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When you cook polenta, you are instructed to cook it until it 'comes away from the sides of the pan'. Why is this when starch cooks at around 100C? Is it to evaporate some of the water, or to make sure the individual 'grains' of polenta are soft and cooked?

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I'm interested in this question, but I'm not sure I understand the relationship you're making between temperature and the consistency. Can you provide a bit more explanation? Are you saying that you should just be able to stick a thermometer into the pot and stop cooking when the mixture hits 100˚C? – Josh Caswell Dec 24 '12 at 19:58
@JoshCaswell What I'm mean is that it thickens upon boiling (100C) yet you are supposed to keep cooking. – Sebiddychef Dec 24 '12 at 20:52

If you try some when it's only just come to a boil, it's pretty obvious that it's both of the things you suggest. The cornmeal won't be cooked (it'll be gritty, still half dry, not soft) and there'll be too much liquid still.

You could of course use less liquid, but that wouldn't change the fact that polenta, like most other food, doesn't cook instantly. It needs some time to soften and absorb water all the way through.

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