4 Ways to Boil Water

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4 Ways to Boil Water
4 Ways to Boil Water

Boiling water is such a common task that it can help in any situation. Are you making dinner? Add a poached egg to the dish or find out if the salt really enhances the flavor of the food. Are you going to climb a mountain? Find out why your food takes so long to cook and how to turn the water in that stream into drinking water. Keep reading to discover these and other tips.


Method 1 of 4: Boiling Water for Cooking

Boil Water Step 1

Step 1. Choose a pot with a lid

The lid will retain the heat inside the pan, making the water boil faster. A large pot will take longer to boil, but the shape doesn't make much difference.

Step 2. Add cold water

Hot tap water may contain lead, absorbed from plumbing, which is not recommended for cooking or drinking. Start with cold water. Don't fill the entire pot, as water may splash out when it's bubbling; besides, you'll need space for food as well.

Don't believe the myth that cold water boils faster than hot water. It is the safest option, but it will take a little longer

Step 3. Add salt to taste (optional)

Salt doesn't affect the boiling temperature that much, even if you put in so much that it looks like seawater. Add it just to give the food a taste - especially pasta, which will absorb the salt.

  • You might see some bubbles form when you throw in the salt - it's fun to watch, but it doesn't affect the temperature at all.
  • Add salt to boiled egg water. So, if the shell cracks, the salt will solidify the egg, sealing the opening.

Step 4. Put the pan on high heat

Place the pot on the stove and light it over high heat. Cap to make the water boil faster.

Step 5. Learn the stages of boiling

Most recipes call for boiling or boiling water. Learn to recognize these steps, plus some lesser-known options that will help you reach the ideal temperature:

  • Mild temperature: Some bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, but they don't rise and the surface trembles slightly; this happens between 60ºC and 75ºC, ideal temperature for making poached eggs, poached pears, or poached fish.
  • Sub-boil: A few lines of bubbles appear, but most of the water is still quiet. The temperature is between 75ºC and 90ºC, ideal for stew or roasting meat.
  • Boiling point: Small and medium bubbles begin to rise and burst on the surface of all the water. With a temperature between 90ºC and 100ºC, it is ideal for cooking vegetables or melting chocolate, according to the customer's taste.
  • Boiling: There is constant steam and movement in the water, even if you stir it with a spoon. This is the highest point of boiling: 100ºC. Cook pasta at this temperature.

Step 6. Add food

This is the time to put the food in the water, if that's your goal. Cold foods will reduce the heat of the water and may even go back a stage, but that's okay. Leave the stove on high temperature until the water heats up again.

Do not put food in water before heating it unless the recipe specifically says otherwise. This makes it difficult to perceive cooking time and can cause unexpected effects; for example, meat becomes tougher and less tasty if exposed to cold water at any stage of cooking

Step 7. Lower the fire

High heat is useful when you want to boil water right away. As soon as you can, reduce the heat to medium (for simmering) or low (for sub-boiling). Once the water is really boiling, using a high heat will only make it evaporate faster.

  • Check the pot every now and then for the first few minutes to ensure the water is at the desired temperature.
  • When making soup or other slow-cooking foods, leave the pan ajar. Closing it completely will raise the temperature beyond what the recipe calls for.

Method 2 of 4: Purifying Drinking Water

Step 1. Boil water to kill bacteria and other pathogens

Any harmful micro-organisms found in water will die when it boils. the boil not will remove chemical contaminations.

If the water is cloudy, filter it first to remove dirt

Step 2. Boil the water

It is the heat that kills microorganisms, not the boiling action; however, this is the safest way to know the water temperature without a thermometer. Wait until steam comes out. By then, the dangerous organisms will have died.

Step 3. Bring the water to a boil for 1 to 3 minutes (optional)

An extra dose of care is to let the water boil for 1 minute (count to 60 slowly). If it is more than 2,000 m above sea level, let it boil for 3 minutes (count to 180 slowly).

