How Long to Boil All Kinds of Foods So You Can Finally Stop Guessing

·6-min read

When it comes to making a meal, there are seemingly countless options for how to cook each component, be it starches, carbs, or proteins. One of the less intimidating methods, boiling, can be used to prepare a wide variety of foods, ranging from eggs and meat to veggies and grains, in an efficient manner. In other words, whether you have four available stovetop burners at home, or are using a single cast-iron dutch oven over a campfire to make a delicious meal, there are plenty of food items you can make simply and quickly.

Before boiling your food, however, it's important to know exactly how long each item should be in boiling water for optimal doneness and taste. To help take the guesswork out, we've compiled an extensive list of boiling instructions for a variety of foods. From best methods to the time it takes, prepare to be an absolute boiling wizard!

How Long to Boil Eggs

Bring a large saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil. Submerge the eggs in the boiling water and cook for at least 6-10 minutes depending on the preferred yolk doneness as listed below. Immediately transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

  • Jammy yolks (medium-rare): 6 minutes

  • Medium: 7 minutes

  • Medium-well: 8 minutes

  • Well-done: 10-12 minutes

How Long to Boil Chicken

  • Breast: Bring well-seasoned chicken broth to a boil. Place fresh (not frozen) boneless and skinless chicken breast in the boiling broth, and cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Boil frozen boneless chicken breast for 18-25 minutes. For thawed bone-in chicken breast, boil for 20-22 minutes.

  • Thighs: Boil boneless chicken thighs in chicken broth for 10-15 minutes depending on size, and bone-in thighs for 18-22 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

  • Tenders: Place chicken tenders in boiling chicken broth and cook for 10 minutes.

  • To shred: Boil the chicken according to whichever of the above methods corresponds to the cut until the internal temperature has reached 165°F, then shred using your hands, forks, or a hand or stand mixer.

How Long to Boil Corn Kernels

Place fresh corn kernels in boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes (2-3 minutes if frozen), or until the corn is bright yellow.

How Long to Boil Corn on the Cob

Place shucked and cleaned corn on the cob in a pot of boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the kernels are bright yellow. The length of cooking time depends on the size of the corn cobs: smaller corn cobs will take less time to cook, while larger cobs will take longer. Once the corn is cooked, turn off the heat and leave the cobs in the hot water until it's time to serve.

How Long to Boil Potatoes

Place pierced potatoes in a saucepan or stockpot, cover with cold water, then place the pot on high heat and bring to a boil. Cooking times vary on potato sizes as follows:

  • Baby potatoes (1 inch): 10-12 minutes

  • Small potatoes (2 inches): 14-16 minutes

  • Medium potatoes (3 inches): 18-20 minutes

  • Large potatoes (4 inches): 24-26 minutes

  • Extra-large potatoes (5+ inches): 28-30 minutes

How Long to Boil Carrots

Place peeled and sliced carrots in a pot of boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the carrots are just fork-tender (there should be a slight resistance when inserting a fork or the tip of a sharp knife). Drain and season the boiled carrots, then serve.

How Long to Boil Broccoli

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add fresh broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes (4 minutes if frozen), or until the broccoli is bright green in color and just fork-tender. Drain, season, and serve immediately.

How Long to Boil Cauliflower

  • Florets: Add fresh cauliflower florets to boiling water and cook for 5-7 minutes (7-9 minutes if frozen), or until the cauliflower is just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain and season with butter, salt, and your preferred seasonings.

  • Whole: Submerge whole, cleaned, and trimmed cauliflower head in boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on its size.

How Long to Boil Hot Dogs

Submerge hot dogs in boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes. Drain water and serve immediately.

How Long to Boil Spaghetti

Fresh spaghetti should boil for 2-3 minutes in heavily salted water for "al dente" doneness. Dry, packaged spaghetti should boil for 8-9 minutes for al dente, or 1-2 minutes less than the recommended time on the packaging.

How Long to Boil Rice

  • White rice: For 1 cup of rice, add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring water (with the rice in it) to a boil. Once most of the water is boiled out, cover with a lid and let cook for around 17 minutes until the rice is plump and the water is fully absorbed.

  • Brown rice: Follow the same steps as you would with white rice (adjusting the amount of water needed for brown rice - 2 cups water for 1 cup brown rice), but simmer for 40-45 minutes instead of 17 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but let the rice rest undisturbed in the covered pot for an additional 10-12 minutes to allow any remaining water to fully absorb into the rice.

How Long to Boil Shrimp

  • Fresh shrimp: Boil fresh shrimp in well-seasoned (with salt and seafood seasoning) water for 1-3 minutes until the shrimp is pink and no longer transparent.

  • Frozen shrimp: Add 30-60 seconds to the cooking times listed above according to size.

How Long to Boil Crab Legs

  • Fresh crab legs: Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot about halfway with water, season well with salt and your preferred seafood seasoning, and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop the crab legs into the hot water (making sure not to crowd the pot) and cook for around 5 minutes, or until the crab legs are bright in color and thoroughly heated through. Serve immediately.

  • Frozen crab legs: Follow the same instructions as above, except boil for around 10 minutes.

How Long to Boil Asparagus

Fill a skillet with 1 inch of water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Place the trimmed asparagus into the water and boil for about 5 minutes, plus or minus 2 minutes depending on thickness (thin asparagus will take 3-5 minutes, while thick asparagus will take 5-7 minutes to cook). Remove from water and serve immediately.

How Long to Boil Brussels Sprouts

Place cleaned and trimmed brussels sprouts into boiling water and cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the sprouts are bright green and just fork-tender. Drain the water and serve immediately, or shock the sprouts in an ice bath, allow them to dry completely, then freeze in an airtight bag for later use.

How Long to Boil Cabbage

  • Wedges: Bring 1/2 inch salted water to boil in a skillet. Carefully place the cabbage wedges into the water, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes (depending on the thickness of the wedges). After 6-8 minutes, carefully flip the wedges, cover again, and cook for an additional 8 minutes, or until fork-tender.

  • Shredded: Place shredded cabbage in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain.

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