately.  If you wait until you can see a break in the skin, the fruit will have begun to cook and you will have a mealy result.

When do you start to count the time? For hard veggies, after the liquid comes back to a boil.  For soft things like herbs, immediately.

Why Blanch? To hold color and to get rid of the “raw” taste (such as string beans in a salad).

Why Shock? To stop the cooking.

And now you know.