Six Basic Methods for Cooking Polenta

BASIC POLENTA METHODS

Six simple methods for preparing nutritious, inexpensive, flavorful polenta. I’ve used them all and now find myself now using the pressure cooker method most frequently

THE SIX BASIC METHODS FOR COOKING POLENTA / CORNMEAL:

1. in a heavy pot on the stove top
2. in a heavy pot or casserole in the oven
3. in a stove top double boiler arrangement
4. in a microwaveable or Pyrex bowl in a microwave oven
5. in a slow cooker appliance
6. in a pressure cooked

ALL SIX REQUIRE THE SAME UNADORNED INGREDIENTS

 approx 3-4 cups water, depending on most common desired thicknesses
 1-2 tsp salt [or to diet/taste]
 1 cup coarse-grained cornmeal [any cornmeal will do, but coarse yellow makes most hearty, rustic polenta]
 optional butter, olive oil, pepper, or grated cheese

STOVE-TOP METHOD:

This is the most traditional Italian method. It requires constant stirring to prevent burning:

1. Bring water to a boil in heavy pot
2. Add salt [if diet allows]
3. Reduce to a simmer
4. Add cornmeal in slow steady stream, stirring with a strong wooden spoon or a strong whisk. [ a good way to do this is to let a fistful of cornmeal run through nearly closed fingers]
5. Stir constantly, keeping pot at a slow simmer; do not allow polenta to burn on bottom of the pan
6. Stir for 20-30 minutes or more. Polenta is done when it begins to tear away from the sides of the pot as you stir.

OVEN METHOD:

This method requires much less effort and produces good results:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Bring water to a boil in heavy pot or casserole
3. Add salt [if diet allows]
4. Reduce to a simmer
5. Add cornmeal in slow steady stream, stirring with a strong wooden spoon or a strong whisk. [let a fistful of cornmeal run through nearly closed fingers]
6. Put pot in the oven, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally until it reaches desired thickness

DOUBLE-BOILER METHOD:

This is easier and less likely to burn than plain stove top method:

1. Same as above, except that after step 5, insert to pot into a larger one that is partly filled with gently boiling water with a rack or soup bowl in its bottom to separate the two pots.
2. Stir occasionally, uncovered for about 35-45 minutes, or until corn meal pulls away from edges of pot and reaches desired thickness

MICROWAVE METHOD:

This is a very easy method that produces good results:

1. Pour boiling water in a large Pyrex or microwave bowl
2. Bring water to a boil in heavy pot or casserole
3. Add salt [if diet allows]
4. Add cornmeal in slow steady stream, stirring with a strong wooden spoon or a strong whisk. [let a fistful of cornmeal run through nearly closed fingers]
5. Put bowl in the microwave, uncovered, and cook at medium-high heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes and rotating bowl

SLOW COOKER METHOD:

Another easy method also yielding good results

1. Pour boiling water into a slow cooker set on ‘high’
2. Add salt [if diet allows]
3. Add cornmeal in slow steady stream, stirring quickly
with a strong wooden spoon or a strong whisk. [let a
fistful of cornmeal run through nearly closed fingers]
4. Cover the cooker and cook on high heat for 70-90
minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, if possible
5. Add some water if overly thick and stir in well
6. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving

PRESSURE COOKER METHOD:

The fastest method — and with the high, wet heat, perhaps the best:

1. Pour water into pressure cooker
2. Add salt [if diet allows]
3. Add cornmeal in a steady stream, stirring quickly with a strong
wooden spoon or a strong whisk. [let a fistful of cornmeal
run through nearly closed fingers]
4. Cover the cooker and cook on high heat for 70-90 minutes,
stirring every 15 minutes, if possible
5. Add some water if overly thick and stir in well
6. Let stand for five minutes before serving

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