Cooking With Filtered Water 101
Is cooking with soft water better than cooking with hard water? What about cooking with reverse osmosis water?
In almost every stage of cooking, we use water. From washing fruits and vegetables to cleaning plates and forks when the meal is finished.
Cooking with filtered water is an easy way to improve the taste of your food and drinks.
Hard water sometimes changes the taste, smell and color of the food you're preparing. So soft water is a better alternative. And cooking with reverse osmosis water is even better. Since reverse osmosis water is both softened and filtered even further.
First, let's discuss the main differences between the various water types.
What is Hard Water?
Simply stated, hard water contains too many minerals. Especially calcium and magnesium. Hard water can ruin glassware, sinks and clothes while making skin and hair dry or itchy.
Though hard water might not be a direct hazard to your health, it does contain contaminants that can be a nuisance to your family and appliances.
What is Soft Water?
Soft water has few or no dissolved minerals. Such as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese.
In order to make water soft, it goes through a water softening process. Which removes dissolved minerals through filters and "ion exchange".
An "ion exchange" softener removes minerals that cannot be taken out by certain filters. Softeners use resin beads with sodium ions. And as water enters the tank, this resin attracts dissolved calcium and magnesium. It then ''exchanges'' the sodium for dissolved chemicals. Ultimately removing the impurities.
What is Reverse Osmosis Water?
Reverse osmosis is one of the most advanced filtration methods. So, how exactly does reverse osmosis work?
First, pressurized water moves through a particle filter. This removes impurities like salt, sand and sediment.
Next, water travels through an activated carbon filter. Which traps and removes contaminants such as chlorine, mercury, copper and pesticides. We consider these first two steps the pre-filtration stage.
After pre-filtration, the pressurized water is forced into a semipermeable membrane. Which traps and removes even the smallest impurities, so only water passes through. This is the reverse osmosis stage.
Finally, the contaminants are removed and flushed away in the discharge stage. While disposing the contaminants, the filtered water moves to a storage tank.
Before water comes to the faucet, it is filtered one final time with an activated-carbon filter. This improves the overall taste and quality of water for household use.
Reverse Osmosis Water for Cooking
We all invest time, energy and money in the cooking process. So shouldn't we cook with filtered water to guarantee the best results?
While you can cook with hard or soft water, it's recommended to use reverse osmosis water. Because reverse osmosis removes more contaminants and minerals than any other filtration method.
Reverse osmosis water therefore ensures that your food is prepared in the best way possible.
Let's explore how often we use water in cooking and why the quality of our water matters.
Blanching and Boiling Vegetables
Broccoli, carrots, green beans and so many other vegetables are vibrant and crunchy before they are cooked. So why do they sometimes taste flimsy and dull after? Poor water and overcooking could be causing these problems.
One way to prevent soggy vegetables is to blanch them. Blanching is the process of boiling vegetables in hot water. And then immediately submerging those cooked vegetables into ice water. Which stops them from cooking further.
There are several reasons to blanch your vegetables.
First, blanching prevents vegetables from getting soggy. Or losing flavor.
Second, partial cooking helps remove some of the natural tart and raw flavors found in uncooked vegetables.
Finally, blanched vegetables keep their color. And don't appear dull or drained after cooking.
Soft of filtered water is essential for baking. Especially bread.
Hard water is full of minerals. And these minerals prevent proteins in the bread from absorbing all of the water.
In addition, hard water can slow down fermentation. Which is also known as the rising process.
Cooking Rice, Noodles and Beans
Rice, noodles and beans do not have much flavor on their own.
As a result, the water used in cooking these foods is so much more important. For example, if the water smells like rotten eggs, your noodles might taste the same.
Likewise, brown rice or red beans may lose color due to minerals in hard or unfiltered water.
In addition to poor taste, unfiltered water might also take longer to prepare. Because hard water for instance, takes longer to boil. Water boils at a certain temperature. But the boiling point varies based on several factors.
Let's talk more about these factors.
First, it's important to understand vapor pressure. Vapor pressure can be described as the pressure needed to make a liquid into a gas. When the temperature of water increases, so does the vapor pressure.
