Liquid Water Is Slow to Heat Up

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Again thanks to the hydrogen bonding between water molecules, liquid water has a high specific heat, the amount of energy required to raise its temperature by a given amount. That is, water absorbs a lot of energy before its temperature rises. For example, it takes 10 times the energy to heat an ounce of water 1° as it does to heat an ounce of iron 1°. In the time that it takes to get an iron pan too hot to handle on the stove, water will have gotten only tepid. Before the heat energy added to the water can cause its molecules to move faster and its temperature to rise, some of the energy must first break the hydrogen bonds so that the molecules are free to move faster.