Cooking with a Good Altitude

Mike and I are just getting settled, unpacked and back to the business of living life. The house we’re renting has a well-appointed kitchen, so we (read: Mike) were looking forward to digging in. I even started planning my first pumpkin pie in years!

But, something was wrong. Things were boiling over constantly, even on low heat. We thought the stove was just extra-powerful, or maybe propane had more heat than natural gas or electricity. But then oatmeal took 45 minutes to cook. What was going on?

We mentioned it to one of Mike’s colleagues, Jon, who is also new to the area.

“I know,” he commiserated. “I tried to make bread the other day, and it was a disaster. I have to figure out how to adjust for this altitude.”

Altitude! I remember reading about this on cake-mix boxes and canning instructions. Our house is at approximately 4,300 feet—quite a jump from Portland, which is a mere 50 feet above sea level. Even our house in the Columbia River Gorge had no issues.

Breakfast oatmeal became brunch oatmeal

Breakfast oatmeal became brunch oatmeal

I did some research and learned that the main difference is air pressure. Same as a pressure cooker makes things cook faster, elevation, with less air pressure, makes things cook more slowly. It also lowers the boiling point of water, meaning you need to add more because it starts evaporating before the food is finished.

And that’s just cooking—baking is a whole ‘nother story. Jon’s bread quickly went awry. “It rose like crazy,” he said, “and then collapsed. The loaves were like pucks.”

Turns out that you have to add more dry ingredients, except leavening agents like yeast. Less of that. This website is pretty thorough about guidelines.

I’m a bad enough cook as it is; I hope that I can survive adjusting for altitude!

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One thought on “Cooking with a Good Altitude

  1. penelopeschott says:

    I remember trying to cook rice at a ski condo in Colorado — it never got soft.

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