How to Boil Water 7 Stages

How to Boil Water - a pan of boiling water on an electric stove

While it may seem like a simple process learning How to Boil Water and the stages involved in boiling water is a key skill to becoming a better cook. Have you ever had pasta come out gummy? Or eggs that were over or under cooked? It wasn’t your fault; it was the water!

Various cooking techniques require you to understand and recognize the stages of the boil to produce the best tasting and texture in the food.

This is true when hard boiling eggs, poaching eggs, chicken and fish and getting the best result when you cook pasta or even rice.  You don’t really need a cooking or meat thermometer for this but if you would like some added confidence, we use this thermometer in our kitchen. A thermometer is always a good investment. Who would have thought there was so much to know when you asked the question “How to Boil Water?”

The Science Behind Boiling Water

How to Boil Water a pot of boiling water on a gas stove.

Boiling is defined by Science Daily as “the rapid vaporization of a liquid, which typically occurs when a liquid is heated to a temperature such that its vapor pressure is above that of the surroundings, such as air pressure”.

The Stages and Terms for Water Temperature

Water reaches a boil when it is heated to 212 Degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius.  It’s important to note that while you commonly see 4 stages of water or liquid referenced in recipes and cooking guides there are actually 7 stages or temperatures of water.

These temperatures and stages are really important to know and recognize when trying to improve your cooking skills and get the best results from your cooking. All stages are listed in Fahrenheit. See the tables below for conversion to Celsius.

1. Tepid Water – Tepid water is water that is in a temperature range that is similar to that of the human body and ranges from 85-105 Degrees Fahrenheit. This is the right temperature to aim for when using yeast. Tepid water will activate the yeast without killing the yeast. This is especially important when making bread, rolls or other recipes that call for yeast.

2 – Warm Water’s temperature is measured at a temperature of 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit and touchable.

3 – Hot Water can burn the skin and is considered a temperature range of 130-135 degrees.

4. Poaching is a cooking technique that is used for delicate foods like eggs, fruit and fish. Poaching can be done in plain water. Some recipes call for broth, bouillon or wine to add flavor to the food or the base for a sauce to serve with the finished dish. You poach food at a temperature of 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The water will move but the movement will be more of a “shiver” and there will not be any bubbles.

5- Simmering – Your pot has reached a simmer when you have reached a temperature ranging from 185-200 degrees. There will be small bubbles in the pan. Soups and stews are often simmered to reduce the volume of liquid and concentrate the flavors of ingredients. How do you maintain a simmer? Maintain a simmer by adjusting the heat or by placing moving the pan halfway off the burner as you adjust the heat. Some cook tops and ranges have a simmer setting.

6 – Slow Boil or sometimes called a gentle boil is when the water has reached a temperature of 205 degrees. The water will have larger bubbles and more movement than a simmer.

7 – Real Boil or a rolling boil is when the water has reached a temperature of 212 degrees. The water will be bubbling and moving rapidly and there will be steam or evaporation. This is the stage you want to reach before adding pasta.

One of the stages of water temperature is for poaching. Picutre of six poached eggs.

Tips for Boiling Water at Altitude

The boiling point of water is measured at sea level and changes with changes in altitude. The change in temperature is provided for various altitudes in the table below.

AltitudeFahrenheitCelsius
Sea Level212 Degrees100 Degrees
1,000 Feet210.2 Degrees99.00 Degrees
2,000 Feet208.5 Degrees98.06 Degrees
3,000 Feet206.7 Degrees97.06 Degrees
5,000 Feet203.2 Degrees95.11 Degrees
7,500 Feet198.9 Degrees92.72 Degrees
10,000 Feet194.7 Degrees93.39 Degrees

How do You Choose The Right Size Pot or Pan to Boil Water?

Always choose a pot or pan that is 1/3 larger than the amount of water you want to boil. Selecting the right size pot or pan will allow for the displacement of the water when you add food and prevent messes from a pot that boils over or an injury from water splashing out of the pan when boiling.

Different Ways to Boil Water and recommendations on which process you should follow.

How to Boil Water on the Stove

Use an appropriate size pot of what you are planning on cooking. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the food you will be adding. Remember that the food you place in the water will cause the water level to rise.

