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Seafood poaching

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I've been trying lately to quantify most of my recipes, temperatures and quantities. I'm looking for consistent equations that deal well with chenging conditions and products. My question is about poaching seafood.

For calamari the recipe usualy calls for bringing water to a boil throwing in the sliced calamari, cooking for about ten seconds and icing in a water batch.
Far from consistent. What temperature the water should be for best results? For how long? Is it the same for all cuts of calamari, for all sizes? Icing or not? Maybe slow chilling? Maybe chilling in the liquid? etc?

I'm not looking for guesses, I got plenty. I can experiment but if any of you already did, or if you read relevent info, please share and save me the twenty-thirty batches I would have to make. Thanks.

Same thing with lobster. My recipe is boiling water again, 3 mins for tails(4 for big ones), 6 mins for claws(7 ditto). Ice water.
Any better, scientific approaches? Much obliged.

Shrimp. Same question.
post #2 of 29
boiling or poaching? I'm a little confused.

Cooking is not a mathematical equation, although some may argue otherwise. If you get it after 20-30 tries your doin good. Just like life, there are no shortcuts or substitutes for experience.
post #3 of 29
Poaching is from 160 to 185 degrees, simmering is beyond 185, and boiling is when you obviously achieve a full boil. These temperature differences are not arbitrary and have significant ramifications for the food to be cooked. The hotter the fluid, the more destructive it’s force, not only from the higher temperature but the increased turbulence as well. You would never put a fragile piece of fish into boiling water. The heat and agitation would disintegrate it. Therefore, the temperature of the poaching liquid should be checked during cooking with an instant read thermometer.
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
post #4 of 29
There is a qualifyer that MUST first be mentioned. AT SEA LEVEL. When you live in the mountains at 10,000 feet, cooking has a whole different meaning in terms of temps and times. (also, barrometric preasure plays a roll too)


and a handy chart on yhis page too.

The only way to know is to do it, and do it, and do it, till you just know. And when you go to the rockies, expect that what you know will no longer apply, and that you will need to spend some time and get the feel for it all over again.
Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of KeeperOfTheGood. His lifetime mission: to explore strange new worlds of flavour, to seek out new life and and ways of cooking it- to boldly grill where no man has grilled before.
Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of KeeperOfTheGood. His lifetime mission: to explore strange new worlds of flavour, to seek out new life and and ways of cooking it- to boldly grill where no man has grilled before.
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
But cooking incoperates alot of science and equations.
post #6 of 29
whats the old saying? You give 10 cooks the same recipe and you'll end up with 10 different dishes...

Just because i "know" what a Standard vinaigrette "ratio" is 3-1, does this apply to every vinaigrette in every application with every oil and acid?

In response to your question, cook until done to your liking. Any less is underdone, any more is overcooked.
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Sorry, but that's far from help. I can tell when underdone from over cooked. Temperatures and timing count, in order to get perfect texture(s).

62c for foiegras torchon. 2 mins per 100 gram.

Salmon, 65c, 140f. Would never dry out.

220f, 100c for herb oil. Prevents botritis and preserve color.

There is a place for personal taste, preferance. Products do vary. But, there IS relevence for a scientific approach. Water acts differnetly in different temperatures. Brine works differnetly in different ratios. Etc.

If anybody knows something of relevence to my question, please share. If you want to invalidate my point of asking it, we can start a new thread.

post #8 of 29
Dude, your question has been answered as well as it will be without your going to university for a 4 year honours batchalors, 2 years honours masters, and 1 year doctoral degree. And the people that do are the ones that make the box lables that read "microwave on HI for 5 to 6 1/2 minutes, rotate and check for doneness halfway through, and let stand for 2 minutes, all cook times approxamite, microwave ovens vary, based on a standard microwave oven of 443 watts"

EDIT: Here is a site of recipies for foie gras, no two agree on times, or temps. http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/m...s/foiegras.htm

Read this (the link is MUCH longer that the quote):


Career: Food Scientists


Food scientists conduct research to develop food products that are healthy, safe, and appealing.

Food scientists work in the food processing industry. They also work for universities and the federal government. They help meet consumer demand for food products that are healthy, tasty, and convenient. To do this, they conduct research using their knowledge of chemistry and other sciences.

