I love to cook… but I am a lazy cook.
So I tend to cut a lot of corners while in the kitchen. One of my lazy corner cutting tendencies is to ignore the “blanch your vegetables” step in recipes.
At first, I just didn’t know HOW to blanch veggies (or what it really did, and why I should even do it) and then when I learned how (thanks to binge watching cooking competition shows – the new housewives guide to Things and Stuff) I just… well.. got lazy!
But as I am on a constant journey to better myself, my new resolution is to blanch my veggies when the occasion calls for it! (Hey, there have been stranger resolutions!) So! First things first!
What Is Blanching?
Blanching means to plunge foods into boiling water for a few seconds or a few minutes, then remove them and place them in ice water. This process sets the color of vegetables for a more attractive end dish (you eat with your eyes, after all!), or can be used to help you more easily peel fruits or and slip the skins off nuts.
When you blanch, you are simply sealing in the color and partially cooking them. You aren’t even cooking them half way – that is called parboiling. With blanching, since the food does not cook all the way through, the crisp texture of the vegetables are preserved. Blanching also denatures enzymes that make food spoil, so it is often listed as the first step in food preservation recipes.
How to Blanch Vegetables
To blanch vegetables, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Some chefs swear that adding a pinch of baking soda to the blanching water will bring out the bright color of vegetables even further, but this step isn’t essential to blanch… regular ol’ water will do just fine. (But if you DO want to go the baking soda route, it is recommended to add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every 3 – 4 cups of water.)
Next, trim the ends of your vegetables and / or cut them into the size you want to use in your recipe. Leave fruits and nuts whole. If blanching to peel fruits, cut a small “x” into the skin of the fruits to help make peeling easier. Get a large bowl full of ice water ready.
Put the vegetables into the boiling water for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes, just until the color of the food intensifies. Blanch time varies by food type, so do a quick Google search if in doubt! Denser vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli, require longer blanching times.
When the time is up, remove the food from the boiling water as quickly as you can, being careful not to splash yourself with the boiling water. (Speaking from painful experience here! Haha..)
Plunge the food immediately into the ice water bath and let stand until cold, then drain thoroughly. (The purpose of this is to stop the cooking process.) At this point, you can slip the skins off of fruits and nuts.
When You Should Blanch Your Fruits and Vegetables
Many recipes call for crisper, more dense vegetables to be blanched, especially before stir-frying. This helps to seal in the color, flavor, and nutrients of the vegetables. (Green vegetables, like green beans, turn a wonderful bright green when blanched).
Blanching crisper, denser vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) cuts down on the amount of time they need to be stir-fried. This means they can be added to the stir-fry with less dense vegetables and everything will be cooked at the same time. If a recipe calls for blanching and you skip this step, it may drastically alter cook times and affect the end dish texture and quality.
If a recipe asks you to blanch fruits to loosen the skins of soft vegetables, such as tomatoes, don’t skip this step!! Blanching makes the skins WAY easier to remove.
Bottom line is, blanching is a great tool to use in the kitchen and is usually included in recipes for a very good reason. Skipping this step isn’t the end of the world… but if you are trying to shake some lazy habits, choosing to blanch your veggies on occasion is a good habit to develop!