Steam Potatoes Instead of Boiling Them for Faster Prep

I can think of a thousand reasons why boiling potatoes is the worst. Actually, I can just think of one right now: It takes too damn long. Also, watching and waiting for water to boil is a surefire way to take the joy out of cooking.

So I spoke with the Epi Test Kitchen, and they gave me four ways to go from 0 to potato—no boiling neccessary.

Source: Four Ways to Pick Up the Pace with Potato Cooking

A pressure cooker would be an option too.

You Don’t Need to Boil Your Pasta, Just the Water

Most instructions for cooking dried pasta are invariably the same: Drop the noodles into a pot of boiling water, bring it back to a boil, and keep it bubbling vigorously until the pasta is done. We already broke with this conventional wisdom by showing that you can cook pasta in a lot less water than is typically called for, as long as you don’t mind stirring it frequently.

Now we’ve learned that you don’t need to hold your pasta water at a rolling boil either. In fact, you don’t even need to keep the pot on the heat. The pasta will cook just fine if you take the pot off the burner as soon as you add the pasta, cover it immediately, stir once or twice during the first minute, cover again, and leave it to sit for the recommended cooking time. We tested this method with spaghetti, shells, farfalle, and ziti, using the full 4 quarts of water recommended per pound, and we found that the texture was identical to that of pasta we boiled the conventional way.

Source: What Is Low-Temp Pasta?

Don’t forget that you can bring that water to a boil faster if you microwave half of it first.  And know why to use cold water, rather than hot.

You Can and Should Be Eating Banana Peels

That’s right, you can eat banana peels. And not only are they edible — they’re also good for you.

Source: People around the world are eating banana peels because they know something that Westerners do not

I think the question of what’s on those skins ought to addressed before we start munching down.  Wash them before you eat, like a lot of things.

Soak Pasta Instead of Boiling It for Easier Baked Pasta Dishes

Here’s something I’ve always wondered: when baking pasta, as in, say, lasagna or baked ziti, why do you always cook the pasta first? Aren’t you inviting trouble by cooking it once, then proceeding to put it in a casserole and cooking it again? Well, there’s the obvious first part of the answer to this question: pasta needs to absorb water as it cooks—a lot of water, around 80 percent of its own weight when perfectly al dente. So, add raw pasta directly to a baked pasta dish, and it will soften all right—it’ll also suck up all of the moisture from the sauce, leaving it dry or broken.

Source: The Food Lab: For Easier Baked Ziti, Soak, Don’t Boil Your Pasta

I thought the pasta drew moisture from the sauce.  It does… resulting in dry sauce. I’ve always wondered about those pastas marketed as not needing to be boiled first—how are they different from regular pasta or is this just some marketing ploy? Anyway, traditionally recipes recommend boiling the pasta first.

Avoid Slimy Okra by Boiling Before You Chop

Okra’s inherent stickiness is great for gumbo, but less-than-appetizing just about everywhere else.

Source: No Slime Time

Fried is awesome, but the best way I’ve found to cook it is on the grill (or stir fry). Wash them, then add a little olive oil, some salt & pepper in a bowl, coat the okra with it & stick it on the grill. Leave it on just long enough to singe the hair (which is about the time the okra gets soft—between 5 – 10 minutes), then take it off & eat it. For even more added goodness, throw some cherry tomatoes in the same mix, then grill them too. But be careful, while the tomatoes also taste amazing, they are full of molten lava for a while.

In case you’re wondering, okra is high in vitamin K.  Salted or unsalted:

  • 1 ounce/28 grams of okra contains 11.2 mcg of vitamin K – 14% Daily Value (DV)
  • 0.5 cup/80 grams of okra contains 32 mcg of vitamin K – 40% DV

Bring a Pot of Water to a Boil Faster by Microwaving Half of It

We love a great big labor-intensive all-day cooking project as much as the next crew of food writers, but that doesn’t mean we’re above cutting corners—especially when those corners save time and effort without compromising deliciousness. And yes, sometimes we even buy pre-made tomato sauce. From last-minute meals to do-this-all-the-time hacks, here are our go-to cooking cheats. May they serve you well.

Source: Staff Picks: Our Favorite Kitchen Shortcuts

I have to make some hummingbird food, and it takes a while for 6 cups of water to come to a boil…

Someone should run a test comparing the time and energy consumed for various techniques.

  1. Do as above, microwaving half until 200 degree F, and placing half on the stove top for heating, then combining and cook.
  2. Microwave all the water to say 200 degrees F and then place the water and pasta on the stove top to complete the cooking.
  3. Heat the water in two pans on the stove top and then combine and cook to completion.

Which leads to another question; what is the comparison on electricity use? Am I spending more money to microwave half my water than if I had heated it all on the stove?  Consider that electricity use will be different depending on the cooktop.  Microwaving the entire thing is the most energy efficient solution, short of an electric kettle. If you have an induction stove, it will be close. (note that this doesn’t account for the fossil fuel -> electricity conversion or the variance in fuel costs).

A Simmer Is Like a Giggle. A Boil Is Like a Belly Laugh

If you’re not entirely sure what the difference between simmering and boiling water is, this analogy will give you a much better idea.

Source: A Simmer Is Like a Giggle. A Boil Is Like a Belly Laugh

There’s a similar Chinese analogy, associated with gung fu tea preparation. “Shrimp eyes” is the pre-simmering temparature, with bubbles the size of…shrimp eyes. “Crab eyes” or “fish eyes” is simmering. “Dragon eyes” is a full boil.

How a Virus Can Make Water Boil Faster

Scientists have found a way to boil water faster, although they admit the discovery is unlikely to revolutionise tea-making.

The technology works by coating a heating element with a virus found on tobacco plants. The coating dramatically reduces the size and number of bubbles that form around the element as it gets warmer. Air pockets caused by bubbles temporarily insulate heating elements from the surrounding water, slowing down the transfer of heat.

Source: Discovery uses virus to boil water three times faster

I thought this was for cooking applications, considering though that salting the water does not do anything remotely meaningful to water.  It’s not applicable to household use, but anything serving a decent amount of people could see benefit – restaurant, soup kitchen…

The technology aspect is pretty big, but from the sounds of things it’s primarily benefit will be to server farms and such.  Sure, you’d get some enterprising water cooler setups but Intel chips have been engineered to run without a heatsink.  That’s not a recommended practice, and in my limited knowledge of CPUs – heat isn’t the issue so much as die size.  And that’s for an industry that’s largely stagnated in CPU speeds in almost 10 years?