What Does Simmer Mean?

Question:

When a recipe says to simmer for a certain amount of time, what does simmer mean?

Answer:

Simmer is a term used when something is to be cooked over a very low heat, generally for an extended amount of time. Normally, you bring something just to a boil and then turn down the heat to low (or possibly medium low) so that it continues to simmer. The term simmer is only used when there is liquid involved in your recipe. Simmer is most often used for making some type of homemade sauce or stew. A gentle simmer allows the flavors that you have added to the pot to mix and mesh into one new flavor combination.

Oh, but we still didn’t tell you what simmer actually means…

What Does Simmer Mean?

Food Waste

Simmer is technically the heat that is just below the boiling point of the liquid. A simmer is reached within a pot on the stove when the liquid is hot and just has a bubble or two forming at a time and reaching the top of the liquid before popping. OK, maybe three bubbles at a time if it is a large pot, but really no more than that. If you look closely at the picture here you can notice just a few circles forming under the top layer of tomato sauce – a perfect simmer. If you have multiple bubbles happening in your pan, then you’ve got a boiling pot. You will hear only a tiny pop…(wait for it) pop from the pan (never the sound of popcorn).

If a recipe calls for simmer, that generally means that a boil will ruin the recipe. Remember, a boil is generally used for water. If, for instance, you boil tomato sauce it will become acidic and probably give you heartburn. But, if you simmer your sauce it will be delicious. If you boil your cream sauce, the consistency will change as it becomes separated and lumpy while a simmered cream sauce is smooth and delicious.

More Info

Hope that explains what simmer means. To find out answers to other frequently asked questions check out the rest of our FAQ.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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