The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking Exploratorium.edu
Candy Bread Eggs Pickles Meat Seasoning
Ask the Inquisitive Cooks    

"What is a "bain-marie"?"

Hi Anne and Sue,

My new recipe for crustless quiche and another for individual custards says to cook them in a "bain-marie." I haven’t a clue what this piece of equipment is or why it’s used. Please fill me in!

My thanks,
Terri

 

Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

(Meet the Inquisitive Cooks)

     
 

Dear Terri,

Sometimes when cookbook writers assume that every cook knows what a term means, it’s frustrating. However, it’s equally tiresome when authors go into too much detail that one grows tired of reading before the actual cooking begins! Sometimes it’s a tough call for those who write cookbooks.

A "bain-marie" is the French term for a dish that’s surrounded by a water bath and baked in the oven. There’s no special equipment to buy: A cake pan filled with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish does the trick nicely.

While this may sound as if it’s a fussy way of cooking something, there are sound reasons for using a bain-marie. As your recipes indicate, a bain-marie is often used with egg-based dishes, because egg proteins are very sensitive to heat. The proteins in egg yolks begin to coagulate at 149ºF (65ºC). Egg-white proteins are even touchier, with the proteins beginning to unfold and set at just 140ºF (60ºC). When eggs are cooked too long or at too high a temperature, they become tough and rubbery.

Surrounding egg-based dishes with hot water insulates them from the direct heat of the oven. It’s a useful way of keeping crustless quiches tender and getting custards to set but still remain silky.

Cheers,
Anne and Sue

 

 

 

- - - Science of Cooking - - - Webcasts - - - Ask The Inquisitive Cooks - - - Share & Discuss - - -

 

© Exploratorium | Use Policy | Privacy Policy