how long to boil a pot of water?

mmmeSeptember 5, 2008

My new GE Cafe range doesn't boil water as quickly as I expected it to. A few years ago I had a gas range and it seemed faster even though it was a very basic model. The appliance repairman was out here today to look at my microwave, so I asked his opinion about the burners. He said the flame height looked good to him, that there was no call for adjustment.

So maybe my expectations are too high? maybe the propane vs regular gas fuel makes a bigger difference than I realized? I wonder what's "normal" for a *propane-fueled* range. I'm not talking professional grade here. This is high-end, but not pro.

So for all you propane-fueled range users out there, let's say you have a 5-qt pot of water, almost full. How long does it take you to bring that to a rolling boil?

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In most ranges when the conversion is made from natural to propane there is some loss. Our repair person had a list with the percentage loss and the GE propane ranges had a significantly higher loss than others.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 2:52PM
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According to GE specs the individual burner ratings are

NG - 17, 18, 5, 9.1, 6
LP - 11, 15, 4, 8, 6

Taken at face value that would seem to indicate that the power drop ranges anywhere from 0% to 35% depending on the burner. Yeah, I would have to think you would notice that.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 3:27PM
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At the risk of asking an unnecessary/obvious question. Are you covering the pot? A covered pot will come to a boil more quickly. Also, a wider diameter pot which covers more of the burner will more boil more quickly.

I have a Natural Gas GE Cafe - Just to give you a couple of baselines:
- It took 5 1/2 minutes to bring 5 qts of cool tap water to a rolling boil on the powerboil 18,000 BTU burner with a covered wider diameter pot.
- It took 10-11 minutes to boil 5 qts of water on the 18,000 burner with an uncovered 7" diameter pot.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 6:00PM
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Thank you all for your helpful responses. Unfortunately, based on your replies, I gather that the problem is not specific to my range in particular (and thus fixable) but is instead due to the fact that I'm using propane.

And yes, chefkev, I do cover the pot. For this test I also used a reasonably big one (11" diameter). I do have larger pots and will see if that helps at all. I'm happy to have been asked the obvious; I wish there were such an obvious solution to my slow burners!

I also did know that propane would cause some BTU loss, but it never occurred to me that some ranges might be worse than others. I wish salesmen would think to point such things out. I love the look of my new GE Cafe, and I'm very pleased with the ovens and matching microwave, but I am a bit disappointed with the power of the burners. We were really looking forward to a powerful burner after years of using an old, feeble electric coil stove.

I hope someone who uses a propane-fueled range--especially someone with a propane-fueled GE Cafe--can give me an example of how long it takes to bring 5 qts of water to a boil (like chevkev did for his NG range). I just want to rule out the possibility that my range is especially slow and may have a problem.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 10:55AM
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I can't comment on how your range is affected by propane, but just to put things in context, gas ranges in general are not the fastest at boiling pots of water - electric ranges consitently beat out gas ranges at boiling water tests (I don't know how induction does in this category).

When I first got my DCS natural gas range with a 17.5K burner, I was a little surprised how long it took a large stock pot to come to a boil.

The advantage of gas is it's control of the heat and it's recovery time. The more important aspect of a gas cooktop is for things like stir frying and searing, not boiling water.

>>>>I also did know that propane would cause some BTU loss, but it never occurred to me that some ranges might be worse than others. I wish salesmen would think to point such things out.

Good one :-)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 11:20AM
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I seriously doubt many salesmen know. They could of course look it up. I was picking the brains of a repair man that works on many various make ranges, he had the list. I am quite sure the larger percentage loss is not only the Cafe but in fact GE gas ranges just seem to have a higher percent loss in general. One suggestion, watch TJ Max and such stores. If you see a pan with copper bottom for a pasta pot it will heat faster than other vessels. I have a Cuisinart with copper bottom, 8 qt and an All Clad SS with aluminum ?7 qt, the copper will boil substantially faster.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 1:05PM
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More helpful replies, thank you. I will look for a copper bottom stock pot, and I will stop watching the clock when boiling water. :-)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 8:55PM
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Interesting question! When we were shopping for cooktops we ran into a very informed sales person in a high end appliance showroom who had just finished a seminar for cooking demo's on the appliances sold there.

He asked that a contest be run during the seminar to see which cooktops boiled water fastest. They found interestingly that the glasstop electric was faster than the big gas Wolf,Viking and GE units...even though their BTU rating were 2X higher. He surmised that lots of heat was wasted heating up the hefty grates that these units all have.....said the lowly electric beat the gas units by several seconds...a real eye opener. We still bought a gas Miele cooktop the control.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 9:08PM
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I've been conducting boiling tests myself, but I won't have the final results for a few weeks, when my new DCS AG gets installed. But, for those who are interested in some preliminary results...

