Cooks Illustrated Recipe: Boiled Water

Cooks Illustrated Recipe: Boiled Water
by Cooky McKitchener

Like many people, I enjoy the moist aroma and sinus-soothing vapors from a pot of boiling water. But it is often difficult to get a roiling boil just the way you remember it as a child. In my quest to perfect boiled water I began by collecting a dozen different recipes ranging from family hand-me-downs to restaurant standbys. But none of these recipes produced a water boil precisely as I remember it. Some were too slow and too dilute while others were dense and tough. All of the recipes shared a few typical ingredients, such as water. But otherwise they had little in common.

In my first effort to produce a reliable boiled water, I began with a cylindrical steel container, or “pot” as often called for in traditional recipes. Placing the pot four inches away from the flame, the water did eventually come to a boil, but it took six hours. This might have been acceptable in our grandparents’ day, but many of us no longer have so much time to spare. I then moved the pot closer, a mere two inches from the flame. Indeed, the water boiled in just three hours – a big improvement.

Still, tasters said that the boiled water exhibited a “metallic” tang. I suspected this off-note might have been imparted by the steel container or “pot” itself. Next, I removed the pot from the equation, pouring the water directly into the flame. As I’d hoped, the water boiled almost instantly, exhibiting just the warm vapor I was looking for.

Although direct contact with the burner did boil the water quickly, testers found it difficult to get close to the liquid without having their faces burned off by the gas flame. Clearly I needed to find another way.

I then remembered a vessel I’d received as a gift from an ex-mother-in-law that has been kept in a remote storage locker for many years. I drove there in my car at a speed of 30MPH. After observing that it was taking a long time to get there, I increased my speed to 60MPH. This worked well and I arrived at my destination in half the time.

The vessel is constructed with a layer of ceramic enamel enrobed over an iron core. It can hold about 8 quarts of liquid and weighs 400 pounds. I strapped the container to a trailer hitch and returned to the test kitchen.

Because of the vessel’s weight, I used a winch to lift it onto the burner. Once in place, I filled it with water and lit the stove. Voila! In just about ten minutes, there was a perfectly boiled pot of water. The steaming vapor had just the level of moisture I’d remembered, and because of the enamel coating, the boiled water did not take on any unwanted flavors.

BOILED WATER
1 heavy enamel-coated iron pot with winch
8 quarts of water

Lift pot onto burner and fill with water. Turn burner on high and wait ten minutes. Serve immediately.


Comments

24 Responses to “Cooks Illustrated Recipe: Boiled Water”

  1. PukeGreen on March 10th, 2008 5:43 pm

    Dead on. I have not laughed that hard in a while. Thanks!

  2. Funny stuff « The Brûlée Blog on March 10th, 2008 9:14 pm

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  3. wendy boucek on March 10th, 2008 10:54 pm

    Just like I remember it – that warm, comforting flavor & delicious aroma… Does Williams-Sonoma carry winches?

  4. Kathryn on March 10th, 2008 11:06 pm

    I’ve been a CI reader for years and you hit the nail on the head. *Hilarious*!

  5. phillygirl64 on March 10th, 2008 11:50 pm

    Epicurious.com has a recipe in their d-base, also

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  7. Paul on March 11th, 2008 3:50 pm

    If only you had requested a federal grant to do this research…
    *ginz*

  8. Lake Neuron | Fahrenheit 212 on March 12th, 2008 10:54 am

    [...] Laura at Fixin’ Supper had a link to this really useful recipe. [...]

  9. Karen on March 16th, 2008 6:57 pm

    Ah, you nailed it! Well done!

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  11. Martha on March 17th, 2008 2:23 am

    I’m a big CI fan…this is marvelous, spot-on. Well done.

  12. MT on March 18th, 2008 3:18 am

    Please include instructional video. Words are not my strong point.

  13. Just Me on March 18th, 2008 5:51 pm

    OMG! I was a huge fan of CI (and all assorted spin-off) for years, but in the last year or so they’ve gotten on my last nerve. And this post sums up why perfectly. Thanks!!

  14. Elisson on March 19th, 2008 6:09 pm

    Bwah-hah-hah-hahhh! Take that, Christopher Kimball!

    Now: Was it Vermont water?

  15. Mum on March 25th, 2008 12:38 am

    I have made the SAME unfortunate mistake with Quick Chocolate Cake!

    I guess that freat minds think alike!

    Love, Fred (aka Mum)

  16. Dhaila on July 10th, 2008 12:16 pm

    Great, wish I was as smart a cook. Thanks for sharing the recipe, it was Hilarious.

  17. Dana on August 21st, 2008 6:09 pm

    OMG I haven’t laughed like that in quite a while! Spot on. CI has hit every nerve of mine recently and this was a fantastic read at a perfect time.
    Came here through a comment link on Alosha’s Kitchen!

  18. Elle on November 14th, 2009 6:42 pm

    That. Was. Perfect. lmao!

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  20. Jean | Delightful Repast on April 1st, 2011 1:59 pm

    Definitely want to hear more from “Cooky”! What a hoot! I’ve often thought of hilarious lines while watching that program, but Cooky has written an entire “episode.” Love it!

  21. Jean | Delightful Repast on April 1st, 2011 2:02 pm

    PS Will you be doing equipment testing and giving us every detail about 19 different winches? I want to get the very best!

  22. jsp on April 1st, 2011 3:18 pm

    Just saw this linked from an ATK tweet (on April Fools’ day, I see) — laughed out loud when I read it. The woman standing next to me on the train platform probably thinks I’m nuts…

  23. Paula Chase on April 1st, 2011 6:14 pm

    I’m still worried about the mother-in-law kept in storage….

  24. Basil White on April 1st, 2011 8:56 pm

    This’ll be great for my Unitarian Universalist potluck! Wait, is this gluten-free?

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