4 ways to boil water

4 ways to boil water
4 ways to boil water

Boiling water is such a common thing that learning to boil it will help you in any situation. Want to cook for dinner? Know when to put your poached egg in water or when salt is really needed. Are you going for a mountain hike? Learn why your food takes a long time to cook and how to make river water safe.


Method 1 of 4: Boil water for cooking

Boil Water Step 1

Step 1. Obtain a saucepan with a lid

The latter will keep the heat in the pot and make the water boil faster. If you take a large pot, the water will take longer to boil. Its shape doesn't really matter.

Step 2. Pour in cold tap water

It is not advisable to drink or use the hot water that comes from the taps for cooking. Instead, choose to use cold water. Do not fill your pot completely: the water may splash on you when it boils and you will need space for the food you want to cook.

Don't believe that old legend that says cold water boils faster than hot water. Cold water is healthier, but it will take longer to boil

Step 3. Add salt for seasoning (optional)

It will have no effect on the boiling temperature, even if you put enough of it to turn the water into seawater! Add salt only to season your food, especially if it is pasta: it will absorb it along with the water.

  • You will probably see some bubbles appear as soon as you put in the salt. It's fun, but it has no impact on the water temperature.
  • Add salt when boiling eggs. If their shell cracks, the salt will help the white solidify by filling in the holes.

Step 4. Place the saucepan over the heat

Put it on the gas stove and turn the burner on high. Cover the pot so that the water comes to a boil faster.

Step 5. Get to know the stages of boiling

Most recipes will tell you to either simmer or boil. Learn to recognize these stages as well as some additional options that will help you achieve the ideal temperature:

  • simmering: small bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, but they do not rise to the surface. The latter shuddered slightly. This happens around 60-75 ° C, the right temperature for poaching eggs, poaching fruit or poaching fish,
  • light simmering: a few small waves of bubbles rise, but most of the water does not move. It is around 75-90 ° C and you can use it to make a stew or to braise meat,
  • simmering: more or less small bubbles often appear on the surface throughout the pan. At 90-100 ° C, you can steam vegetables or melt chocolate depending on whether you want to eat healthy or not,
  • boiling: there is steam and perpetual motion that does not stop when you stir the water. This is the hottest stage your water can reach: 100 ° C. At this temperature you can cook pasta.

Step 6. Add your food

If you intend to boil food in this water, add it now. Cold food will lower the temperature of the water and possibly return it to one of the previous stages. That's not a problem: just leave the burner on over medium to high heat until the water returns to a satisfactory level.

Do not add food until the water is hot, unless the recipe tells you to. Doing this makes it difficult to estimate the cooking time and can have unexpected effects. For example, meat will be harder and less flavorful if exposed to cold water while cooking

Step 7. Decrease the firepower

High heat is useful if you want the water to come to a boil quickly. Once you have obtained the desired result, set the burner to medium heat (so that the water boils) or low heat (so that the water simmers). Once the water is boiling steadily, more heat will only cause it to quit boiling faster.

  • Check the pan regularly for the first few minutes to make sure the water is stable.
  • When making soup or any other dish that requires simmering for a long time, leave the lid slightly ajar. Completely closing it will give a temperature that is too hot for this kind of recipe.

Method 2 of 4: Purify water for drinking

Step 1. Boil water to kill bacteria and other pathogens

Almost all dangerous microorganisms in water will die when it is heated. Boiling it will not rid it of the chemicals in it.

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

Step 2. Bring it to a boil

It is the heat that kills microorganisms, not the boiling itself. However, without a thermometer, constant boiling is the only way to know that the water is hot enough. Wait until it steams and is agitated. All dangerous organisms will then be dead.

Step 3. Continue to boil it for 2-3 minutes (optional)

If you want to be careful, let it boil for 1 minute (slowly count to 60). If you are more than 2000m above sea level, let it boil for 3 minutes (slowly count to 180).