The work of food scientists varies depending on their specialty area. Some food scientists engage in basic research to discover new food sources and products. They analyze food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, or protein. They search for substitutes for harmful additives such as nitrites. Food scientists also study methods to improve the quality of foods. For example, they might look for ways to improve flavor, color, texture, or nutritional content. In addition, food scientists develop methods to process, preserve, package, or store food. New methods must meet government rules and industry standards.

Food scientists who work in product development apply the findings of food science research. For example, they test new products in test kitchens. They also confer with specialists to resolve problems with products. For example, they might consult flavor experts or process engineers. In government jobs, food scientists develop food quality standards and safety and health regulations. Some food scientists enforce government regulations by inspecting food processing areas.

All food scientists keep records of their research and write reports of their findings."
Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of KeeperOfTheGood. His lifetime mission: to explore strange new worlds of flavour, to seek out new life and and ways of cooking it- to boldly grill where no man has grilled before.
Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of KeeperOfTheGood. His lifetime mission: to explore strange new worlds of flavour, to seek out new life and and ways of cooking it- to boldly grill where no man has grilled before.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Once again, KeeperOfTheGood, thanks for your opinion. But, I was not claiming there's one way and one way only to cook anything. I've been in this bussiness twenty years, I know.

I'm looking for recipes for seafood poaching/blanching/boiling that have a more precise measure to them. You CAN give measures. Look at every recipe, it will gave amounts of salt, flour etc. Why not include temps and timings?!

Again, we can discuss the merits, pros and cons of using temperatures, so let's start a new thread for that.

In the meanwhile, does anybody has a good recipe for cooking calamari, shrimp and lobster in liquid. A recipe that include temps and timing. Please share. Thanks.
post #10 of 29
latest rage, butter poaching. Buerre monte ~180f. Immerse your ___size shrimp or ___size lobster for____minutes.

You fill in the size("big ones" for lobster tail doesn't count), i'll fill in the time.

Do i get a cut of the cookbook?
post #11 of 29
Some people have different styles of cooking, learning, walking, eating, reading the paper. Maybe this method works for Shahar. It might not work for you guys but maybe he's had a lot of success with it.

Remember the old guidelines for fish? 10 minutes per inch?
post #12 of 29
Thread Starter 
There's nothing newbieish about that question. But I've seen your approach with some of my cooks. Thinking they're above timers, thermostats and scales. Then they're surprised why their herb oil loses color after a few days, why their bread is sometimes crusty and sometimes spongy, why their yogurt is sometimes thick and sometimes watery.

Food IS NOT a science, but science is a useful tool for cooking. Understanding how glutten works help set in your mind the importence of long kneading, and the perils of overkneading. Understanding how and why botritis forms can help you avoid killing your customers.

Any food item can be cooked in numerous ways. But only if you qauntify and set each one of them, will you get consistency, as opposed to a ye olde yo-yo shoppe.

You can cook for years, thinking you're an artist, letting your finely tuned timing, and finger thermostats guide your way, or you can use proffesional equipment.
post #13 of 29
guess i hit a nerve....Good luck chef.
post #14 of 29
I've been cooking for years, and sometimes I burn stuff, but that's what timers are for. Other than that, I can guarantee you that everything I make on the hot line, even desserts which require leavening, can be made without a recipe. Once I developed a feel for things, I've never burnt a caramel, broken an emulsion, or boiled a creme. Feel free to disagree.

OTOH, please don't take it personally if someone disagrees with your point of view. You started the topic, perhaps some people have a different take on the subject. I've requested that others be tolerant and open themselves to the fact that your contribution is valuable. I respectfully ask that you do the same.
post #15 of 29
I was curious about this topic and so I seached numerous sites and recipes for poaching, boiling, fish or shellfish. I haven't found one yet that references temperature of the liquid. The terms "boil", "simmer" and the time of cooking are used to indicate doneness. Example: bring stock to a boil, add shrimp, lower to simmer and cook for 2 mins. - is typical of the instructions for cooking in liquids. I quess this is because there's so much variation with the kind of liquids used, the seafood, and the boiling points of different liquids that it's become more a function of state of liquid and time.

I thought it was a great question. Really got me thinking and researching. And that's good even if you don't always get the answer you want or expect. ;)
"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks." -Lin Yutang
"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks." -Lin Yutang
post #16 of 29
Okay, kids, play nicely. :rolleyes:

I have only been cooking "professionally" for 10 years -- but from what I've seen (including at a four-star restaurant in NYC and for a chef who got 3 stars), everyone here is right. Timing, temperatures, and science should make for consistent food. Unfortunately, though, the food itself works against that science. One cook making the same dish 10 times will end up with 10 dishes, too, because the food has its own variations that cannot be offset completely by timing and temperature.

