Why is it difficult to cook food on mountains?

Is it because on increasing pressure boiling point of substance increase and on mountains there is less pressure so less boiling point. Then shouldn't it be easier to cook food on mountain.

I know that as we go to higher altitude there is less oxygen so it becomes difficult to cook. My teacher gave this question when she was teaching about boiling point and "How pressure effect boiling point?" so the reasoning should be of something about pressure.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As far as I know the lower air pressure causes the boiling point to go down so the food is cooked at a lower temperature and hence cooking takes more time. But you could use a pressure cooker to avoid this problem. $\endgroup$ – Urgje Feb 25 '15 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Urgje your comment should be an answer $\endgroup$ – pentane Feb 25 '15 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Urgje shouldn't less boiling point mean that its more easier to cook as the substance gets cooked very fast. $\endgroup$ – pcforgeek Feb 25 '15 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @pcforgeek See the answer by SirElderberry. Maybe you have heard about the "slow cooking" method. There food is prepared at a much lower temperature than the 100 degrees centigrade. It takes ages to cook this way. $\endgroup$ – Urgje Feb 26 '15 at 15:33

Why do we boil water to cook food? It's not actually because there's anything magic about the boiling of water, or that the physical process of boiling in particular does anything. Usually it's because we want a constant-temperature heat bath. Say you are boiling vegetables. You boil water, and you know that water is at 100 degrees. Water actually cannot get any hotter than this--it stays at that temperature or it becomes steam and leaves the pot. Then you put the vegetables into the boiling water, and therefore you know that they are in a 100 degree environment. Then, you know you need to leave them in there for however long--let's say five minutes.

Suppose, though, you were at high altitudes and water boiled at 95 degrees. Well, now when you put your vegetables into boiling water, they are only in a 95 degree environment, so the cooking time has changed. Your recipe no longer works correctly, and you will have to boil the food for longer.

Or maybe not, actually. The other possibility is that you are putting food in an oven, say something that's supposed to be 200 degrees. In this case, the water that's probably in the thing you're baking actually keeps the food cooler for longer. It reaches 100 degrees and will stay there until it boils off. However, if it boils off at 95 degrees, then again your cooking parameters will have changed. Since the water boils off faster, your dish spends more time at higher temperatures and can burn.

The common factor here is that boiling water is very energy-intensive, more so than just getting it to 100 C. It is therefore quite easy (and common) to get water to 100 C and have it stay there for some time, and we use this in cooking to calibrate our recipes. If pressure changes, than all the temperatures we assume to hold in cooking change, and procedures may need to be adapted as well.


On the basis of boiling, there are two factors that affect the the boiling point of a substance. One is the presence of impurity and other is the atmospheric pressure. At higher altitudes, say like mountains, cooking food is difficult. Higher altitudes means lower atmospheric pressure and thus lower boiling point. But that doesn't mean that food can be cooked at lower temperatures easily. Food we eat is adapted to the recipes which require a standard boiling point near the earth so they become tender, soft, or easy to chew on. So, at higher altitude, food needs to be cooked for a longer time due to the lower in boiling point of water. But note that at a certain point, cooking should be stopped or the food may get overcooked.

  • $\begingroup$ You may get more practical answers of this queations along with other critical based questions in the book (physics written by gilbert rowell and sydney herbert) $\endgroup$ – E.K.Eshayat Mar 3 '16 at 14:59

protected by Qmechanic Mar 3 '16 at 14:56

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