Most of us feel as if we know our way around the kitchen, but every once in a while, we learn something that takes us by surprise. In fact, after we began using those kitchen hacks for our self, we might wonder how we were able to live without them for so many years.
One of those interesting acts is putting a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water. It isn’t just a convenient place to keep the spoon, it actually stops the water from boiling out over the pot. How many times have you made pasta and you walk away from the stove for a minute, only to hear that telltale sound of water hitting the element underneath? You won’t have to worry about it any longer.
It’s one thing to know that a wooden spoon keeps boiling water in the pot but it is quite another to know why it happens. There have been many theories over the years, but it’s always best to get scientists involved when you’re trying to learn the truth about something that involves science.
According to Michelle Dickinson, the author of “The Kitchen Science Cookbook,” wood is an insulator so it isn’t going to conduct heat or electricity. When you put a wooden spoon on top of a pot of boiling water, it stays cooler than the pot where it is resting.
At times, boiling pasta and other similar, starchy foods may make it easier for the water to boil over. As the starch enters the water, it gets thicker so the bubbles get larger and it makes it easier to bubble over. The outer layer of any bubble is made up of molecules that are held together but in the case of pasta bubbles, the exterior is held together with starch.
“If the bubbles touch the colder and dryer wood, these molecules break their chain and the bubble bursts, which releases the steam from inside the bubble,” Dickinson told Simplemost.
The cycle will continue to repeat itself as the water heats up again, but the spoon will keep the bubbles popping.
According to a Wake Forest University physics professor and the president of Academic Influence, Jed Macosko, Ph.D., the surface of the spoon also has something to do with it. It is the rough surface of the spoon and the fact that it is wood, which loves water, that keeps the bubbles from bursting violently.
“Without the spoon, large bubbles of steam will form in violent bursts, causing scalding hot water to get everywhere on your stovetop,” Macosko says.
According to Scott Beaver, who has a doctorate in chemical engineering:
“That makes lots of opportunities for bubbles to start absorbing and wicking into the wood. This stretches the bubble. The stretching force to pull the bubble apart becomes greater than the force of surface tension to hold the bubble together. So the bubble collapses.”
Of course, it really doesn’t matter why this kitchen hack works, the fact that it does work can help to save you time and frustration.SKM: below-content placeholder