There’s a little more to properly cooking vegetables than throwing them into a pot, turning on the burner and hoping for the best; In fact some need to be started in cold water while others need to be started in boiling water. The question is, when do you use which?
Cold or Hot Water?
There’s a very simple rule of thumb that will help you to remember the proper cooking technique for all vegetables:
- All vegetables that grow above the ground, such as corn, peas, collards or other greens should be placed in BOILING water.
- All vegetables that grow below the ground, such as beets, carrots, turnips, and potatoes, should be placed in cold water.
But Why and Does it Really Matter?
There is actually a scientific reason for cooking vegetables this way. Vegetables that grow above the ground are generally cooked to make them softer, more palatable and easier to digest by breaking down the cellular walls of the plant itself.
Vegetables that grow below the ground, known as root vegetables, are generally quite starchy. These starches must dissolve during the cooking process in order to make the vegetable tender and ready for eating. By starting the root vegetables out in cold water the outsides of the vegetable are heated gradually, allowing the cell walls to be reinforced, if you will, thereby making it resistant to overcooking and becoming mealy in texture.
If you make the mistake of starting above-ground veggies off in cold water, the end result will likely be mushy-textured veggies with most of the nutrients in the water, coloring it yellow or green. Whereas if you start root vegetables off in boiling water they’ll likely be overcooked and mealy in texture.