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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Parboil is a verb with an odd history. Derived from Latin words meaning ‘through’ and ‘boil’, it originally meant ‘to boil thoroughly’. This usage disappeared in the 17th century, ousted by the rival meaning ‘to part-cook in boiling water’, which also dates back to the Middle Ages and seems to have been based on a confusion between ‘par-’ and ‘part’.

Parboiling is normally carried out in preparation for a continuation of cooking by some other means such as frying. Stobart (1980) explains why this familiar sequence is followed. ‘Food is parboiled either because the higher temperature of the fat would dry it out or brown it too much before it was cooked through, or because it prepares the surface for the penetration of fat and flavour, as, for instance, when potatoes are roasted in meat juices.’