How Long Does It Take to Boil Water, Eggs, Potatoes & More

By Matt Richmond

Maybe you have a tight schedule. Maybe you’re just curious, or a nerd for science and want to know how the world works. Either way, you reached your boiling point, and you’re here to find out how long it takes to boil…

Water?

A gallon of water or some other measure?

How about water at high altitudes?

Or perhaps just how long it takes for fresh eggs, corn, or potatoes?

Well, you came to the right place. Herein lies everything you need to know and more about boiling things and how long they take. There’s even a tip for how to speed up the amount of water to boil.

I know what you’re thinking. This is so exciting, Hollywood should option this article to be adapted into a film directed by Oscar-winner Danny BOYLE. Sorry. Anyway…let’s turn on the induction cooktop burner and get all this tasty information heated up for ya.

The Benefits of Boiling

various vegetables boiling in different pots
photo by SolStock from Getty Images Signature

From a survivalist’s perspective, the simplest method and safest way to ensure the water you’re drinking is rid of harmful bacteria is to boil it. If the purpose of boiling the water is to drink it, then the CDC Drinking Water Safety recommends boiling water for one minute to ensure any dangerous bacteria present are ridden.

The same principle applies to food preparation. Boiling food, namely meat, in a quantity of water kills microorganisms harmful to your immune system.

But a water boil isn’t all about killing things dangerous to us in our liquids and solids. Nutrients in food are better retained through boiling compared to different methods, as well as boosting the number of antioxidants. This process results in healthier skin and greater protection from harmful molecules.

It’s also healthier because you don’t need to add any oils or fats to cook the food when boiling. The natural flavors are more retained through a boil, rather than the fattier process of cooking by frying or sautéing.

The process of cooking is also easier because of even heat distribution – you don’t have to worry about one of the chicken thighs cooking and not another, as you would in a pan.

Benefits of Boiling: kills bacteria, easier digestion, even cook, healthier than frying, nutritious stock…

Also, food is made softer when boiled compared to when they’re fried. Therefore, the stomach can more easily digest it. This means less stomach acid is needed to process the food when it enters your body and thus helps prevent stomach inflammation and even the development of kidney stones. And good thing – I’ve heard passing one of those is the closest a man can feel to childbirth. No thank you! Boil all my food now, please!

While you can’t boil everything since some food would dissolve being exposed to such high temperature, nutrients are left in the water after you cook food. This is how different kinds of stocks are made with nutrients being left behind in the water after boiling the food in it.

On another practical level, you can cook just about anything anywhere safely by boiling. You only need some hot water from high heat and maybe a large pot. You can be stranded in the wilderness and still be able to cook something safely so long as you can build a fire and have access to water (not that I would recommend it). Pretty convenient, I must say!

At What Temperature Does Water Boil?

thermometer in boiling water
photo by Syda Productions

Boiled water undergoes a heat transfer process that turns liquid into a gas. The boiling point of water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. Other kinds of liquids have their own unique boiling points and amount of time it takes to reach it due to a number of factors.

When these water molecules turn to gas, they appear in the form of bubbles that rise to the surface to escape into the air. If a higher temperature is applied, such as with a full rolling boil, water temperatures don’t go above 212 degrees Fahrenheit but do turn into gas form in less time. It will not exceed this temperature until the last drop of liquid being boiled disappears into the air in gas form.

Water can still boil at a slightly lower temperature at 205 degrees F, also known as a slow boil, in which bubbles are breaking the surface pretty slowly.

What Happens to Water Molecules When They Boil?

What’s boiling in a microscopic sense? Energy is increased in the water molecules from the heat, resulting in them moving quicker, spreading out, bumping into each other. So quick in fact that there’s too much energy to stay together in liquid form.

In more scientific terms, when a liquid reaches a boil, the atmospheric pressure equals vapor pressure. This is because the liquid is changing into gaseous molecules, which is what makes up water vapor that escapes the boiling liquid into the air.

Freezing water into ice can also be thought of as a transfer of energy. Rather than speeding up water molecules through boiling, increasing their energy, freezing water entails slowing down those water molecules until they become solid.

(All this science talk makes me want a cold beer. Do you know What Temperature Does Beer Freeze?)

How Long Does It Take to Boil Water?

timer next to covered pot on stove
photo by tbgrant from Getty Images

The more water, the longer it will take to reach boiling temperature. In general, it takes about 2 minutes per cup of water to boil if covered. However, the following factors also contribute to figuring out how long this process will take.

The Heat Source

A gas stove can expel a more intense heat than an electric stovetop. One liter of water (4 cups) will boil on the gas stove in about 6 to 8 minutes, but take about 9 to 12 minutes on electric. A gallon of water would take a few minutes more.

Notice how these times range within 2 or 3 minutes? That’s not very accurate. Let’s explore the other features that can help you narrow it down further.

Boil Covered or Uncovered

Whether or not you have a lid on the pot affects boiling time. The lid is on for the times listed in the previous section. If uncovered, the water’s boiling time increases. Keeping the heat trapped only increases the heat energy transfer to gas, which means less cooking time.

Because of its contained nature, an electric kettle only takes 4 to 5 minutes to reach a boil. The same principle applies to a microwave oven. You can boil a cup of water in only 1 to 3 minutes in the microwave, and 4 cups of water (1 liter) in 3 to 4 minutes.

The Size of the Container

The surface area and volume size of the container holding the water affect boiling time, too. The lower the surface area and volume, the lower the boiling point. That means it’s faster to boil in a small kettle to make a cup of tea than in a big pot.

