How To Boil Water


Boiling water is very easy to do, but it is crucial to many meals, such as cooking rice and Pasta. You just heat the water until it starts bubbling. But there's a little bit more to it than that…

Water is boiled for two purposes: first, cooking of itself to destroy organic impurities; second, for cooking foods. Boiling water toughens and hardens albumen in eggs; toughens fibrin and dissolves tissues in meat; bursts starch grains and softens cellulose in cereals and vegetables.

Know what kind of boil you're going for:


Poaching, simmering, and boiling are slightly different techniques. Boiling is when the water gets as hot as it's going to get and begins to evaporate into steam. 

Choose a pot that's large enough to hold the amount of water you want to boil, and has a lid that fits.

You might be tempted to use water that's already warm or hot from the tap, but this water has been sitting in your pipes for some time, getting stale. Use cold water if you're going to drink it or cook with it.     

Don’t fill the pot all the way up. Keep in mind that anything you add to the boiling water will increase the volume, and plus, you’ll need to allow room for those bubbles to do their thing. Without enough room in the pot, for example, rice or pasta will boil over.

Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. If you want to speed up the process, put a cover on it.

Add salt only for seasoning. There's a myth that adding salt will make the water boil faster. Adding salt raises the boiling point, which means the water will need to be hotter to begin boiling, therefore actually taking longer to boil.

Check for steam escaping from under the lid, then lift the lid carefully to see how the water is doing.

Water boils at 212° F. (sea level), and simmers at 185° F. Slowly boiling water has the same temperature as rapidly boiling water, consequently is able to do the same work. Once the water has reached boiling temperature, Turn down the heat. Keeping the heat on high won't make a difference in temperature.

Look at the water. If large bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pot to the surface, the water is boiling. TIP: Small bubbles that stay at the bottom or sides of the pot are air bubbles present in the water; they don't necessarily indicate that boiling is imminent. Wait for bubbles that rise to the top of the pot.

High Altitudes:


Water will boil at high altitudes, but it isn't as hot as boiling water at sea level. This is because the air pressure is lower at high elevations. Boiling occurs when the water is hot enough to have the same pressure as the surrounding air, so that it can form bubbles. At high altitudes, air pressure is lower than at sea level, so the water doesn't have to get so hot to get to boiling.

TIP: Because the temperature of the boiling water is lower at high elevations than at sea level, it takes longer to cook at higher altitudes than at sea level. The speed that food cooks is not related to the time it takes to boil.

Adding a little salt to the water will cause the water to boil at a slightly higher temperature which can be helpful while cooking especially at high altitudes. 

Boiling water in the microwave is pretty straightforward, but there is the risk of superheating, when the water heats up past the boiling point without bubbling and then erupts suddenly, possibly causing burns. While this is unlikely there are some precautions you can take.

Microwave


Put the water in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. For increased safety, use a container that has a scratch or chip (in scientific terms, a nucleation site) on the interior surface. This will help the water bubble.

Place a non-metallic object such as a wooden spoon, chopstick, or Popsicle stick in the water. This also helps the water bubble.

Put the water in the microwave. Heat in short intervals, stirring regularly, until the water is steaming. (Even if these steps are followed, bubbling won't be obvious.)

Stir the liquid thoroughly to add a little air to the mix, before heating.

Tips


• If you are boiling something other than water, such as sauce, turn it down as it reaches boiling to avoid scorching the bottom to the pot.
• If a recipe calls for something to be at a "full, rolling boil" it means that the water should not stop boiling when you stir.
• Hot water boils faster than cold water.

Warnings

• Boiling water and the steam coming off of it are hot enough to burn you. Use a pot holder if you need to, and handle with care.
• Steam will scald more than boiling water due to the extra heat energy it contains.
• Watch out if heating distilled water in a microwave as it can explode when picked up. (flash boil)

Sources & References
The Boston cooking-school cook book By Fannie Merritt Farmer

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