It's great to quantify, but there will always be natural variations in the ingredients (even in the water, for goodness sake!). So you're all right. Now, please, no more !@#$%^&* at each other.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #17 of 29
Well let's put it this way. It can be done, but you have to control for a lot of things. Like the temperature of the fish when you put it in the liquid for example. You gotta make sure your lobsters aren't running a fever. If they are, you gotta cut down the cooking time. ;)

The only time I've seen people use stopwatches for cooking is in competition and in practicing for competition. Even then, the final call is made via touchy-feely methods. But then everything else is very tightly controlled. I've seen teams bring their own bottled water for their aspics.

Anyway, in the end you always test the product, that applies to everything. Not just cooking. It's like being a doctor. You treat the patient, not the test results.
post #18 of 29
Your question has been preying on my mind, so I went back and looked at what you actually posted to start the thread:My reaction is the same as when I first read that: Seems like a reasonably detailed recipe to me:
- temperature: boiling
- quantity: as much as you need to cook
- timing: 10 seconds from the time you add the calamari to the water, or else from the time the water returns to a boil (okay, I'll grant you a bit of uncertainty here, but this is where it only takes 2 tries to come up with an answer)
- cooling: in an ice-water bath.

Anything more is understood, as far as I'm concerned:
- starting temperature of the water: doesn't matter; it will be at 212F/100C when you add the calamari (yes, assuming sea level ;) )
- starting temperature of the calamari: less than or equal to 40F/4C, because that's the SAFE temperature; if it had been assumed that the calamari were still frozen, wouldn't it say so? And if it should be thawed -- which it should, for even cooking -- then it will be at or below the same 40F/4C
- knowing when it is done: AHA! that's where your skill as a cook comes in: you have to take a piece out and test it. If it feels done, it is done. No timers and thermometers can tell you that; you have to know what to look, feel, smell, etc. for. Specifically because some factor will always be different (as you seem to have acknowledged)
- why to cool as instructed, in an ice-bath: again, for safety and to stop the calamari from cooking. Keep it in the boiling water, and carryover will keep it cooking far too long for its own (and your customers') good, turning it to rubber bands. Let it take too long to cool down, and it could be unsafe.

Surely you know all that. So again, what is the problem you have?

So THAT's it! You want to impose science on a bunch of artistes! What you need, my friend (and I do feel you are my friend :D ) is not physical science, but social science! And the science of being a good leader and a good teacher. Have you not taught your cooks their recipes, by *****stration, coaching, and then by monitoring how they make them? If you have taught them properly, they be less likely to have those wide swings. (Although yogurt and yeast are living organisms, as willful as any child, and sometimes what made them behave one time only brings disaster the next.)

My point is: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in your recipes, nor necessarily in your underlings; look at how you lead, and you might find the answers you're looking for.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #19 of 29
Sharhar, I totally understand where you are coming from. It seems only natural to want to be able to objectively quantify a recipe. That way there is no room for error. Unfortunately, the kitchen is not a lab. There are way too many variables that we have to account for everyday. Just to use poaching a fish, since that is what we are talking about, as an example, here are just a number of the variables that make complete quantification (is that a word) impossible:
-temp of poaching liquid (yes even the temp of boiling water can change depending on what you put into and how long it has reduced-think sugar water)
-temp of fish when placing in poaching liquid
-density of fish (even same kind of fish can have different densities depending on where the fillet was cut, what time of year the fish was caught and where it was caught
-the BTU's of your burners - it will affect how quickly your liquid comes back to temp.
-the exact thickness of the fish - never seen a piece of fish, or meat, exactly 1, 1 1/2, or 2 inches thick and most recipes tell you to poach (cook) for X minutes per inch of thickness so unless all your cooks keep a set of calipers and a calculator around you won't discover the exact timing, just by that variable alone.

I agree, there has to be some sort of guidelines, but you can't allow these guidelines to rule you. Allowing them to do so is almost as bad as not using any guidelines at all. I hope this helps to shed some light on the subject.
post #20 of 29
Thread Starter 
The problem I have is that I've been realizing that any liquid has more states than "boil", "simmer", "room temperature" and "ice bath". I've been finding those terms to be inadaquate. Many things in proffesional kitchen have become more precise.

