Updated: Aug 27
What is Blanching?
It’s when you submerge a raw ingredient (i.e., broccoli) in boiling hot water just long enough to “knock the raw off it.” Usually about 10-60 seconds depending on the density of the item. Blanching = Starting the cooking process.
What is Shocking?
It’s when you remove that broccoli from the boiling water and immediately submerge it in a bowl of ice-water. Shocking = Halting the cooking process.
What Does This Process Do?
When you stick a vegetable in boiling water, the cooking process starts very quickly. Things start to loosen up and expand and all the goodness comes to life. The vegetable enters a phase that we can just call the “sweet spot”. And once it's there, you want to basically hit the pause button - this is what Shocking does. It's like playing a song in your car and pausing it just before the coolest part starts to start <- This is like Shocking a vegetable; you get it to just the right spot and freeze time. You keep the song paused there until your friend jumps in the passenger seat and then boom... ya hit play <- this is how you use a Shocked vegetable. Just before its time to plate / eat, you "hit play" and resume the cooking process from the "sweet spot".
The Blanch-Shock process takes an ingredient (usually a vegetable) to the perfect place in the cooking process and then says “FREEZE!” … literally.
So Why Do This?
It's the best of both worlds – you cook a vegetable, and you don’t let it die. You get all the flavor and nutrients and texture AND it's not beat to a pulp. This is how restaurants make awesome grilled asparagus. A line cook will Blanch-Shock many, many bunches of em before dinner service starts and then they are kept in a fridge... ready to rock. When you place your order, a handful of em are rolled in olive oil n’ garlic and tossed on a hot grill. They are salted, peppered, flame-kisses and brought up to an ideal temp. BUT! the bulk of the cooking process was done via the Blanch-phase and no need to worry if the middle will be just as perfect as the salty, peppery, garlicky, surface.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much this method is utilized in commercial kitchens... especially fine dining. Not to mention how much it plays into food styling and recipe development. This post is a “cliff-note” version of the Blanch-Shock method; there is a lot more awesomeness to understand but this will get you going for sure.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
#1, #2 and #3 - Have that bowl of ice water ready before you even think about putting veggies in the boiling water. Have your tongs ready... have it all ready before you Blanch.
# 4 - When you pull those veggies out of the boiling water you want to immediately strain >= 90% of the water off. Pour them into a strainer, pull em out with a pair of tongs or a slotted ladle... it's up to you just do it fast.
# 5 - You need the ratio of (ice water : vegetable) to be proper. Those veggies are going to be very, very hot and will melt the ice quickly if there is not enough. Remember... the whole point of the Shock part is to stop the cooking process in its tracks. You want to kill all residual heat and make sure that vegetable is no longer cooking on the inside.
# 6 – If your veggies are delicate... like spinach... watch out for the dry-ice effect. Ice can grab things... it's so cold that its sticky when dry. It's easy to avoid this, just make sure the water to ice ratio makes sense.
Whether you are cooking for yourself at midnight, food styling for your Instagram account or trying to make friends with your in-laws ... a practical understanding of the Blanch-Shock method is one of the best tools you can possibly have. Good Luck