Water boils at lower temperatures at higher altitudes. As it is slightly cooler, it takes longer to kill microorganisms

Step 4. Allow to cool and store in lidded containers

Even after cooling, boiled water is safe to consume. Store it in clean, closed bottles.

It will have a heavier taste compared to regular water because some of the air contained in it has evaporated. To improve the flavor, pass it from one clean glass to another. That way it will hold air when it's in motion

Step 5. Take a portable water heater when traveling

If you have access to electricity, bring a water heater or camp stove, batteries and the necessary fuel.

Step 6. As a last resort, leave the containers in the sun

If there is no way to boil the water, put it in clear plastic containers. Leave them in the sun for six hours. It's not as safe as boiling, but it will kill some powerful bacteria.

Method 3 of 4: Microwave Boiling Water

Step 1. Put the water in a microwave-safe container

If you can't find one that says it's explicitly safe for this, go for glass or ceramic utensils that don't have metallic designs. To check safety, place the empty container inside the appliance, next to a glass of water. Turn on for 1 minute. If the dish gets hot, it's not safe.

For even more security, use a container that has a scratch or crack on the surface. This will help the water to bubble, reducing the risk of an explosion caused by overheating (which is highly unlikely)

Step 2. Put an object (which can be used in a microwave) into the water

This also helps the water to bubble. Try a wooden spoon, chopstick or an ice cream stick. Even a spoonful of salt or sugar can be (if you don't mind the change in flavor).

Avoid using a plastic object, which can be too smooth for bubbles to form

Step 3. Put the water in the microwave

On most appliances, the edges of the turntable heat up faster than the center.

Step 4. Heat in short intervals, stirring constantly

For even more safety, look at the temperature recommendations for boiling water in your microwave manual. If you don't have it, try heating the water at 1-minute intervals; after each interval, stir the water carefully, then take it out of the appliance to test the temperature. The water will be ready when it has steam and is too hot to touch.

  • If the water is still too cold for the first few minutes, increase the time to 1, 5 minutes or 2 minutes. The total time depends on the power of your appliance and the amount of water to be boiled.
  • Don't expect continuous boiling in the microwave. The water will reach boiling temperature, but it will be less obvious.

Method 4 of 4: Boiling Water at High Altitudes

Step 1. Understand the effects

As you rise from sea level, the air becomes thin. With fewer and fewer molecules of air to press the water, each molecule of Water has less difficulty letting go of the others and going into the air. In other words, less heat is needed to boil it. And, despite boiling quickly, the low temperature makes the cooking process difficult.

Don't worry about it unless you're at 600m altitude or more

Step 2. Start with more water

Since liquids evaporate faster at high altitudes, you'll need to add water to compensate; if it's to make food, then even more water. Food requires more time to cook, so more water than you normally use.

Step 3. Boil food longer

To compensate for the low temperature, you can cook food longer. Here's a basic rule of thumb about how much time to add:

  • If the recipe would take any less 20 minutes to boil at sea level, add 1 minute of boil for every 305 m above sea level.
  • If the recipe would take most 20 minutes to boil at sea level, add 2 minutes every 305 m above sea level.

Step 4. Use a pressure cooker

At particularly high altitudes, boiling water can take too long. Boil water in a pressure cooker; with the pan sealed, the water is trapped under the lid and the pressure increases, allowing the liquid to reach higher temperatures. With this pan, cook as if you were at sea level.


  • If you want to boil things like sauce, reduce the heat so as not to burn the bottom of the pan.
  • Traditionally, the dough is added to a very large pot of boiling water, between 8 and 12.5 liters per kilogram. Recently, some chefs have started using smaller pans and cooking pasta in cold water. This second method is much faster.


  • Steam burns and scalds more than boiling water because it contains more heat energy.
  • The boiling water and the steam it gives off are hot enough to burn your skin. Wear a hand guard if needed and handle with care.
  • Distilled water overheats more easily in the microwave as it does not contain impurities that help the water to bubble. It's still unusual, but it's better to choose tap water.

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