the sound of heat

When I asked Michelin-star winning chef Titti Qvarnstrom based in Malmo about what she hears in the kitchen, she said, “the sounds of different water temperatures are distinctive” (February 2019) Visual Artist and cook Katrine Stensgard who filmed the Sounds Delicious “On Rhythm” workshop at the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen Food House in February 2019 focused in on boiling, and in this way put the simmer at the center of the rhythms of amateur cooks working together to make a 4 course meal. Watching this video, I think about how our boiling pots were often unnoticed. Chef Samat Norsrat has documented all kinds of sensory cooking cues in her cookbook “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” (Canongate 2017). Nosrat’s pedagogical mission is to help build sensorial and bodily awareness of the material transformation of ingredients during cooking. Like Chef Titti, Nosrat also speaks of the peculiar sounds of heat that serve any cook in attesting the state of meal. Here are some of the foundations of her listening to heat and ways of description:


Food should almost always sizzle when it’s added to a pan, signalling that the pan and the fat are both preheated.

But there are different qualities of sizzle…once sizzling slows and becomes more pronounced and aggressive, it’s a sputter. Sputtering is a sign that there’s a lot of hot fat present, and can often mean that it’s time to tip some fat out of the pan, flip the chicken breast to the other side, or pull the browning short ribs out of the oven.

Listen for the boil. Especially when you need to be prepared to turn it down to a simmer. You’ll find that you can hear whether foil-wrapped pans have come to a boil in the oven if you listen carefully enough. It’ll save you from having to peel the foil to check.

Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Canongate 2017), page 189:

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