SCS 004| Blanching

SCS 004| Blanching

Blanching is a basic technique every cook should intimately understand. In this episode of the Stella Culinary School podcast, we go over the underlying science behind blanching, talk best practices, and give various strategies customized for root vegetables, green vegetables, and proteins. When cooking vegetables, commonly a two step approach is taken in professional kitchens. The vegetables are first blanched to set their color and texture, and then finished with a secondary cooking method whether it be charring, sauteing, glazing, grilling, etc.

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There are 11 Comments

GreenBake's picture

For the best green color..

Is there ever a reason to NOT blanch? For example, if you prepare vegetables just before serving, can you avoid par-cooking, plunging in ice-water and then re-heating?

I suspect the answer is no, but I wanted to double-check.

jacob burton's picture

In my experience, whenever you're going to heat greens, it is always best to blanch first. I think this true for two main reasons.

  1. As we discussed in this episode, acid is the enemy of chlorophyll molecules. When you blanch your greens properly in a large pot of water, the acid is released out and diluted instead of saturating back into the greens. If you were to wilt greens directly into a pan (which some people do and I have nothing against), you risk the acid in the greens leaching out and breaking down your chlorophyll molecules.
  2. The enzyme chlorophyllase is most active at 150-170ºF. Blanching first allows you to cook the greens above that temperature. When you then go to use them in a hot application, all your are doing is warming the greens through so they'll be hot to the touch. Even if you blanch the greens first, if you cook them for a prolonged period of time in the pan, the chlorophyll will still break down.

Also, as we discussed in this episode, when you drop greens directly into boiling water, it rapidly collapses the cells that contain oxygen, which gives you that instant change to bright green. In my experience, this doesn't happen as rapidly or as evenly when putting raw greens into a saute pan.

However, there are times when I will wilt greens directly into a sauce or a dish (usually pasta) that hasn't been blanched first. I opt for this when I want the greens to still be relatively vibrant and fresh. When I add the greens, it is always right at the end, after I've already turned off the flame and right before the dish hits the plate.

GreenBake's picture

That's the answer I was looking for. Thank you so much!

koon78's picture

and not to forget:

 

3. blanching in crazy boiling water removes some of the dirt and grid you missed while      cleaning you're vegetables - not that you should ever try blanching dirty food anyway!      

AKRefugee's picture

Wow, what a difference blanching makes. I blanched some carrots in the afternoon and put them in the refrigerator. That evening I took them out and lightly glazed them in a pan with butter and brown sugar and finished them by roasting them in the oven. I have done the glazing and roasting part before but let me tell you this time the flavor was far and above any of the previous. Blanching made such a difference that I now feel that the difference between blanched and unblanched is as big a difference as fresh versus canned. Never again will I prepare a fresh vegetable without blanching it first.

 

I am starting to figure out that while seasonings and flavorings can affect the taste of a dish it is these basic things that make the big difference in the flavor of the food.

 

Thanks again Chef Jacob.

jacob burton's picture

It's amazing what a difference a simple technique like blanching can make, huh? Glad you're playing around with the technique.

GreenBake's picture

Keeping artichokes green, while preventing browning...

I’m thinking using a large amount of well-salted water until the artichoke is cut, then something (ascorbic acid/vitamin c?) to prevent browning of the cut area.

My main question would be how to apply that something to prevent the cut area from browning without turning that artichoke green from turning brown.

Also, should the artichoke be cooked whole and then cut or cut first and then cooked?

jacob burton's picture

What you're talking about is enzymatic browning or oxidation. Whenever I "turn" or trim artichokes, I just use acidulated water (usually lemon). For the most part, you want to trim the artichokes before cooking.

GreenBake's picture

and follow up with all the normal blanching routines, I take it (large volume of water, boil rapidly, salted)... Thanks.

Another good reason for a 12 quart stock pot instead of the smaller 8 quart models that come with sets. Not that they’re bad, but for blanching, 12 quart is my favorite size for the home.

lenb's picture

Hi Chef,
I wonder about the possibilities of replacing the pot of boiling water with a microwave?  If you quenched vegetables after par-cooking them in a  microwave, could you then use them like blanched vegetables when sauteing?  Much easier for me to use the microwave than to keep a pot of water boiling.  I never thought about quenching after microwaving before,  What do you think?
Thanks for your time.
LenB

jacob burton's picture

@lenb,

The microwave won't give you the same results but there's no harm in giving it a try to find out if it works for you. You can try doing a microwave steamer, and then ice afterwards, but putting green vegetables in the microwave without any steam could effect their color, flavor and texture.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out.