The closing of beloved bagel shop H&H has led to a lot of speculation on why New York City bagels are so damn amazing. As any New Yorker who has had a bagel outside of this great city can attest, the majority of them are just a poppy-seed roll with a circle cut out in the center. Not a New York bagel in the slightest. New York’s water has always been thought to be behind the farinaceous feat, but alas, Slate tells us that’s just hooey.
But New York’s bagel supremacy has far more to do with production practices than water quality. Gotham’s bagelries typically poach the bagels prior to baking them — the bagels spend a few minutes simmering in a pot of water before entering the dry heat of an oven. That pre-gelatinization process produces a chewy interior, and slightly changes the flavor of the finished product.
Bagel impostors, meanwhile, skip the poaching step, because the boiling equipment is expensive and takes up space in the kitchen. They’ll only spritz them and steam them in the oven to decidedly crappier results. What’s more, these places won’t ferment their dough for as long, resulting in less tasty bagels.
So there you go, New York bagels are still the world’s finest, but it’s not just the world’s best water that makes them taste so damn good.