When my mom makes okra, she adds okra in the pan with all the masala. When she covers the pan with a plate for the okra to cook, she pours some water over the plate. She says it helps it to cook faster or something, but she doesn't know any scientific reason. It's more like advice passed down from others. Is there any reason we should?

  • 1
    When you say 'put some water over plate' do you mean in a bowl? Oct 26 '15 at 10:54
  • Could you please post a picture? Thanks! Oct 28 '15 at 6:20

The reason she puts water on the plate is to weigh it down so it seals better. Weight will press the plate down, less steam will escape so the okra will cook at a slightly higher temperature. It works, but it's not as good as a tight fitting lid on a good pot.

  • 3
    So a low pressure pressure cooker?
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 26 '15 at 18:11
  • Yes, exactly. I've seen rocks used on lids for the same reason.
    – GdD
    Oct 27 '15 at 13:17
  • 2
    MMmmm, stone soup! Just remember to throw away the okra...
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 27 '15 at 13:31
  • The rocks go on lid not the soup cave man!
    – GdD
    Oct 27 '15 at 14:54
  • You're not the boss of me! ;)
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 27 '15 at 14:55

I guess it is to protect the plate which is used to cover it. The water will absorb the direct heat and protects the plate from cracking.

  • Please, if you have something which answers the question, add it as an answer. Even if you're not sure that it's correct (then indicate so). Answers in comments are discouraged.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 26 '15 at 19:34

As a chemist a "lid" on a pot would not raise the boiling point of the water. You'd need a pressure cooker to do that.

A "lid" would help keep steam inside the pot when you cook something like dumplings which are above the fluid level. Having any sort of unpressurized "lid" on the pot would also allow the steam from the pan to condense and drip back in the pot. This could help keep the pan from boiling dry.

So "faster" depends on the fluid level to the okra pods.

To me the extra weight of the water would help keep a light plate from "bumping" up and down on the top edge of the pot. Not so much a "better" seal from a pressure point of view but a less noisy one. Moment of inertia thing.

  • Moment of inertia? Is the plate spinning? If you wanted to just weigh it down why not use another plate?
    – user40324
    Oct 27 '15 at 0:13
  • @blokedownthepub - Exactly. A stack of plates should have the same effect if I'm right. // As far as moment of inertia its convoluted. Let's look at it this way. If you could suspend the stack of plates 1 mm above the pan, then the plate wouldn't rattle on the pan. Think of using three paper clips on the edge of the pan to just hold the plate above the edge.
    – MaxW
    Oct 27 '15 at 3:27
  • Interesting. After your answer, I agree that the water-weighted plate does not create a pressure cooker, despite the claim of the top answer. But seeing how upvoted the top answer is, it seems that people readily believe it (it fooled me at first too). So it may very well be the actual reason behind the practice, due to cooks telling the story to each other, even if the belief behind it is false. So I'm very confused about whether the top answer should be upvoted (because it's a good candidate for explaining the reason) or downvoted (because it promotes a false reason)...
    – rumtscho
    Oct 27 '15 at 19:40
  • Well an uncover pot and a cover one are different. With a covered pot you end up with a steamer "above" a boiling liquid, but is not a pressure cooker. Chicken and dumpling is a favorite of mine and you must use a lid to get the dumplings to rise. I'm not thinking of dense noodle like dumplings but ones cooked on top of the liquid that have an fluffy interior like a biscuit.
    – MaxW
    Oct 27 '15 at 20:04

Yes, multi-purpose. To trap steam and distribute heat inside like a pressure cooker, yet protecting itself. A pressure cooker has a thick wall, but a thin top cover can otherwise get overheated.

  • I don't quite understand that final sentence - can you elaborate?
    – logophobe
    Oct 27 '15 at 14:17
  • If a thin stainless steel plate is used as an unconnected lid it will become excessively hot. So a thin sheet of water at top limits temperature reached. But a thick aluminum pressure vessel wall connected on all sides would not get that hot as there is better heat absorption due to heat transfer by conduction.
    – Narasimham
    Oct 27 '15 at 14:56

The reason is to keep the okra from cooking to fast and cooks evenly. The plate and water keep it from getting too hot too fast. Okra is a fibrous plant seed pod and needs extra time and would burn other wise.

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