As the vapor pressure increases, the molecules of water move faster and faster. This movement releases energy. The energy escapes the liquid, causing the water to boil.
So when minerals, like those found in hard water, are boiled with the water, the vapor pressure is more sensitive and takes more time to boil.
Crafting Lemonade, Juice, Coffee and Hot Cocoa
Many popular beverages share a common ingredient: water. And water makes a big difference in the way that these beverages taste.
Take lemonade and juice for example. Most lemonade and juice are not brewed or steeped, but rather mixed with cold water. This is unlike coffee and hot cocoa, which are boiled, brewed, steeped or steamed.
It's necessary to think about the quality of water used in all beverages. Because it could contain one or several common contaminants.
Common Contaminants Found in Tap Water
Lead seeps into water supplies through lead pipes, solder and fixtures. And it's a problem throughout the entire United States.
Most noteworthy, there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Especially for children. Individuals can suffer harmful and potentially chronic effects ranging from stomach pain to brain damage.
Not only does chlorine smell and taste bad. But it also dries out your skin and hair. Chlorine is used to disinfect, or treat, municipal water supplies. And needs to be filtered out before use to eliminate annoying effects.
Radium is a highly radioactive chemical element. However, it is undetectable to human senses. As a result, it can only be detected through professional testing.
The EPA limit of radium in drinking water is set at 5.0pCi/L. Long-term consumptions of radium, even at levels under the EPA limit, can increase the likelihood of cancer, birth defects and kidney damage. Up to 90 percent of radium can be safely removed from drinking water by reverse osmosis water systems.
The presence of magnesium causes hard water. Magnesium is a mineral that enters the ground after rain soaks through soil, sand and rock.
Although it isn't a direct hazard to our health, magnesium does cause problems. Like buildup in pipes, shortened lifespan of appliances, increased soap and detergent use. As well as dry skin, dull hair and spotty dishes.
Arsenic is a well-known contaminant that enters water supplies through bedrock or industrial byproduct. While arsenic isn't dangerous in small doses, it is dangerous over a long period.
Even low-level, long-term exposure to drinking water with arsenic can result in the possibility of increased occurrences of cancer and other health issues.
Radon is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas. Caused by the radioactive decay of uranium. Which is a common element found in bedrock that can cause cancer. Dissolving into groundwater, radon gas is released into the air when the faucet is turned on in your home or office.
Known as hexavalent chromium, chromium-6 is a highly toxic contaminant. And certain activities like chrome plating, leather dying, wood preserving and stainless steel manufacturing release the contaminant into groundwater.
Drinking water containing more than 0.02ppb of chromium-6 could possibly cause cancer. Chromium-6 is difficult to detect, even when present in large amounts. And it impacts roughly two out of every three Americans.
Nitrates provide essential minerals for food, flowers and greenery. Therefore making it a major ingredient in most fertilizers.
Though nitrates naturally occur in soil, overuse of fertilizer contributes to the most contamination. Nitrates can move quickly through soil and become concentrated in groundwater. Resulting in potential health risks for everyone. Especially infants and pregnant women.
Coliform Bacteria and E. Coli
16 species comprising three groups - total coliform, fecal coliform and E. Coli - make up the larger category of coliform bacteria. Bacterial contamination occurs after the failure of a septic system or as a result of agricultural runoff.
Symptoms of infection range from digestive issues like diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting and fever. To the more severe health problems like anemia and kidney failure.
Reverse Osmosis and UV based deionization are two advanced water filtration techniques that can get rid of most bacterial contaminants.
Hydrogen sulfide is a smelly, colorless gas that is produced by sulfur and sometimes found in groundwater.
Sulfur in drinking water can cause a laxative effect, leading to increased rates of diarrhea and dehydration, especially in young children and infants.
In addition, it can stain plumbing fixtures, toilets and sinks. And tarnish silver and copper homeware.
Because water is involved in almost every stage of cooking, it's an important part of every recipe. For best results of all food and drink made in your kitchen, consider cooking with filtered water.