blanching vegetables

Everything You Need to Know About Blanching Foods

What is Blanching?

In the world of cooking, recipes can be comprised of their unique language. One term you may have come across in recipes or food guides is blanching. You’re not alone if you’ve come across the term and wondered what it is. While it may sound similar to bleach, blanching does not involve chemicals. Instead, it’s boiling or steaming food for a short period, sometimes as fast as thirty seconds. The ingredients are then shocked in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Considering it’s such a short heating time, why is blanching included in recipes, and what does it do?

Why Food is Blanched

Even though exposure to heat during the blanching process is brief, it can transform the color and texture of ingredients. Blanching allows you to control how long food cooks in a recipe and improves food quality. Because it’s a short exposure to heat, blanching is more of a preparation step than cooking. Blanching can help you achieve the following: 

  • Softens thinner fruit and vegetable skins to make their removal easier 
  • Helps to ensure even cooking of ingredients in recipes  
  • Removes surface dirt and microorganisms to improve flavor and freeze quality 
  • Reduce enzymes to slow the ripening process
  • Enhances the color of fruits and vegetables

Blanching Effortlessly Removes Thin Skins

When removing the skin of an ingredient is required for your recipe, blanching will be your best friend. Skins will slide off with minimal effort, whether you’re peeling almonds, apples, peaches, pears, tomatoes, or even grapes. To help make blanching to skin ingredients easier, try the following tips:

  • Cut an X into the flesh about two inches wide when blanching thin-skinned items such as tomatoes and peaches. The cut does not need to be deep, only enough to slice through the skin. Once boiling or steaming, remove the ingredients from heat once the score mark edges curl back and transfer them to the ice bath. 
  • For small items such as grapes or almonds, boil or steam until you notice cracks forming in the skin. Remove and transfer to an ice bath.  
  • Firm stone fruit may not peel well through blanching. This is because the fruit may cook too much before the skin releases from the fruit. Allow stone fruit to ripen until slightly soft before blanching. 

Even Cooking of Stir-Fry and Quick Recipes

Cooking does require time management and planning to present a dish evenly cooked throughout. There are simple tricks to ensure consistency among the ingredients. Those tricks include chopping ingredients the same size and selecting equally weighed portions of meats. But as much as you may carefully prepare and choose even quantities of ingredients, you can’t always control the cooking time needed. That’s especially true for recipes with multiple components like stir fry. 

Stir fries are one of my favorite comfort foods with various ingredient options. But because they contain multiple ingredients, evenly cooking stir fry can be challenging. The secret to a great stir fry is knowing when to add the ingredients. Blanching vegetables as the first step can soften the ingredients without thoroughly cooking them. Once blanched, you can set the vegetables aside. Later in the recipe, after cooking proteins, you can add the vegetable to the pan to thoroughly cook throughout and coat with sauce during the final few minutes. The result is an evenly cooked meal without overcooked vegetables.   

Blanching prior to Freezing

Freezing foods is a fantastic way to extend the shelf life of perishable foods. While it’s a way to extend their life and avoid money being thrown away, losing flavor and quality is possible. Blanching can remove surface dirt and microorganisms and break down some of the food’s enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for the ripening of fruits and vegetables, even after harvesting. Reducing enzymes can help slow the rate at which food ripens and extend its life. By blanching before freezing, you will have the best flavor and freshness when using frozen ingredients. You’ll also notice improved colors!

Brighter Colors for Presentation

Blanching not only preserves the flavor and freshness of ingredients, but it can also improve color! The reason is partly thanks to the reduction of enzymes and microorganisms, which can break down fruits and vegetables and dull colors over time. The other component has to do with microscopic air bubbles on the surface. As food blanches, the air bubbles burst from the heat and allow chlorophyll, tannins, and other natural colors to be undistorted by the bubbles. Once blanched, colors can shine through on the surface and create picture-perfect plates.  

The Blanching Method

Though blanching is a short process, the benefits offered quickly add up. And best of all, it’s as easy as making pasta! To blanch ingredients, there are two methods you can use. You can boil blanch in a pot of water or steam blanch with a pan and a steamer basket. Both ways are easy to do and can achieve the same results. Before blanching, have an ice bath in a large bowl ready to use for shocking. 

To boil blanch, select a pot large enough to hold a 4-to-1 ratio of water to ingredients. For example, if you were to blanch 1 cup of peas, you would need 4 cups of water.

  1. Bring the water to a rolling boil. 
  2. Add the ingredients in small batches to avoid dropping the water temperature too much. 
  3. Once the water returns to a boil, start a timer using the boiling timetable below. 
  4. When the timer goes off, immediately transfer the ingredients to the ice water bath for the same time as boiling.
  5. Remove from the ice water bath and transfer to an empty bowl.

To steam blanch, place a steamer basket inside a pot or saucepan. Add water until it’s about an inch below the bottom of the steaming basket to ensure even blanching.

  1. Heat the water over medium-high heat until the water reaches a slow boil and steam develops.
  2. Add the ingredients to the steam basket and spread them out in a single layer. 
  3. Because steaming is at a lower heat than boiling, multiply the times in the boiling table by 1.5. If steaming peas, the time would be 3 to 6 minutes. 
  4. Once the timer goes off, transfer the ingredients to an ice water bath for the same length of time as the ingredients were steamed. 

Blanching Times

Please refer to the chart below for common fruit and vegetable blanching times. Please note that the times listed are for the boiling method. If steaming, increase the time by 50%. 

Fruits/Vegetables Blanching Boiling Time
Artichoke Jerusalem 3 to 5 Minutes
Apples 30 to 45 Seconds
Asparagus 2 to 4 Minutes
Artichoke Hearts 7 Minutes
Beans - snap, green, or wax 2 to 4 Minutes
Broccoli Florets 2 to 3 Minutes
Brussel Sprouts - small 3 Minutes
Brussel Sprouts - medium 4 Minutes
Brussel Sprouts - large 5 Minutes
Carrots - whole 5 Minutes
Carrots - chopped 2 Minutes
Cauliflower Florets 2 to 3 Minutes
Greens - Collard 3 Minutes
Greens (not including collards) 2 to 3 Minutes
Corn on the Cob 4 to 6 Minutes
Okra 3 to 5 Minutes
Peaches 45 Seconds
Pears 30 to 60 Seconds
Pepper Halves 3 Minutes
Pepper Slices 2 Minutes
Potatoes (fully cook before freezing) 4 to 7 Minutes
Spinach 2 Minutes
Summer Squash 2 Minutes
Tomatoes 30 to 60 Seconds
Grapes 30 Seconds
Almonds 1 Minute

Blanching Tips

  • If you don’t see a fruit or vegetable listed above in the table, it doesn’t mean it can’t be blanched. This is because I only included items commonly blanched. For items not listed, I suggest searching “‘ingredient’ blanch time” to see if and how long it can be blanched. 
  • Always use a timer. If food is under-blanched, the enzymes can be activated without burning off and speed up the ripening process. If over-blanched, food will begin to cook and lose the benefits of blanching. 
  • Don’t skip the ice bath step! Even though food may be removed from heat, if it isn’t shocked, the cooking process will continue from heat stored within the ingredients. 

This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission by purchasing items linked to Amazon. There is no added expense for you, and it will help support Flavors of Paradis LLC. All products recommended are hand selected by Flavors of Paradis unless otherwise stated as a sponsored product. 

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