How To "Boil" Seafood Better

This cooking technique results in perfectly cooked seafood.

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Seafood is some of the fastest cooking food you can prepare. From fish to shellfish, the food from the sea are usually easy to cook as well as super tasty. 

Seafood that cooks quickly is the reason why many cooks also overcook seafood. It can take several seconds over high heat to cook small pieces of squid but it can also take a few minutes for larger pieces. If you overcook shellfish, it can become dry in the case of fish or it needs to be cooked for as many as 30 minutes up to another hour before squid will become tender to the bite again. 

If you are afraid to overcook seafood, you should try this simple method instead: poach it

Poaching is cooking food gently in heated waterThis is very different from water that is boiling or even simmering. This water, which can also be fish, vegetable, or chicken stock plus aromatics such as onions, leeks, and ginger and seasonings such as soy sauce, patis, and calamansi juice for more flavor, is barely simmering but it is hot enough to cook. In fact, the temperature of the water is just high enough to heat the water enough to cook the food but low enough that you can barely see bubbles on the surface of the water.   

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Photo by Lilen Uy
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This technique is similar to boiling but relies on a more gentle way of boiling it since the water is not at the boiling point. There are no rapid bubbles rising to the surface of the water, just to expand and pop when it does. There are also little to no bubbles on the surface of the water either. This means the water is barely moving at all, so the meat that you add to cook in this liquid is not jostled around. This is how it gently cooks. 

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Want to try it? Here's how to do it: 

  1. 1 Fill a large pot with water and season with salt.  
  2. 2 Bring the water to a boil then lower the heat until bubbles are no longer appearing on the surface of the water, around 180 degrees F or 83 degrees C. 
  3. 3 Add the seafood, fish, or other shellfish to the water. Cover.
  4. 4 Let seafood cook in the liquid. Remove from the poaching liquid using a slotted spoon or tongs for the large pieces, and serve as desired. 

Cooking time will of course depend on the seafood you're cooking. Pieces of fish should be opaque and firm but still flaky, shellfish should have opened, and shrimp and crabs should have turned orange. It can take around 10 minutes for fish and up to 30 minutes or more for crabs that have been quartered, depending on how large the pieces are.

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If poaching bigger pieces of shellfish such as oysters, large clams, and crabs, it's best to either shuck the meat out from the shells just poach the meat or cut up the crabs into smaller pieces so the heated water can cook it through better and easier. Shelled shrimp will also cook faster than shrimp that are left unpeeled. 

You can also try poaching in seasoned oil or steaming the fish and other seafood in parchment paper, too, so you end up with a meal that's easily delicious as it is fast and easy to cook.  

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Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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