Double, double, boil and trouble (Day 209)…

I once went to a dinner party hosted by a 20-year-old who had no idea how to cook. When he tried to make spaghetti, he put the pasta in boiling water, then for whatever reason decided to switch the burner off and let it sit there for 20 minutes.

At first, I thought it would turn out underdone because it wasn’t cooking at a rolling boil, then thought maybe it would be overdone because it had been sitting there for more than double the amount of time suggested.

But somehow, it turned out perfectly.

I came to realize that, in almost all cases, a gentle boil is enough to get the job done. Barely anything really needs to be cooked at a full-throttle, spluttering-splashing boil despite what the recipe’s directions may say.

So my change today will be to heat up my soup, cook my pasta and steam my vegetables at as low a temperature as possible, trying not to go beyond the halfway point on my stove dials. This will not only save electricity, it also means reducing the amount of water required in the first place as less of it will be evaporating.

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15 Responses to Double, double, boil and trouble (Day 209)…

  1. senseofbalance says:

    This is the usual Italian approach to making pasta. One detail missed; he covered the pan just as he turned the heat off, surely.

    To my knowledge, the approach works only with pasta – and with poaching fish. You may find that under-heating anything else makes for cold and/or raw food.

  2. Jenna says:

    This is one of the main reasons so many of my Brittish friends use electric tea kettles. You heat up the amount of water you need, no more, no less… and you only heat it to the point you need and then it shuts off. The themos aspect of the kettle keeps the water (broth, soup, juice, milk for amazing cocoa, whatever) hot for a long period of time without using any energy.

    I know you’re trying to avoid buying more product with more packaging, but it might be worth it to look into one of these hand items. We bought one not too long ago and I have permentently given up my stove’s kettle. Sometimes buying one item now makes for a huge difference later. (Same reason we have a toaster oven.)

  3. I have an electric stove. When I cook any kind of grain, I bring it to a boil and then turn the stive right off. Grain cooks perfectly and never ever burns to the bottom of the pot. Doesn’t work quiet as well for gas stoves I’m afraid.

  4. anon says:

    Keep in mind that there’s a difference between using the lowest settings to maintain a boil than to reach one. Water that’s boiling slowly is the same temperature than water that’s at a rolling boil. However, less time for heat loss may mean that the high setting is actually more efficient until you reach a boil.

  5. Sarah says:

    I had not thought about this as being an environmental tip, but I often only blanche my vegetables. For example if cook broccoli, or cauliflower I just boil water in my electric kettle, which i am told is more efficient, and pour boiling water over my veggies and leave them to sit in the hot water until they are to my liking.

  6. Hanna says:

    poaching is great for that as you turn it off or almost off when it boils. Also, good thick bottomed pots let you cook at a much lower temperature because they heat better.

  7. Marcie says:

    I don’t think if this applies as a good cooking tip, but to get water to boil quicker put a lid on it so it traps the heat in. This has worked like a charm for me and means less electricity being used while waiting for it to boil!

  8. Barb says:

    We use Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta and it recommends bring the pasta to a boil, then covering and removing from heat and letting it sit fopr 20 min. as one way tp cook it… I had to try this method during a recent power outage (right during dinner prep… how rude!) So it does work like a charm!

  9. Erin says:

    Hey, I LOVE your blog! Very similar to a challenge I took on in July, before I knew there were other eco-bloggers out there :-)

    I made spaghetti for hubby tonight for his birthday and took a giant leap of faith by testing this theory. Worked fabulously! Why have we all been “rapidly boiling” all these years? Any reason why Barilla didn’t bother to tell us this?!?!

    Keep on Going Green!

    -Erin

  10. ClareSnow says:

    My boyfriend uses the same method as healthycookie to cook rice, but we have a gas stove. You just have to remember to leave the lid on as senseofbalance suggested. I have an annoying habit of needing to open the lid to check whats going on so I haven’t quite mastered the art. When I do I’ll have to try it with pasta.

  11. blah says:

    I used to have an electric tea kettle when I lived overseas and I loved it. I made everything from soup, to hot chocolate, to tea with it. It was perfect because it would get the water hot quickly without using a stove that took forever.

  12. Deb C says:

    I use this same method to hard boil eggs and poach boneless chicken breasts for chicken salad, etc. I bring the eggs to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover the pot. In exactly 30 minutes they are cooked perfectly. I use the same technique when cooking chicken. I use four times as much water as chicken and in an hour the chicken is cooked to perfection and not dried out from boiling. I can’t wait to try it for pasta. Oh, by the way, I really enjoy your blog here in Massachusetts.

  13. [...] 1st, 2007 by cheaplikeme Green as a Thistle last week mentioned the idea of boiling water, adding dry pasta, covering the pot… One of her readers said this is a common method to cook pasta in Italy (where they oughtta [...]

  14. andar909 says:

    hi, andar here, i just read your post. i like very much. agree to you, sir.

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