How to Boil Water: An Uncommonly Commonsense Guide

The sound of the kettle boiling in the background has gotten me thinking about the best drink to accompany a read. Although I am, as a rule, a coffee drinker, for some reason, tea particularly appeals to me when I’m reading.

Of course, whether you prefer tea or coffee, the most important ingredient is boiled water.

Fortunately, there there is a book called with this very title. “How to Boil Water”. I kid you not. Unfortunately, however, this book does not actually contain instructions on how to boil water.

I checked the index. First I tried “B” for “boiled water”. Zilch. The blasted book went from “blue cheese” to “breads”.

Blue cheese! Does this sound like a beginners’ ingredient to you?!

What about “W”, for “water, boiled”, I hear you ask.

Friend, I am sorry to say we are let down once again. Zilch. The first item under “W” was “watercress”. Then it was straight on to “wine”. Again, these are hardly what I would call the most simple of ingredients. Certainly not as basic and wholesome as the old country favourite, boiled water.

So, it seems, it falls to me, to provide a HOW TO for boiling water. Please follow the steps below carefully. Boiling water is a dangerous activity (*Note*: This is not sarcasm. It really is!) and I will not be held responsible in any way for your failure to heed the various and numerous bold, italicised, and capitalised warnings below.

How to boil water

Step 1: Secure a water source.

You may need to engage in the art of dowsing in order to divine water. Alternatively, locate a tap. (The tap can be either a hot or cold tap. I recommend hot to speed the process up.

WARNING! Hot water is hot! Take precautions to avoid burning. Recommended precautions include wearing silicone oven mitts and a protective face shield.) WARNING! It takes only 30mm (3cm) of water for a person to drown! Do not submerge your face in the water!

Step 2: Acquire a kettle or a saucepan.

WARNING! Kettles and saucepans are hard instruments! Do not hit yourself or others over the head with them, regardless of what you may have seen in the cartoons. WARNING! If your kettle has a power cable or dock attached, remove it before attempting step 3 below.

Step 3 Fill the receptacle you acquired in step 2 above with the desired amount of water.

A standard cup is 250ml. You may like to use this as a guide.

Here is a worked example: Johnny wishes to make boiled water for two people. 2x 250ml = 500ml. How much water should Johnny fill the kettle or saucepan with? That’s right. 500ml. WARNING! When filled with water, kettles and saucepans become heavy! Ensure that you follow safe lifting guidelines and lift with your knees.

Step 4. If you are using a kettle, replace the cord or place the kettle in the dock. If you are using a saucepan, place it on the stove.

WARNING! Water and electricity do not mix! Ensure that you do not spill any water on the power apparatus!

Now, if you are using a kettle, flick the switch to “on”. Walk away and read a book. If you are using a saucepan, you will need to light the stove. If it is a gas stove, this will involve fire.

WARNING! Fire almost always burns combustible materials. YOU are combustible! Ensure that you and your clothing are well away from the naked (or even the modestly-dressed) flame.

Your stove may light automatically, if you hold down the knob, or you may need to use a lighter or match. If you are unsure how to operate your stove, ask a trusted adult. If your stove is electric, simply turn the knob to the desired setting. I always recommend the maximum.

WARNING! Do not touch the stove plate whilst it is switched on, or for a reasonable amount of time afterwards*
(*A “reasonable amount of time” means until the stove plate is cool to the touch).

Step 4b. If you have a saucepan lid, place it on top now. You will have to stand carefully and watch the pot the entire time.

Don’t you wish you had bought a kettle now? Some people will tell you that the saucepan lid is to trap the heat in and ensure the water boils faster. This is hokum. The real reason is because a watched pot never boils, so hiding the pot under the lid ensures that you can keep a safe eye on your boiling water while making sure that the house doesn’t burn down because you walked off and read a book like the kettle-users can afford to do, and all the water evaporated, and then the bottom of your saucepan superheated and caused a raging house fire.

WARNING! Experts suggest raging house fires may be dangerous. Try to avoid them where possible.

Step 5. The kettle user will know their boiled water is ready upon hearing a satisfying click, or a merry whistle. The saucepan user should check every now and then for bubbles.

When a lot of bubbles are forming and bursting in the water, presto-chango, you have boiled water. NOTE: This water will now and forever more be boiled water. However, it is only “boiling water” while the bubbles are forming. You should not serve “boiling water” to your guests, as boiling water may cause scalding.

Generally, I do not believe in assigning books numerical ratings. However, I am confident in giving “How to Boil Water” 0 stars for failing to address its titular premise. Sure, some nay-sayers may nay-say that the title is intended as a “joke”. However, as the HOW TO above demonstrates, boiling water is not for the feint of heart.

Boiled water is a staple in many of our modern cuisines. Two Minute Noodles, Milo, and Cup-A-Soups, to name just a few. Its thoughtless omission from most cookbooks is, in my view, almost unforgivable.

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