Most people don’t talk about how they “blanched and shocked” for dinner. They may tell you that they grilled salmon, sautéed greens or tossed the most delicious salad. But, no, blanching and shocking does not rank high on the “what-I-made-last-night” list. While it’s not commonly discussed, it’s one of the most practical culinary techniques for home cooks and chefs alike.
Why? I’m glad you asked!
You can apply these techniques to:
- Yield a bright color and crisp texture (think: crunchy green beans for a pasta salad!). You can even blanch and shock herbs, like basil, to make a vibrant pesto sauce.
- Remove a peel, like a stubborn beet skin or the exterior of a tomato.
- Par-cook foods to make at another time. This method will keep your fresh produce from wilting. You can also par-cook foods before applying another cooking technique. For example, you can blanch and shock kale to soften the greens, and then sauté them to add flavor.
- Properly prepare foods for the freezer. After you blanch and shock fruits or veggies, you can put them on a sheet pan in a single layer in the freezer. Once frozen, you can transfer them to an airtight container.
Blanching and shocking are often used in tandem, as the hot-to-cold action will stop a food’s enzymes from further ripening the fruit or vegetable. This helps retain the color and structure of the food, even if it’s to be stored through canning or freezing.
For the sake of clarity, I’ve broken the methods down into definitions:
To blanch is to briefly or partially cook an item in boiling water.
To shock is to plunge the blanched item into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Once you get these techniques down, you’ll be amazed at how often they’ll come in handy!
- Fire and ice. Fill a stockpot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a couple tablespoons of kosher or sea salt. Now, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water, and set it aside.
- Wash and chop. Keep each produce variety (like basil and broccoli) separate, as they don’t all cook for the same duration of time. Also, blanch the lighter produce first so the colors don’t bleed.
- Drop it. Gently drop a small batch of veggies into the boiling water and keep a close eye on the time. Most vegetables cook in 2 to 5 minutes. Approximate blanch times: herbs, 10 to 15 seconds; kale, 2 minutes; chopped carrots, 2 minutes; broccoli, 3 to 4 minutes (depending on the size of the florets). Always test a piece before removing all the vegetables.
- Into the ice. Using a spider or slotted spoon, remove the veggies. Immediately submerge them into the ice bath until they completely cool. If the ice starts melting, add more.
- Blot it out. Once cool, remove and transfer to a sheet pan or platter. Blot some of the moisture, if necessary.
- Repeat. Continue the process until all your produce is perfectly blanched and shocked!