Boiling water is as basic as it gets. But its applications are limitless. Most of us probably boil something every day, even twice a day. But, hey, you might be new to this—so welcome to boiling.
In addition to the foods you can fully boil, such as eggs, potatoes, and pasta, there are foods you bring to a boil and then simmer, like brown rice and quinoa. Boiling is also an integral part of other cooking methods, such as blanching and shocking (not as tricky as they sound), and is essential for gently reheating foods like soups and sauces.
Boiling is certainly indispensable in the culinary world. Now, let’s talk about it in scientific terms. Boiling involves heating a liquid to 212°F. As the boiling point is reached, vapor starts to form and creates bubbles. The term “rolling boil” refers to a liquid that is rapidly bubbling.
It’s worth mentioning that the standard boiling point is affected by altitude. According to the Department of Agriculture, “With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by just under 1°F.” At about 3,000 feet above sea level and higher, you may need to slightly alter the water content and cook time of a recipe—it won’t need quite as long.
You can boil just about any liquid, but most savory recipes call for boiled water. To enhance the flavor of a dish, you can add salt to the water or swap the water for stock. I often use vegetable stock when preparing whole grains or chicken to give them a little more depth.
Ready to show off your boiling abilities? Check out the challenge below!
- Be Precise (or not). Measure the amount of water/stock you will need (or eyeball it). Pour the liquid into a large pot.
- Do’s & Don’ts. Do use cold water (warm water can include minerals from your pipes and change the flavor). Don’t fill the pot to the very top.
- Apply Heat. Place the pot over high heat. Cover it to speed things up.
- Bubble Up. Bring the water to a rapid bubble. Add salt if you wish.
- Cook’s Choice. The type of dish you’re preparing will determine when you add the ingredients (for example, I bring eggs to a boil with the water, and I add spaghetti to the water after it comes to a boil).
- Time and Stir—or Not. Set a timer accordingly. Boiling times vary greatly. If you are cooking whole grains, resist the urge to stir them. Stirring whole grains causes lumping—which counteracts the fluffy texture you want to achieve.