Parboil
Posted: 07 February 2014 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I recall having an argument with my first wife many years ago about this word. She insisted that it meant to boil partly, I that it meant to boil thoroughly. Well, she was right and I was wrong. OED marks the ‘boil thoroughly’ sense as obsolete (although I could have sworn I’ve heard or read modern examples of it). I ceded the field then but the question is complex. For instance she used the word in the sense ‘to bring almost to the boil’ whereas the OED definition is ‘to cook partially by boiling’, which is a horse of a very different colour. Interestingly the popular misidentification of the prefix par- as coming from part rather than Latin per- goes way back to Anglo-Norman and led to the sense part-boil rather than through-boil. Here’s OED (I’ve made sure to include the 1670 cite referenced in the etymology):

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman parboillir, perboillir to cook partially by boiling, to cook thoroughly by boiling, and Old French, Middle French parboulir to cook thoroughly by boiling (French parbouillir , now regional in sense ‘to boil, to boil down’) < post-classical Latin perbullire to boil thoroughly (6th cent.) < classical Latin per- per- prefix + bullīre boil v. In Anglo-Norman the prefix was apparently identified with par part n.1 (compare part adv., and for later evidence of the same identification compare quot. 1670 at sense 1).

1. trans. To cook partially by boiling.

1381 Diuersa Servicia in C. B. Hieatt & S. Butler Curye on Inglysch (1985) 62 Pecokys and pertrigchis schul ben yperboyld & lardyd..&etyn wyþ gyngeuyr.
a1450 in T. Austin Two 15th-cent. Cookery-bks. (1888) 6 Take fayre caboges..an parboyle hem in fayre water.
?a1475 Noble Bk. Cookry 31 To mak yonge pessene, tak pessen and par boille hem in water.
1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 652/1 It muste be parboyled first and than baken: il le fault parbouyllyr premier et puis le mettre cuyr au four.
1670 T. Blount Glossographia (ed. 3) , Par-boile, Part-boil, to boil in part not fully.

2. trans. fig. and in figurative contexts (freq. in hyperbolical use, with reference to overheating).

1565 T. Stapleton tr. Bede Hist. Church Eng. iv. ix. f. 122v, It might al be perboyled out by the fire of long tribulation.
1566 T. Drant tr. Horace Medicinable Morall sig. Eiijv, My harte in choller perboylde was.
1616 B. Jonson Every Man in his Humor (rev. ed.) iv. v, in Wks. I. 45 They should haue beene perboyl’d, and bak’d too, euery mothers sonne.

3. trans. To boil thoroughly. Obs.

1611 R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues, Pourbouiller, to parboile throughly.
a1655 T. T. de Mayerne Archimagirus Anglo-Gallicus (1658) v. 2 Take the Hare and par-boyl him, then take all the flesh from the bone.

Fascinating that the figurative sense seems to hark back to the ‘boil thoroughly’ meaning. Now if I could only hunt up my ex and nitpick this with her! I’m sure she would be most gratified.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 10:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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No offence intended to the ex, but ‘to bring almost to the boil’ is simmering, usually something like 94-95C. Small bubbles will still form, but you’re not actually boiling something until you’re all the way to 100C. If you think the difference is insignificant, try it with milk.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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but you’re not actually boiling something until you’re all the way to 100C

Depends mainly on the altitude of the kettle’s location.

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Posted: 08 February 2014 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Or in a pressure cooker, you’ll need to raise it to an even higher temperature to boil it…

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Posted: 08 February 2014 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just checked with my wife; she knew exactly what it meant.  I, of course, did not.  Thanks for this interesting and educational post!

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Posted: 10 February 2014 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Depends mainly on the altitude of the kettle’s location....

As a cooking term, “boil” means to cook at 100C. If you’re in a situation where water is boiling at some other temperature, then you would have to adjust accordingly.

Or in a pressure cooker, you’ll need to raise it to an even higher temperature to boil it…

Again, the cooking term, “boil” means to cook at 100C, it doesn’t mean put it in a pressure cooker.

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Posted: 10 February 2014 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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In most cases, in cooking the point is to get the temperature to 100 deg. But are there cases where you want to actually convert the liquid to a vapor, rather than reach a particular temperature (e.g., reducing a stock)? (I know nothing about cooking except how to punch the buttons on a microwave.)

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Posted: 10 February 2014 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In the world of cooking, the presumption is that water boils at 100C.

If you’re cooking something like soup, it will actually boil at a higher temperature because adding a solute to a solvent causes boiling point elevation and freezing point depression. But again, the presumption is somewhere at 100C or better and “boiling” is a true boil and not just a simmer.

If the point is to “reduce,” the recipe will say so and whether you do that at a boil or a simmer would depend on what it is. Some things will scorch on the bottom of the pan, even if the temperature as a whole is 100C. If scorching is an issue, the recipe will generally warn you.

My point was just that when you “simmer” you can still get some bubbles forming, but that isn’t a true boil in the cooking sense of the word.

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Posted: 10 February 2014 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I would suspect that whether it is necessary to bring the water to 100°C when boiling something would depend a lot on what that something is.  I wouldn’t think that when making tea the exact temperature of the boiling water was all that important, but, when I lived in Flagstaff (altitude 2130m or 7000 ft) the temperature of boiling water was not sufficiently high (approx 93°C) to loosen the skins of chili peppers for easy peeling.

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Posted: 10 February 2014 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It doesn’t matter what temperature the water is when making tea?

happydog shudders

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