Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Should I cover my pot or not? There is good reason for most recipes to call for the covering of your pots or pan, whether you’re making a stew, boiling pasta, or simply steaming some meat, somewhere along the line, you’re going to need your lid to cover your pots, and entrap some steam! But is covering your pan the same as simmering your covered food? What do they both mean? Well, we’ve got the answers, so sit tight!

What Does Simmer Mean?

Simmering refers to a method of cooking food gently and slowly. It’s much gentler than boiling liquid, though more aggressive than poaching. Simmering refers to cooking certain foods in liquid, or simply cooking the liquid itself, at a temperature slightly below the boiling point. Simmering is a little trickier than boiling because it requires close monitoring.

When to Cover Your Pot?

Only cover your pot if you’re trying to retain heat. This means that if you intend to bring your dish to a simmer or boil, whether it’s to cook pasta, soups, sauces, or blanch vegetables, then pop that lid onto your pot to save time and energy. Once you’ve achieved boiling point, remove the lid as this will prevent extra liquid from boiling over.

Since simmering requires some supervision, it’s best to cook your preparation uncovered, until you’re sure that the heat is causing the liquid to cook at an extremely low simmer. Adding a lid means more heat, causing your ingredients to start boiling again.

Does Covering a Pot Boil Water Faster?

The answer is yes most definitely! For those who weren’t aware of this little hack, covering your pot of cold water, for instance, will lock in the heat, therefore speeding up the boiling process to achieving hot water or boiling water.

Covering your pot will trap any moisture preventing more liquid from escaping, and evaporating into the air. Some of us have had the unfortunate slip up and forgotten to cover our boiling pot of liquid for a tad too long, and by the time you’ve remembered, you’ll notice that most of the contents of your pot have evaporated!

You can always avoid this problem by allowing your pot to reach a steady boil, then covering it with a lid.

Can You Simmer Without Covering Your Pot?

A simmering pot should remain uncovered at all times. The aim is to prevent the contents of your pot from achieving a boiling point. The gentle rumbling you’ll hear from your pot of soup will ensure that everything keeps moving, and cooking as it should without searing and boiling over. Once you cover your pot, the contents of your pot will cook faster, bubbling and boiling, as your pot will gather lots of heat very quickly.

If you’re making stock in a large pot, then it will need to be simmered for several hours – uncovered – before it is cooked and ready to eat. The goal is to cook the liquid at a constant simmer, ensuring a gentler method of cooking foods.

Does simmer mean cover

Temperature to Simmer

Most stews along with tougher cuts of meat are cooked at a fairly low temperature (between 85 to 96°C). The best way to judge the level of a simmer is by adjusting the heat and keeping an eye on the cooking process. Here are the different levels of simmering you should take notes of:

  • Slow Simmer: This is when there is little to no activity occurring in your pot, though you’ll be cooking liquid at very low heat, you’ll discover spirals of steam emanating from your uncovered pot, but that’s about it. Slow simmer is a cooking method gentler, which is often used for stocks and braises.
  • Simmer: Setting your stove to medium-low heat, will cause some gentle rumbling in the pot. This midway simmering is often used to cook soup, stew, sauce, and poultry.
  • Rapid Simmer: This occurs, when there your stove is set to medium or medium-high heat, with more avid bubbling in your pot, though the bubbles shouldn’t be huge and threatening to topple over. A rapid simmer is often used to reduce just the liquid in most recipes.

Simmer vs Boiling

When looking for the obvious differences between simmering and boiling, you’ll find that it’s just a matter of a few degrees. The important thing to note here is that the bubbling that occurs within your pot is an indication of your food being moved around at a rapid speed. On the other hand, simmering your food doesn’t involve much movement from the contents of your pot whatsoever.

Additionally, when simmering you may find that your pot of food has reached the temperatures of a slow boil, but this would be considered a rapid simmer instead. With much more activity occurring in your pot, it’s still considered a simmer, unless you decide to put a lid on it!

Why Does a Covered Pot Boil Over?

You might have noticed while preparing certain recipes in your large cooking pot, that once you cover your pot with a lid, it sometimes causes the liquids present in the food to boil over. This normally occurs because of starch molecules, evident in starchy foods like pasta. Starch molecules bubble up, foaming at the edges of your pot, which may cause many to pull the lid off of their pot, and reduce the heat so that the contents of your pot settle to a simmer. This will allow the steam and pent-up moisture to be released before you can proceed with your recipes.

Does simmer mean cover

Benefits of Simmering

There are some benefits of simmering foods and these are evident in:

  • Time
  • Taste
  • Texture
  • Nutrition

Time

Simmering is an easy way to achieve a pot of simmered vegetables, or a much lengthier, slow-braised recipe. Simmering is an incredibly versatile method for achieving delicious results at any desired time frame. You can simmer a pot of stock for several hours, while you go off and become busy with something else before you’re ready to check on it again.

