Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 131 - I Can Mash Potato

Cooking Like Dear Old Dad

My Dad used to live with us when we were still up in New York and he was - and still is - a hell of a cook. The downside to having a hell of a cook live with you is that they're always messing with whatever you're cooking and it's really freakin' annoying.
For instance, anytime I would be cooking mashed potatoes or carrots or anything boiled on the stove, he would wait until the pot was steaming, shut off the burner, slap on a lid and proclaim "It ain't gonna get any hotter!".

Being the good daughter that I am, I of course asked Dear Father what he meant so that I could learn from his great wisdom and experience. NOT! I rolled my eyes, muttered something under my breath about 'old coots' and turned the heat back on so the food would cook. Dammit.

It wasn't until last week when I was chefing up dinner with the kids that it actually hit me. Daphne asked me "What Dat?" (the relentless 2 year old inquiry), indicating the steam rising from the pot. I explained to her that water is a liquid, at least until it reaches 212 degrees, at which point it can't get any hotter as a liquid so it turns into a steam. You know, cuz two year olds are all about physics and stuff.

And it was during this little lesson that the lightbulb went off. The old coot was right. It wasn't gonna get any hotter. Thirty-five years it took me to get that one, folks. Sorry 'bout that, Dad. ;-)

So now, whenever cooking potatoes, carrots, sweet corn or pasta, I will remember my Dad's great wisdom and shut off the burner when the water reaches its maximum heat level. The food will continue to cook and I'll save some watts in the process.


At an average of 800 watts per burner, and about 10 minutes of wasted heat per item, I'll be saving .1333 kWh per boiled item. We eat pasta weekly and average two boiled veggies during that time, for a total of three boiled menu items per week. Assuming each item takes the same amount of time to cook (which they don't, but hey, cut me some slack, would ya?), I'll be saving 1.73 kWh per month or 20.77 kWh per year. It's not a huge savings, but every little bit adds up.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

No extra work involved here, other than remembering to shut off the burner when I see the steam. And, of course, having to admit to my Dad that he was right.


Green Bean said...

Like it! I've done that with pasta and when cooking beans but I'll have to switch over to everything else on the stovetop. This I can do. I'm still baffled over the whole toaster over thing and how to juggle when I turn on the oven. It's a great idea - I just don't know how to get organized on that one.

gregra&gar said...

At the same time your water won't get any hotter because it changes to steam, it will drop from 212° the minute you turn off the heat and cool to room temperature — hardly enough heat to cook anything, much less minute rice. What are the state laws of physics where you live that allows pots to keep on cooking without heat additional heat?

Burbanmom said...

Oh, Mr. G, you know how I hate it when you use logic on me. ;-)

You are correct, the water temp will start to drop once the heat source is turned off. However, I have an electric range which, for better or worse, keeps the burner quite warm for some time after the knob has been switched to "off".

Also, even though the temp is dropping, it is doing so at a slow enough pace as to allow the foods I've been testing (pasta, corn, carrots and chopped up potatoes) ample cooking time. I haven't yet tried it on rice, as I usually nuke that up.

I concede that your statements regarding the laws of physics are irrefutably true. However, I must tell you that all the items I have attempted to cook in this manner have all come out just fine. At least, according to my standards. ;-)

Thanks for keeping me honest, or at least, within the realm of physical science.

- Erin

Heather said...

You wrote, "It ain't gonna get any hotter!" and "having to admit to my Dad that he was right"

THANK THE HEAVENS that Mom didn't give you this advice! ;-)

(Hi, Mom!)

Brian said...

This works with the oven too. You can turn the oven off 5 minutes before what the recipe calls for and, as long as you don't open it, it will keep the temperature high enough to keep cooking...