Sunday, September 22, 2013

how to boil water

     boil. verb, to change from a liquid to a gaseous state, producing bubbles of gas that rise to the surface of the liquid, agitating it as they rise.
Just in case you ever wondered... or are starting at the very beginning:

     To boil water, fill a saucepan a few inches from the top of pot. (If you fill it all the way to the top, it will splash out as it comes to a boil.) Turn your burner to its highest setting, (most likely HI,) and allow temperature to reach 212 degrees F, at sea level.
     For every 550 feet above sea level, the boiling point is one degree lower. This means, if you are cooking breakfast on a mountaintop, it will take longer to heat water for your morning coffee. So start early or avoid the mountain altogether.
     Now, what are you going to boil? Did you know there are different types? When I began researching the subject for this article, I was surprised. But, this is how we all continue to learn! Isn't that exciting?
     If you are cooking pasta you will need a full, rolling boil. If poaching an egg, after the water makes it to boiling, heat will need to be reduced to a tiny, quiet bubble, so as not to scare the little egg, but to cook it gently.
     If you're cooking potatoes, as for a lovely mash, after water comes to a boil and the spuds are in, reduce heat to a simmer, so the starchy water won't end up all over the stove. A simmer is in between the force of a full boil and the delicate movement of poaching.
     I'd like to also dispel a myth about salt. In truth, salt does NOT make the water boil faster, but lowers the boiling point. Uh-oh. Didn't see that one coming? Salt is very, very important for seasoning the item you are boiling.
     Do not make the mistake of leaving it out. Just wait until the water boils, then add salt before adding the food to the pot. (There is nothing worse than food that hasn't been salted during the cooking process and is overly salty because salt was added after the fact.)

Cautionary tales:
     When emptying or draining a pot of boiling liquid, be very careful. Use a pot holder or mitt. Keep face out of the splash zone and arms extended away from your body. I try to place a vessel in the sink to pour liquid into. The bottom of the sink is lower than counter height.
     Steam will scald more than boiling water since it contains extra heat energy. (And I have the remnants of scars on my arms to prove it.) If you are boiling something in a microwave, beware not to heat past the boiling point. Liquid items have been known to explode when placing a spoon in to stir.

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