Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

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Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Jon Peterson » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:54 pm

I've got a grip and want to know if anyone one else has this grip too or advice on what to do about it.
Every recipe that calls for reducing liquid "until it thickens" or is "reduced by half" etc, that I ever used always underestimates, to a large degree, the time it takes to accomplish the thickening or the reduction. This includes recipes that I copied and posted here.
Does this happen to you or am I simply not using a hot enough stove? This is very frustrating to me and came to a head this evening using our new Dutch Oven for the first time; five minutes turned onto 25 minutes!
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Mark Lipton » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:19 am

Jon, the heat of your stove is irrelevant since water boils at a constant temperature. More likely the problem is the size of the pan that you use. The time it takes to reduce a sauce in volume depends on the surface-to-volume ratio of the liquid. You therefore get faster evaporation from a wider pan than from a smaller pan that is more full.

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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Jon Peterson » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:59 pm

Thanks, Mark! I knew about surface-to-volume ratio but never applied it to cooking but I will henceforth!
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Jenise » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:22 pm

Jon Peterson wrote:Thanks, Mark! I knew about surface-to-volume ratio but never applied it to cooking but I will henceforth!


And certain style pans reduce faster than others. A straight-sided pan will not accomplish reduction as fast as a slope-sided pan where the bottom is narrower than the opening.
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby John Treder » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:24 pm

I agree, Jon, it normally takes longer than the recipe leads me to think. Turning up the heat helps some because you're able to turn the water and other volatile stuff to steam more quickly - more heat coming in, there's more to provide the heat of evaporation.
A pet peeve of mine is when I look at a recipe and say, "That'll never thicken up!" and it doesn't, and I have to either do something about it when it would better have been done earlier, or live with a too-thin sauce.
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Peter May » Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:20 pm

I'm glad I am not the only one - for me reducing never takes the time the recipe says (and preparation time also takes much much longer).
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Jan 12, 2013 6:47 pm

Me, too. Reductions always take longer than what's estimated in a recipe. I also find that risotto takes me at least double the time stated in recipes.

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Me too

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:20 pm

This is also an issue for me. But in my case I wondered if it also had to do with the thickness of my pots and pans. I.E. I don't have the super high-level thick stuff that holds heat.
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby John Treder » Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:14 pm

Look at a wok, Rahsaan; a thin steel pan heats up quickly, spreads the heat fairly well, doesn't wear out fast.
Now look at a restaurant kitchen. The only thick stuff is soup kettles and cast iron pans for things like hash and cornbread.
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:16 am

John Treder wrote:Look at a wok, Rahsaan; a thin steel pan heats up quickly, spreads the heat fairly well, doesn't wear out fast.
Now look at a restaurant kitchen. The only thick stuff is soup kettles and cast iron pans for things like hash and cornbread.


Ok. Well then what do I know!
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Re: Boil until reduced by half - 5 minutes?

Postby John Treder » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:59 pm

Maybe you should sit at the counter more often, Rahsaan! :mrgreen:
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