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How to Boil Water

This may seem like it's too obvious even for the most beginning of beginners... but there are a few important notes about boiling water that will make your life easier.



You may boil water in any sort of pot or kettle. Generally, you want something with a lid, and a fairly thin bottom so the heat is transferred more directly from the burner. Water will boil faster in a short, wide container than in a tall narrow one for two reasons... the water in the tall narrow pot actually boils at a higher temperature because the water at the bottom of the pot is under greater pressure from the water at the top. Also, more of the water in the short, wide container is closer to the burner, decreasing the time it takes for the water to heat up.



When boiling water, you don't have to worry about it burning or sticking, so you want to turn the burner up to its highest setting. Depending on what you're using the water for, you may want to turn the heat down once you've reached the boiling point.



The temperature at which water boils varies depending on the altitude where you are boiling the water. At sea level, water boils at 100 degrees centigrade, however as you go up in altitude, water boils at a lower temperature. This is because as you go up in altitude, there is less atmospheric pressure. So if you're cooking at a high altitude, water will take less time to boil, but the water will not be as hot as it would be at sea level, so things may take longer to cook.



When you add salt or sugar to the water (or just about any other substance) it raises the boiling point slightly. This means that the water will be hotter, and foods will cook faster. This effect also holds true if you have "hard water" (water containing a great deal of dissolved minerals).


Boiling Water in the Microwave

You need to use extreme caution when boiling water in the microwave. Unlike boiling water on a stovetop, when you heat water in a microwave, you can actually get it hotter than the boiling point, with no visible bubbles. The bubbles will only appear once the surface tension is broken (like when you take it out of the microwave, or put something into the water), and by that point the water may be "super-heated" and the bubbles or steam can shoot up and cause injury. We suggest that you only use the microwave for boiling water one cup at a time (like for tea) and even then, don't fill the cup more than 3/4 of the way full, and use caution when removing it or adding the tea bag.


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