If the surface area is bigger, molecules have an easier time attracting each other. So you don’t need as much energy in the form of heat to boil your water if you use a smaller volume and surface.

The Water Source

What kind of water is being used? Is it tap water? If so, what minerals are inside it? Any other compounds present in the water can either speed up or slow down the process.

Speaking of which…

How to Boil Water Faster

"salt" written in spilled salt
photo by ivandzyuba from Getty Images

Here is a good time to reveal that tip I mentioned earlier. Adding salt to water will help speed up the process to bring it to a boil. This is because salt gives water a higher boiling point, meaning water molecules aren’t turning into gas and escaping as easily. This creates higher energy, and therefore, will get hotter faster.

This isn’t to say you should dump a ton of salt into the pot! It should be around 1 percent. This translates to about 1 and a half teaspoons of salt per quart of water.

Another way to boil water faster is to start with warm or hot water from the tap. There’s an old wive’s tale that cold water boils faster, but science disagrees. Warm water molecules are already in motion to boil faster.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Water at High Altitudes?

mountains
photo by Roman Pohorecki from Pexels

That 212˚F (100˚C) boiling point temperature I mentioned earlier? That’s at sea level, or zero feet in elevation. It’s different at higher altitudes with every 500 feet in elevation equaling 1 degree less in water’s boiling point. However, it still takes longer to boil…

For example, at 1000 feet elevation, the boiling point is 210 degrees Fahrenheit. 2000 feet is 208 degrees, and 5500 feet up, which is about a mile high, is 201.5 degrees.

At high elevations, there is less oxygen. The air is dryer and has less atmospheric pressure. This means it takes longer to bring water to a boil the higher up in elevation you get.

Add 1 minute of boiling time for each additional 1,000 feet elevation.

Because the air is thinner the higher you go over sea level, water evaporates quicker, which means it takes longer for the same amount of heat energy to bring water to a boil.

To give you a sense of how much more time this will take to boil, remember how I mentioned the CDC recommends purifying water by putting it through a rolling boil for one minute? At 6,500 feet elevation, which is around a 200 degree boiling point, they recommend three minutes at a rolling boil until it’s safe to drink.

How Long to Boil Pasta, Eggs, and More

For most people, including me, the first food you ever boiled was pasta. And if you’re like me, you then smothered that pasta in marinara sauce from a jar. Apologies to all Italian grandmothers for this admission.

But there are many more kinds of food that are ideal to boil. I’m talking grains such as quinoa, rice, vegetables, potatoes, eggs, and tough meat.

So now that you can plan ahead for how long it’ll take for your water to begin boiling, we’ll get into how much more time you should expect to tack on if you’re placing food in that water.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Eggs?

taking egg out of boiling water
photo by GOSPHOTODESIGN from Getty Images

If you’re boiling a pot of water on a good natural gas burner stove, a hard-boiled egg will take about 6 to 7 minutes. If you’re looking for a perfect boiled egg that will yield a soft yolk, it will take about 5 minutes. Older eggs that are a few weeks old will boil just as well.

Since you want to place an egg into an already boiling pot of water, you want a good amount of water in the pot. Why? When you place food into boiling water, the new materials introduced into the liquid interrupt the energy transfer process and disrupt the boil.

By having enough water in the pot when you place the food in, the boil won’t be interrupted much at all so you can get a consistent boil cook of your food (and then a perfect egg!).

How Long to Boil Potatoes & Other Root Vegetables?

peeled and cut potatoes in pot of water
photo by YelenaYemchuk from Getty Images

For vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and beets, you actually add the vegetables when the water is still at room temperature and then turn the burner on. This way, the vegetables are cooking as the water heats up.

So that the water boils faster, you should only use as much water to keep the food just under the water surface.

In this scenario though, since there are other elements in the water while it’s boiling, the water itself will take longer to reach a boil. However, you’ll know when the vegetables are done cooking when you can stab the veggie without resistance with a sharp knife.

Then remove and make that potato salad or mashed potato that’ll make you the envy of the barbecue.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Pasta & Rice?

pulling pasta out of boiling water
photo by GI15702993 from Getty Images

I listed pasta & rice together because they all vary enough in consistency and style that it’s better to read the cooking instructions on the packaging. It will tell you exactly down to the minute how long you need to boil.

If you don’t have the packaging, then here are some general cook times:

  • Most pasta: 8-12 min.
  • White rice: 10-15 min.
  • Brown rice: 20-30 min.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Fresh Corn?

In a large pot of salted boiled water, first remove the silks and husks from the corn cob, then place it in the water. If the water stops boiling, wait for the water to resume boiling. Then let the corn cook for 4 minutes.

You don’t want to leave the corn in longer than that or it’ll get mushy instead of crunchy to eat.

How Long to Boil Stew Meat?

stew meat on veggies in pot
photo by rudisill from Getty Images Signature

Mmm, I love stew! So I actually wrote an entire article on “How Long to Boil Stew Meat to Make It Tender?” I suggest you jump over to that link if you’re interested.

Boiling It All Down

Boiling remains the best method to evenly cook food and make water safe to drink. While you can fill a bottle of water then add water purification tablets to rid it of bacteria, at least you know that in a pinch you can do it the old fashioned way by boiling.

And if you read this whole article just to learn how to cook some pasta as quick as possible, just add a pinch of salt and a lid to the pot on high heat. Then read the instructions on the box for how long the pasta should sit boiling to be al dente.

Oh, almost forgot. If you just boiled corn and are about to take a bite, first add butter. Mmm.

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