Novice home cooks often learn the hard way that attempts to boil milk are misguided; it breaks or curdles. You're not in for so much difficulty if you have to bring cream to a boil, though. It's cream's higher fat content that makes it more stable, and so heavy cream is even more stable than light cream. That's not to say cream can't break or curdle on the way to boiling -- it can, and requires a little attention to prevent it.
Pour the cream into a saucepan that holds at least three times the volume of cream used. The liquid expands as it heats -- quite rapidly after it hits a boil -- and spillovers don't make for particularly fun cleanups. Use a high-quality, heavy-bottomed saucepan that distributes heat well to prevent scorching the cream.
Place the cream on a burner over medium-high heat. Don't cover the pot. Stir or whisk the cream every 1 to 2 minutes to keep it from breaking.
Watch the heating cream closely and remove the saucepan from the burner as soon as the liquid hits a boil, as it expands rapidly from that point. If you're reducing the cream, turn the burner down to medium-low -- letting an electric burner cool down for a minute -- before returning the pot.
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- Cream doesn't begin thickening in early stages of reduction. You'll need to reduce it by 40 percent or more before it starts developing a thicker consistency.
- If you're mixing cream with wine for a reduction sauce, reduce the wine alone first, or it will curdle the cream.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.