Be careful not to fill the pot too full as water may jump out once it starts to boil and you don’t want to be burned by boiling water or make a mess if the pot boils over.

Turn the heat to high until the water reaches the appropriate temperature. The stage of the water temperature can be confirmed with a cooking/meat thermometer or visually.

Check out the descriptions and temperatures in the table above to gauge how hot the water is. Boiling a large pot of water on the stove is the best approach for making pasta or rice when you add the food after the water has reached a boil.

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How to Boil Water - Improve your cooking today by understanding the different temperatures.

How to Boil Water in the Microwave

Boiling a small amount of water in the microwave can be done but it’s not recommended. It much easier to burn yourself if the water gets overheated or your container may break. Its much safer to use a kettle or tea pot to get small amounts of water to boiling. Many people recommend putting a wooden spoon or chop stick in the water to prevent it from overheating.

Another option for small amounts of boiling water is to use water heated in your coffee maker or Keurig. Just make sure that the machine is clean and that you remove any previously used coffee cups or grounds.

How Long Does it Take to Boil Water?

Sorry, but there really is not a good answer to this question. There are many variables that can influence how long it will take water to boil.

These variables include air pressure, the amount of water, the heat source (electric or gas stove) and the impurities in the water.

Speed up the cooking time by covering your pot with a lid. If you don’t have a lid place a sheet pan or baking sheet over the top of the pan to concentrate the heat. Just be careful when you remove it because there will be condensation on the pan from the steam. 

How to Boil Water for eggs. Eggs in a pot of boiling water.

How do You Know When Water is Boiling?

The water is boiling when it reaches the 212 degrees at sea level. If you know your elevation, we have provided a chart so you can estimate the temperature where water will boil.

If you don’t know the altitude for where you live, you can find that on Google Maps by turning on the terrain feature and entering your address. Zoom in until you see the elevation lines. They will be faint and if you start to see topography you need to zoom out.  

How to Boil Water for Pasta or Rice

If boiling water to make pasta you want to make sure you have enough water to cook the pasta. Follow the package directions and measure the water versus eyeballing it. Pasta turns out gummy if you do not use enough water. A good rule of thumb is to use 6 quarts of water for one pound of pasta.

The water for pasta should be at a full boil prior to adding the pasta to the pot. Salt should be added after the water is already boiling. Adding the salt when the water is cold can increase the time the water takes to reach a full boil.

When making rice remember that you should always measure both the rice and the water. Rice will come out perfect every time if you do this. Always use a 2/1 ratio. If you are making one cup of dried rice you will need two cups of water or broth. For perfect rice every time. Bring your water to a boil, add the rice. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit covered for another 20 minutes. Fluff the rice and you are ready to eat.

How to Boil Water for Eggs

A key to successfully boiling eggs is to put the eggs in the pan before you add cold water. Putting the eggs in after the water can result in the eggs cracking when they hit the bottom of the pan. Put the eggs in the pot.  Pour cool water over the eggs until fully they are fully submerged.

Place the pot on the stove and turn to high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is at a full boil turn off the heat and cover the pot with the lid. Leave the eggs in the hot water for the following times according to the desired doneness:

3 minutes for SOFT boiled

6 minutes for MEDIUM boiled

12 minutes for HARD boiled

Place the pan in the sink and run cool water over the eggs for two to three minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove the eggs from the water and you are done! The eggs are ready to use. If storing the eggs, put them in a container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Additional Tips For Boiling Water:

  • Choose a pot or container that is at least 1/3 larger than the amount of water you want to boil. For example, if you need 6 quarts of water to make pasta use an 8-quart stock pot. This will ensure that the water doesn’t jump out of the pan when you reach a boil. See the chart below for a list of common conversions.
  • Using a lid will speed up the process of heating the water to a boil
  • Don’t heat water in the microwave, it is dangerous.
  • Use the right ratios of water to food for the best end result.

Final Thoughts on How to Boil Water

Who knew there was so much to know about boiling water? It really isn’t very complicated. Cooking foods at the right temperature is key to having recipe success and becoming a better cook. With a little practice, you will begin to easily recognize where your pot is in attaining the correct temperature.

You’ve got this, Happy Cooking!

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