Approx 1.75 litres (same quantity for each test) tap water from the cold tap:

Electric kettle: 6.5 minutes to full rolling boil
1500 wt plug-in induction hot plate: 7.5 minutes
17 yo Kenmore smooth top electric cooktop: 11.5 minutes
1000wt microwave: 13.5 minutes

All pots were covered - I used exactly the same pot on the induction hob and on the Kenny. I'll use the same pot on the DCS when the opportunity presents itself. I won't give up the kettle for anything - it's too convenient and energy efficient for small quantities which tea drinkers like myself require. I think my sorry Kenmore is likely one of the first generation of smoothtops, but its performance is too similar to any electric range I've ever cooked on, and I'm totally turned off.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 9:30PM
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All I know is that my old Viking was terrible at boiling(and simmering). Over 20 minutes to come to a full rolling boil, and that was starting off with lukewarm water... My Frigidaire smoothtop OTOH handles that task with aplomb.

I dunno, but I kind of agree with the first poster. The gas ranges today seemed "dumbed down" from the ones I remember using growing up... I also miss the old pilot-light ignition. It just seemed more reliable than the new electronic ignitors, which I had a hell of a time with...

Just my .02 cents. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 10:03PM
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At my lake cabin where we have a 50 year old propane fueled stove it takes FOREVER to boil water. I didn't know it would work faster with a lid on the pan. Whoever heard of making pasta or corn on the cob with a covered pot of water?

At home our gas stove boils water in minutes, depending on the size of the pot. No problem there.

I thought perhaps our cabins propane tank was getting low, although the flame seems to be coming out okay (not weak). Aaargh!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 11:48PM
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mmme - I'm very sorry you're experiencing disappointing performance for this important appliance. A couple more thoughts - my apologies again if they're too basic and you've already thought of them - just trying to cover all the bases:

1. When I'm boiling any quantity of liquid and I'm in a hurry, I'll often split it between two pots on two burners - if it's water we're talking about, it isn't necessary to wash the second pot so no extra cleanup.

2. A possible way to improve stir-fry/saute performance on a lower BTU burner is to use a cast iron skillet and let it sit on the burner on high for 5 or more minutes till it's really smokin hot. Do not put the oil in the pan beforehand or it may hit its smoke point; add the oil very carefully right before adding the food which will normally cool the pan enough that the smoke point isn't reached. Because cast iron is a great conductor and retains heat well, you can get very good searing/browning during those first 3-4 minutes (after that not as good but a lot of times it's enough to get your desired results). If you happen to be using the oven at the same time the cast iron skillet can be pre-heated in the oven and will then only take a few extra minutes on the burner to get good and hot (please remember not to grab the handle with your bare hand after it's come out of the oven - been there/done that/not fun!)

3. Would you want to consider, down the road & depending on space & layout, purchasing a single induction burner to take care of those times when you really need the extra speed & BTUs?

Best wishes - hope at least one of these was helpful.

RE Whoever heard of making pasta or corn on the cob with a covered pot of water?

You don't have to make the pasta or corn with a covered pot, just use the cover to speed up the boiling process (which is generally what takes the most time and energy). This helps insure that you are cooking with closer to the same amount of liquid you started out with and does also save a little energy & help keep your kitchen from getting as hot and humid in the summer.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 2:09AM
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I've given up boiling water on the stove a while ago and use my electric kettle. It's much faster and more energy efficient. I can boil 1.75L of water in about 3min and get the pasta cooking right away. The other trick is to put the pot on the burner a minute before the kettle boils so that it can heat up. The pot I use has a very thick base and takes some time to heat up so if you just put the hot water in the cold pot, it'll take a another couple minutes to come to full boil.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 1:36PM
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I have been on propane for 22 years. The first 20 I had a specifically propane gas Creda cooktop so there was no loss in the conversion. When a natural gas cooktop is converted there is a lower BTU output on all the burners. It can be as much as 25% lower. Since my remodel 2 years ago I got a propane Wolf range. I can boil water in an huge uncovered pot in 4-5 minutes.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Thanks to all for more useful suggestions. I will absolutely get an induction hob, now; I was toying with this anyway for use outside when boiling lobster in the summer, and now I can see even more uses. I'm a little sad that my huge, long-awaited upgrade won't deliver the power I imagined. Still, I'm pleased with other improvements this range offers, and I'm happy overall. I just may be back here looking for more cooking tips so I can work around the limitations. :-)

But next time? I will DEFINITELY get a propane-specific range!!!! Who knew?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 6:08PM
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