Again, as I iterated and reiterated, I'm not looking or expecting recipes to exclude common sense and experience. What I'm looking for is recipe that has a more precise measurement of temperature with timing as a consequence. I don't buy the "been always done like that" approach. Yes I know how to throw calamari into a boiling liquid and test it for doneness. But, the temp. a liquid is in when it's considered "boiling" can vary. The temperature can drop after the calamari was added. All this things have tangible phisical effects on the particular biochemical makeup of calamari.

I'm looking for alternatives that might be superior, or atleast more precise. When you say "boiling" what does that mean. Difference of 10 degrees might have a drastic effects on the cells that constitute calmari.

Maybe, we can get better results with lower temp. Let say, 150f, for one minutes or so(till done). Maybe cooling on it's own would be better than the tried and traditional icebath method. Maybe cooling in the the cooking liquid. Etc.

Yes this is considered a basic cooking technique. But I bet all of you would agree that when you claim to know exactly(scientificly?) what's the best method, it's the beginning of the end. Everytime I work with a new chef or cook, I compare recipes and technique for the most basic items. Mash, stock, rice. There's always room for learning, changing our minds or just refinment.

The best techniques may come from a novice cook who hasn't got locked into the official decree yet.
post #21 of 29
Well, you are certainly right there! Checking one of my favorite textbooks, On Cooking by Sarah Labensky and Alan Hause, I found:

The Professional Chef -- the CIA's text -- says:
(it should be obvious why this one is NOT my favorite. :p

Wayne Gisslen, in Professional Cooking -- the text I had to use in school -- says:
So what is it between 180 and 185 (Labensky and Gisslen), and between 205 and 212 (Labensky and Gisslen) and 200 and 212 (CIA)?

And if these "authorities" can't agree, why do you hope to find the one right way?
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #22 of 29
Don't forget about sea level and elevation :D
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #23 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thamk you Suzanne, for the research. Again, unlike some posters haven't realized, I am not looking for the "one and only, definitive" recipe. But for a few good recipes. Ones that take the actual different effects of varied liquid temps into account.

Sort of the thing, Cook's Illustrated is so good at(have they done one for this already? Anybody knows?). What I'm looking for is a well done and meticulous research. One unconstrained by common assumptions and tradional techniques.

I'm just finding it annoying that everywhere I looked, everybody teaches the same boiling water-10 secs-ice bath way. Everybody takes it for granted, but maybe there's a better way. Nobody, including all the excellent posters who were challanging me here(no sarcasm, really), seems to know.

I hate taking the "always done like that, don't question it" route. Scientific methology and skepticism had helped me to improve many recipes before. I try to question evey method. Understand why it works or doesn't and improve on that. I see so many people do things that don't really make sense or help just because everybody been doing it like that for "ever".(Putting tomato paste on roasting bones, comes to mind. Tottaly wretched technique, yet almost everyone seems to use it.)

And NO, I do not believe this takes away from the artistry. Dutch painters from the flemish renaisence had great art. They were also great in the advancement the science of paint making, optic theory etc. And that is true of all artists.

Science is not a dirty word. It won't turn us into fast food drones, it won't depersonalize our disntictive style.
post #24 of 29

Do you own Mcgee ?
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #25 of 29
Thread Starter 
Explain please =>
post #26 of 29

Thought maybe you were familiar.

Harold McGee's book On food and cooking.

I think you would enjoy it.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #27 of 29
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, Revised and Updated Edition on Amazon. And if you scroll down, you'll also find a link to Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, another excellent book on the science of cooking. These a great books to explain the whys of cooking as it is conventially done.

And one more set of books, but I don't have a single link to them: Ferran Adria, of El Bulli in Spain, has several volumes out of his work there. He's one of the best known proponents of what is now referred to as "molecular gastronomy" -- along with Heston Blumenthal in England, Herve This in France, and Grant Achatz here in the U.S. (Grant just opened Alinea, in Chicago, which was written up in the NY Times yesterday). These folks all look at the science of cooking and try to turn it on its ear. You'd probably be interested in the kinds of things they try. So you're not at all alone in trying to find out the science and using it to your advantage.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #28 of 29
Thread Starter 
Come to think of it I believe I did own a Mcgee book before. Lent it to a cook who ended up quitting and dissapearing. **** my generous heart.
post #29 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hey, anybody tried lobster sous vide(vaccum seal)?
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