When Should You Cook With Lid On Or Off? (Helpful Tips)

Deciding whether to cook with a lid on or off is usually a headache, especially when a rookie cook. 

In this article, we offer a few guidelines to aid you on your culinary journey when you face the dilemma of choosing whether to leave the lid on or off.

When To Keep Lid On When Cooking

There are a couple of reasons why you would choose this method. 

  1. First is when you want to ensure that you trap sufficient heat in the cooking pot. This applies when you want to boil water to cook some spaghetti. Also when you want to steam some greens and when you want to simmer some soup. Monitor the temperatures to ensure you don’t surpass the boiling point of the food you are cooking to prevent spillovers.
  2. Secondly, when you want to maintain the moisture in the food, you are cooking. This is important, especially when you want to soften vegetables. You need the steam, so keeping the lid on is necessary. Similarly, when braising tough meat, such as pork shoulders, the steam is required to break down the collagen and connective tissues to produce a tender piece of steak. 
  3. Thirdly keeping the lid on is an effective way to maintain the flavor of food since it allows the flavors to meld perfectly to give an excellent taste.

When To Keep Lid Off When Cooking

While some foods rely on steam to give them a perfect taste similarly, some are determined by the evaporation of their moisture.

Soup, stew, and sauces are made best by cooking without the lid on since it allows the moisture to evaporate.

This method gives them a thick texture that ensures their flavors are concentrated, giving them a rich taste.

Another reason to go with this option is to achieve that perfect sear on your steak, lamb chops, or even that shrimp you bought for the first time.

Searing gives the meat a caramel look that adds flavor to it. This is usually done on a very hot pan; hence moisture is not needed.

Avoid keeping the lid on to achieve that crunchy and crispy taste you are looking for whenever you want to deep fry or stir fry something like chicken breast.

Does Food Cook Faster With Lid On Or Off?

Generally, cooking with a lid on generates heat and maintains it; hence food cooks faster.

However, this is dependent on what you are cooking.

In the case of something like searing a piece of meat with a lid on. It will cook faster, but it will not be well done, and it would not achieve the caramel look, leaving it wet. 

Sautéing without lid

Although in the case of braising meat where moisture is necessary to ensure the meat softens, the cooking process will be faster and achieve the desired result.

Therefore, the amount of time taken is highly dependent on many factors; hence making a conclusive decision that suits all is tricky.

Do You Fry Food On The Pan With The Lid On Or Off?

Cooking with a pan with a lid on helps ensure that you are not burnt by the high heat coming from the pan.

It also allows you to keep your stove clean by ensuring oil and some of the food doesn’t splatter.

Although cooking with the lid reduces the messy results that often occur after cooking, it does no justice to meat, for example, when stir-frying meat.

The enclosed cooking space concentrates steam in the pan that prevents the browning of the meat and hence its flavor. It further causes the meat to be soggy and have a bland taste.

Do All Pans Have Lids?

Not all frying pans come with lids. Mostly only sauté and saucepans come with lids.

Frying pans are short and slope-sided, and this re-design is mainly for high heat cooking such as searing that does not require steam to give that browning effect. 

Sauté and saucepans, on the other hand, can handle both methods that require cooking with the lid on(steaming) and those that cook best with the lid off(searing).

Sauté pans have a tall vertical feature that reduces splatter and holds a substantial amount of food. Saucepans are a crossover of a pan and a cooking pot, a design aimed at cooking food with a lot of liquid.

Should You Simmer With The Lid On Or Off?

Simmering requires to be done with a lid off.

Simmering aims to ensure that you keep the food you’re cooking in the pot below boiling point. It usually results in the food contents bubbling and boiling.

Cooking with a lid concentrates a lot of heat in the pot, thereby agitating the food contents more.

Furthermore, simmering with lid on keeps moisture inside, making sauce or gravy watery instead of the desired thick taste.

Some of the moisture in the pot evaporates, but since the lid is on, it is captured by the lid. When it cools off eventually, it drops into the sauce or gravy, making it watery.

With the lid on, you also ensure that you can concentrate the flavor of your food since none of it is altered by moisture contents.

Does Water Boil Faster With Lid On Or Off?

Boiling pasta. This requires the lid on.

Covering water with a lid makes it boil faster. Conversely, leaving the lid off makes the water boil slower since some heat is lost when some water evaporates.

Should You Only Use The Lid Designed For Your Pot?

Do not get worried if your pot does not come with its manufactured lid. As long as you find a lid that fits it perfectly and does not let any heat escape, it should work as good as if it had come with one.

Between A Glass And Metal Lid Which One Allows Food To Cook Faster?

The answer here is neither. Any differences between the two will be very minimal.

The only determinant of which cooks faster is whether the lid you chose fits well. If it does not fit well and allows heat to escape, it will cook slower than the one that is a perfect fit.

Is It Advisable To Use A Foil Over A Lid?

A foil will work well enough to prevent moisture from escaping, allowing the food to cook relatively quickly but not as fast as with the lid.

However, it is not good enough to prevent heat from escaping as using the lid.

You also need a quality foil that does not tear easily for it to work well. Below are some tips on the best way of using a foil:

  • Tear a foil that is larger than the pot used to cook
  • Cut it in a way that fits the shape and size of the pot or pan perfectly. 
  • Use the foil to cover the food directly instead of it covering the top of the pot.
  • If you are cooking sauce and trying to get it to come out as thick as possible, tear a hole in the middle of the foil to release more steam.

In Conclusion, using a lid on or off varies highly on the type of food you are cooking and how you want it to come out as thick or caramelized.

Therefore you should not limit yourself to keeping that lid on or off. Consider the above factors and how fast you want your food to cook.

Also Read: Simmering with or without the lid