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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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boil a verb which indicates one of the fundamental cooking operations, familiar in every kitchen. Water, at sea level, boils at 100 °C (212 °F). That is not a coincidence. The centigrade scale was established by defining the freezing point of water as 0° and its boiling point, when it turns to steam, as 100° (see also, altitude).

Nor is it a coincidence that the point at which water boils is easily recognized by its rapid bubbling. So, cooks have no problem with an instruction such as ‘bring to the boil’. Even from the far side of the kitchen one can tell when this has been achieved. This ease of recognition is a considerable convenience, and, taken in conjunction with the ready availability of water as a cooking medium, would go a long way towards explaining the popularity of boiling as a cookery technique. Developments of the method can be explored in the entries poach, simmer, and steam.