Taste

While your soup or sauce simmers, when flavourful aromatics are added to it, the liquid becomes infused with impeccable flavors. Certain types of foods, like vegetables or beans, immediately absorb all those brilliant flavors while spreading their own flavors into the mix. You’ll have to ensure that there is enough liquid, to begin with so that when it evaporates you’re not left with a drying pot of food!

Texture

When you simmer your foods during the cooking process, they tend to soften and become more enjoyable. Beans become tender, while tougher cuts of meat break apart wonderfully, making it easier to chew and enjoy alongside other meals.

Nutrition

Simmering involves cooking foods in a flavourful liquid with which you plan to slurp and eat them with. Additionally, simmering your food recipes in apple cider, broth or other aromatics is a great way to prevent extra calories from oils, and fats from piling.

How Long to Simmer Foods?

If you’re wondering if certain types of food require a longer simmering time than others, then take a look at the list below:

  • Tougher Cuts of Meat
  • Stocks
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Grains

Tougher Cuts of Meat

If you’re planning to simmer your meats, then place the food into a pot of cold water, bringing it to a simmer. Larger tougher cuts of meat can require up to 4 hours of cooking time until they’re tender enough to tear apart with ease. Alternatively, low temperatures in the oven can achieve similar results.

Stocks

The longer you keep your meat stocks simmering the better flavorsome dishes you’ll achieve. You want to strip the bones of every ounce of nutrition, transferring them into the pot of aromatic liquid. Some stocks are left to simmer overnight, while most are given the entire afternoon to tenderize, doused in flavor before they’re ready to devour.

Poultry

Most chicken and other poultry can simmer to perfection in just under an hour, depending on their size and whether the bone is still intact.

Does simmer mean cover

Fish

If you’re simmering large pieces of fish, place them in cold water allowing the cold liquid to reach a light simmer. Refrain from allowing your pot of fish to boil, as this can damage their delicate tissue, resulting in an overcooked fish.

Vegetables

Many kinds of root vegetables respond wonderfully to simmering. Though their cooking time varies depending on their size and density. You can check its doneness, by inserting a sharp knife into the center of the vegetable, no forced entry indicates a cooked vegetable.

Grains

Individual varieties of grains require a different level of cooking time, with some simmering to perfection on low heat, and others needing a gentle nudge with medium-high heat, so that they reach a steady simmer, cooking the beans till tender.

Types of Foods to Simmer

Planning to whip up a meal that has been simmered to perfection? Then you’ll be pleased to know that most foods taste impeccable when simmered instead of boiled. Remembering that the liquid these types of foods are cooked in retain incredible flavor, which makes them a perfect accompaniment to your:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish
  • Stock
  • Large Cuts of Meat

Grains

These include barley, farro, millet, and quinoa, which can be gently simmered with additional aromatics until they become tender. Pour this over some boiled rice, or dip thick chunks of your favorite bread to enjoy the delicious flavors.

Legumes

Beans and lentils are best cooked in a soup at a gentle simmer. You can add more ingredients as they’re simmering to ensure flavourful outcomes.

Vegetables

Starchy root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, and turnips are cooked best when slowly simmered, so they cook completely, without a tough interior when bitten into.

Meat and Poultry

Simmering is a common cooking technique used to cook meat and poultry, in the form of poaching or braising, whether it be in the oven or atop a stove.

Fish

Delicate foods like fish can be cooked at a low simmer to ensure that they remain intact throughout. Check out some delicious cobia fish recipes, to bring forth some inspiration!

Stock

Slow cooking broth or stock at steady temperatures allows the flavors to lock and mesh together so that you can make the most out of your broths or stews, whether you intend to put it away for later use, or – my favorite – plan to cook rice in chicken broth.

Large Cuts of Meat

Boiled meats tend to remain dry and tough, while simmered meats become soft and tender. This is especially good for meat stews that require a flavored liquid to complete the entire dish.

Bottom Line

Now that you know what’ll happen once you cover a pot of hot liquid, you may choose to leave your pots uncovered if you wish to achieve tender vegetables, as opposed to a rapid boiling, bubbling pot of veggies!

FAQs

Does simmer mean covered or uncovered?

For cooking pasta or heating vegetables, cover your pot to keep the heat in. Putting the lid on your pot of simmering ingredients will save both time and energy, preventing prolonged cooking.

What does it mean to leave on simmer?

Simmering is a cooking method used to bring a liquid to a gentle bubbling – just below boiling. You’ll notice lots of little bubbles forming and rising to the surface, especially during a rapid simmer. If your pot of soups or stews begins to boil, turn the heat to low heat to maintain the gentle simmering.

What does it mean to put on simmer?

To simmer means to cook a liquid at a temperature slightly under the boiling point, just before it reaches a rolling boil. It’s a gentler method of cooking ingredients until they’re tender.