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[Super Important] How to Boil Spinach | Key Points: Water Quantity, Salt, Ice Water

Spinach is a highly nutritious vegetable used in various dishes, including traditional Japanese cuisine. Here are the key points when boiling spinach (referred to as “aoru” by chefs).

Ideal Outcome

  • Vibrant green color
  • Crisp texture
  • Natural sweetness without bitterness

To achieve the ideal spinach, the crucial factors are “ample water, salt, and ice water.”

Let’s introduce the “Proper Boiling Method for Delicious Spinach.”

This article is about “Paprika.”
・22 years of experience as a chef, holding a license for preparing blowfish (fugu).
・Worked in various establishments such as traditional Japanese inns, high-end restaurants, and private clubs.
・Holds the position of head chef with previous experience.
[For a detailed profile, click here]

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Key Points for Boiling Spinach Effectively

The boiling method for leafy greens like spinach, komatsuna, shungiku, and mizuna is similar. While boiling is typically a kitchen task, some establishments might assign it to different positions. Given its frequent use in affordable meals, mastering this technique early is advisable, along with understanding the theory.

Considerations:

  • High temperature, short cooking time
  • Rapid cooling

Preparation:

  • Ample water
  • Salt (1.5% to 2% of water quantity)
  • Ice water

Procedure:

  1. Wash
  2. Boil only the base
  3. Boil the entire bunch
  4. Cool in ice water

Now, let’s delve into the details.

Cooking with the Final Outcome in Mind

Visualize the ideal result to consistently achieve the same quality through theoretical cooking.

Points for Boiling Leafy Greens:

  • Rapid, high-temperature heating
  • De-bittering
  • Immediate cooling

Preparation to Meet Points:

  • Ample water
  • Salt (1.5% to 2% of water quantity)
  • Ice water

Failure Factors:

  • Prolonged heating
  • Oxidation

Ample Water for Boiling Quickly at High Temperatures

When ingredients are added to boiling water, the temperature drops. To prevent excessive color change (browning), use plenty of water and minimize temperature loss. Boiling aids in de-bittering, a process incomplete in methods like microwaving or steaming.

Salt as an All-Purpose Seasoning

Boiling leafy greens usually involves salt to:

  • Slightly elevate boiling point
  • Stabilize green color
  • Promote de-bittering
  • Prevent oxidation of boiling water

Ice Water for Retaining Vibrant Green Color

Place the boiled greens in ice water to rapidly cool, maintaining their color and texture. If possible, run under flowing water for an additional 5 minutes to enhance de-bittering.

Steps for Boiling Leafy Greens like Spinach

Follow these steps for boiling spinach:

  1. Wash thoroughly
  2. Boil only the stems for 10 seconds
  3. Boil the entire bunch for 30 seconds
  4. Cool in ice water

1. Wash:
Thoroughly wash to remove dirt. Pay attention to the stems, prone to collecting soil. Cross-cutting the base with a knife is helpful. Use a large bowl to wash the spinach.

2. Boil Stems for 10 Seconds:
Plunge only the stems into boiling water vertically to heat the tougher stems before the leaves.

3. Boil the Entire Bunch for 30 Seconds:
Using chopsticks or tongs, immerse the entire spinach, turning it for even cooking. Adjust boiling time based on spinach quality and stem thickness.

4. Cool in Ice Water:
Quickly transfer to prepared ice water to retain color and texture.

Exploring with Copper Pot, Baking Soda, and Wood Ash Solution

To achieve an even more vibrant green color for spinach:

  • Use a copper pot: Copper complements spinach color, increasing pigment stability.
  • Add baking soda: Creates an alkaline environment, enhancing the green color. Use only for specific presentations or pureeing as it softens the texture.
  • Utilize wood ash solution: Mixing wood ash with water and using the upper portion can create an alkaline environment for boiling. This method efficiently de-bitters without softening the texture.

The Science Behind Properly Boiling Spinach

Though complex, let’s delve into the scientific reasons.

Green Pigment “Chlorophyll”

Spinach’s green pigment is chlorophyll, which undergoes the following changes:

StateColorPigment
InitialGreenChlorophyll
AlkalineBright GreenChlorophyllin
Copper BindingBright GreenCopper Chlorophyll
Mg DetachmentYellow-BrownPheophytin
After BreakdownBrownPheophorbide

Causes of Undesirable Color

Mg (magnesium) detachment from chlorophyll leads to yellow-browning. Factors causing Mg detachment are “heat, light, and acidity.”

FactorCountermeasure
HeatProper temperature control, short heating time, rapid cooling
Light (UV)Measures to block light
AcidityOxidation prevention, pH adjustment

Spinach Bitterness Component

The bitterness in spinach is oxalic acid, soluble through water and heat, mainly by boiling. Spinach available year-round may vary in color, tenderness, and bitterness based on growth and harvest conditions.

[Conclusion] What’s the Purpose of Boiling Spinach?

The primary goal of boiling vegetables is to make them “tasty.” Boiling transforms tough, bitter, or difficult-to-eat vegetables into something delightful.

Essential points:

  • Envision the final result
  • Acquire accurate knowledge
  • Execute the process diligently

In my youth, I made a significant blunder boiling broccoli. Lack of knowledge led to overcooked, disintegrated florets with a yellow-brown hue, earning me a scolding. Reflecting back, it seems unbelievable, but ignorance is part of the learning process.

Did you grasp the key points for making delicious spinach? Boiling is fundamental in a chef’s work. Learning theoretically accelerates improvement. Let’s cook based on scientific principles, as creating delicious dishes has the power to bring joy to people—a truly wonderful profession.

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