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Sep 27, 2006 11:12 PM

Help me boil water (really)

I moved about a week ago, and finally tried out my new stove (in a rental unit). It's gas, but the biggest burner boils the right amount of water for past far more slowly (read 20 minutes +) than my old place.

I know the boiling point of water is what it is, but are there any tricks to speeding things up (maybe a grate for moving the pot closer to the flame or something)?

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  1. A large gas burner should bring a pot of water to a boil in at least 10 minutes. Look at the flame -- if you see any yellow instead of blue, your gas feed needs to be recalibrated.

    1. Resist the urge to use hot tap water; it will tend to take additional lead off the pipes and put it in your water.

      1 Reply
        1. (1) Have the stove checked. The gas flame could be too low.
          (2) Put a tight cover on the pot; it will speed up the boiling.
          (3) If you're using thin aluminum pots, or even stainless pots with thin sides, try using a heavier pot like an enamel pot.
          (4) If cooking pasta, put salt in the water; sometimes this seems to speed up the boiling.
          Good luck.
          (5) Worst case, you might try a large electric kettle which can boil water very quickly.

          6 Replies
          1. re: EclecticEater

            Being a scientist, I feel compelled to say that adding salt won't speed up boiling. Adding salt actually raises the temperature at which water boils, so it will take longer for it to "boil". But because the water is hotter when it boils, your food will cook in less time.

            I like to put a lid on the pot so I can't watch it as easily - since watching it definitely slows down boiling! :)

            1. re: EclecticEater

              Well, both good and bad advice here.

              The bad? Salt, as mentioned above, raises water temp. However, this is not noticeable. It takes about half a pound of salt to raise the temp of 1 gallon of water 1 degree. Your elevation and atmospheric conditions (pressure) play a much larger role.

              The good? Cover the pot and use an electric kettle for several batches.

              1. re: rotochicken

                *blush* Thanks to rotochicken for setting that straight!

                1. re: maviris

                  would it be correct to say that water appears to boil faster when you throw a handful of salt in because some of the water is in fact super heated and just needed a place to form a bubble on?

                  1. re: amkirkland

                    Yes, I believe that is essentially correct. Especially if using filtered water (and thus relatively pure water with fewer impurities to 'seed' bubbles).

                    And, maviris, I didn't mean that your advice was bad, in fact you are exactly correct, as you know. I simply meant it isn't good advice to add salt to speed up boiling, as you yourself pointed out. I only just learned for myself that the effect of salt is much smaller than I had always assumed. I always thought it was at least a few degrees for a few tablespoons, but it turns out a saturated salt solution - something like 6M or 7M - only raises boiling point by about 7 degrees F. and pressure can easily lower bp by that much.).

              2. re: EclecticEater

                I ALWAYS start dinner by flicking the switch on my electric kettle, just in case. It boils water far quicker that any other way, even if doing in multiple batches. It's the only appliance I keep out at all time. It can at least be a solution until you get the problem fixed.

              3. My guess is that the pressure in the gas line is low. I'm not sure how you check this. In my area (greater Boston) the gas company does this kind of work or you can call a plumber.

                When I moved into my present home the house always seemed cold. I had a plumber looking at something else and mentioned the low heat. He checked and found that someone had turned the pressure to the furnace down to half the recommended operating rate. This might have been an attempt to cut heating bills. Anyway a simple turn of a valve solved that problem. Yours may be as easy to resolve.