Why You Should Never Salt A Cold Pot Of Water

The New York Times once declared to the world that "if you can boil water, you can make dinner." This may be reassuring, but believe it or not, there are dos and don'ts for something as simple as boiling water for pasta, potatoes, and beyond. Many recipes recommend adding salt to boiling water, and plenty of chefs remind people of this rule. But why is this step important? And when do you add salt — before or after the water comes to a boil?

To answer this question, we need to start by debunking a few myths about salting boiling water: first, that adding salt to water increases its boiling point. This is theoretically true, but "you would need to add 230 grams of table salt to a liter of water just to raise the boiling point" by two degrees, ThoughtCo explains, adding that this would be far saltier than the ocean. The second myth is that adding salt makes water boil faster — nope, you'll have to wait just as long for those bubbles to appear. It's clear that there's no point in salting your water before turning on the stove, so here's when to do it instead and why.

Salt drops to the bottom of the pan when added too soon

The reason why you add salt to water is to improve the flavor of the food that you want to cook in it. When added at the correct time, salt adds seasoning to the water, which is then absorbed by the food. While you should be generous in your salting, Hestan cookware expert Pamela Stafford tells Kitchn that you should hold off on adding it while the water is cold, "because it drops to the bottom of the pan." When the water is boiling, however, "the salt dissolves right away." This makes it easier to taste for a sea-like level of saltiness.

Adding salt to already-boiling water has another culinary advantage. Because the pot will have less exposure time to the chloride and sodium found in saltwater, your metal cookware will suffer less corrosion, per ThoughtCo. Now that you know how to protect your pots while perfectly seasoning your boiled starches from the inside out, be sure to avoid the other common mistakes everyone makes when cooking with salt.