Water boils at a lower temperature at altitude. This slightly cooler water takes a little longer to kill the organisms

Step 4. Let it cool and store it in airtight containers

Even when it has cooled, water that has been brought to a boil will still be drinkable. Keep it in clean, closed containers.

The water will appear "bland" compared to normal water because the air it contained will be gone. To make it taste better, pour it into a clean container, then into another. Repeat several times. It will store more water when it is poured

Step 5. Carry a portable device for boiling water when traveling

If you have access to electricity, take an electric heating battery. Otherwise, take a camping stove or kettle in addition to a fuel source or batteries.

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

If you have no solution for boiling water, put it in a clean plastic container. Leave it in the sun for at least six hours. It will kill the bacteria, but it's not as reliable as boiling it.

Method 3 of 4: boil water in the microwave

Step 1. Place it in a microwave safe bowl

If you can't find one, choose glass or ceramic containers that don't have metallic paint. To test them, leave them empty and put them in the microwave, near a bowl of water. Start your microwave for a minute. If your containers are hot after a minute, they are not microwave safe.

To be on the safe side, use a container that has a scratch or indentation on its interior surface (in scientific terms, a nucleation zone). This zone helps the water to bubble and thus reduces the (already minimal) risk of an explosion due to "overheating"

Step 2. Place a microwave safe object in the water

It will also help the latter to make bubbles. Opt for a baguette, wooden spoon or ice cream stick. If you don't mind the fact that the water is flavored, a spoonful of salt or sugar should suffice.

Avoid plastic objects: they will be too flexible for bubbles to form

Step 3. Put the water in the microwave

In most microwaves, the edges of the turntable heat up faster than its center.

Step 4. Heat in short intervals, stirring regularly

To be on the safe side, take a look at the recommended heating times for water in your appliance manual. If there isn't, try heating at one-minute intervals. Stir the water well after each interval, then remove it from the microwave so you can test its temperature. She's ready when she quivers and is too hot for you to touch.

  • If it is still cool after a few minutes, increase the length of each interval by 1 or 2 minutes. The total time depends on the power of your appliance and the amount of water you want to boil.
  • Don't expect the water to boil. It will boil without it being visible.

Method 4 of 4: Boil water at high altitudes

Step 1. Understand the effects of altitude

As you rise above sea level, the air becomes more and more scarce. When there are fewer air molecules to put pressure on the water, each molecule can more easily move away from the others and enter the air. In other words, less heat is enough to boil water. It will come to a boil sooner, but the low temperatures will make it more difficult to cook food.

If you are less than 600 meters above sea level, do not worry about this effect

Step 2. Add more water

Since liquids evaporate faster at higher altitudes, you will need to put in a little more water to compensate. If you intend to cook food in this water, add more water. Food will need to cook longer, so more water will evaporate than usual.

Step 3. Boil longer

You can cook food longer to counteract the lower temperatures. Here is a simple rule to follow:

  • if your recipe requires less than 20 minutes of boiling at sea level, add 1 minute to the cooking time for 300 meters of altitude,
  • if it requires more than 20 minutes to boil at sea level, add 2 minutes for 300 meters of altitude.

Step 4. Consider using a pressure cooker

At particularly high altitudes, cooking food in boiling water can take a long time. Instead, boil your water in a pressure cooker. It will capture the water under its tight-fitting lid and increase the pressure to reach higher temperatures. You can then follow your recipes as if you were at sea level.


  • If you are boiling anything other than water, such as a sauce, turn off the heat as soon as it reaches the boiling stage to avoid scorching the bottom of the pot.
  • Traditionally, pasta is placed in a very large pot of boiling water with about 8-10 liters of water for 1 kg of pasta. Nowadays, some cooks use smaller pots and even throw their pasta in cold water. The second method is much faster.


  • Steam boils more than boiling water because of the excess energy it gives off.
  • Boiling water and steam are enough to burn you. If necessary, use a pot holder and handle with care.
  • Distilled water will likely heat more in the microwave because it does not contain impurities that help the water to bubble. It is better to opt for tap water.

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