Parboiling or blanching is a cooking technique in which something is partially cooked in boiling water, but removed before it is cooked all the way through. Many recipes call for parboiled ingredients to ensure that foods which take longer to cook will be completely cooked in the final dish. A common example is stir fry, which often includes ingredients such as carrots which may not be completely cooked if they are fried with the other vegetables. If the carrots are subjected to parboiling first, they will be tender and soft, along with the rest of the stir fry.
In addition to partially cooking ingredients, blanching also has other uses. For example, it can be used to loosen and remove the skins or husks of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes. Cooks can also parboil a large batch of something so that they can cook smaller meals quickly and easily. Breakfast potatoes, for example, can be parboiled so that they will fry quickly and evenly. Many vegetables are parboiled before being frozen, so that they can be used easily when they are thawed out. Parboiling also yields tender yet still crispy asparagus if it is timed well.
Some rice producers use parboiling as a processing technique. After the rice is harvested, it is soaked in fresh clean water. The rice is subjected to heat, which helps to crack the hulls. In addition, blanching changes the chemical and physical structure of the rice. Parboiled rice cooks more quickly and is less likely to spoil than raw rice. It may also have nutritional benefits, and parboiled rice is widely eaten in India and some other parts of Asia.
To parboil at home, fill a pot on the stove with boiling water and prepare the food you intend to parboil. When the water boils, toss the food in, and cook it until it starts to soften. Drain the food and run cold water over it so that the color will set and the food will not turn to mush. Set the food aside until you are ready to throw it into the primary dish you are cooking, or put it into a storage container if you do not intend to use it right away.
You may find that parboiling is a big kitchen time saver. As you experiment with it, you can learn about which ingredients work best with the technique. In addition to being used on vegetables, blanching can be used with some meats to accelerate their cooking times. You can also parboil in a mixture of herbs and spices to add flavor to the food.