Iced, hot, pure, and dirty

ice water

We might take it for granted, but water is one of the most important tools in the cook's arsenal. It's far more than just another liquid ingredient - and of course it isn't always liquid. Ice has many uses in the kitchen, and Epicurious takes a look at how ice + water can make you a better cook. From shocking vegetables to quickly cooling custards and stock, ice water is your friend in the kitchen. Refresh fresh herbs and salad greens, and make your crudités crisper, by utilizing an ice water soak.

Hot water can also be useful. It can be a lifesaver in mending a broken Hollandaise, for example. Michael Ruhlman stresses how important water is to emulsions like Hollandaise sauce on his blog. "The key is to make sure [the Hollandaise] has got enough water in it; water keeps the oil droplets separate, which is why the sauce is thick and opaque and so lovely to eat."

While tap water is the kitchen workhorse, more rarified water has its place. Some experts advocate cooking beans in distilled water so they don't fall apart. They posit that too many minerals in tap water can lead to burst beans. Coffee and tea aficionados often buy particular brands of spring or mineral water to bring out the best flavor in their brews. Speaking of brew, home brewers are fanatic about the water they use to make beer and spirits.

Even "dirty" water is helpful. Many cooks have long contended you can use pasta water to thicken sauces--although others disagree. There's no controversy in using pasta water to loosen a sauce. You can use leftover potato cooking water in bread making as well.

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