Yesterday, I put a pot of water on the stove and set it to boil to make some pasta. I have done this many times but this time the boiling was qualitatively different than normal. Why would it be different from normal? I'll describe it below.
- First, the pot is a small steel saucepan about 2/3rds full of water with a metal lid.
- The handle on the top of the lid was scalding hot to the touch. It's usually only warm.
- Usually I observe two states of boiling, the "loud-but-little happening" start where nucleating bubbles first start but don't rise to the surface and you can see into the water clearly. Then the "rolling boil" where the surface is covered in bubbles.
- Instead, the water surface was still enough to see through but shimmered everywhere. Individual bubble columns formed but wouldn't last too long, with only one two columns at a time. Isolated bubbles formed everywhere but were small enough to mostly not break the surface of the water.
- Letting the water sit on high heat did not kick it into a rolling boil.
- Adding linguine to the water caused slightly explosive bubble column formation around the noodles, at least at first. The boiling remained unusual through the duration of cooking the linguine.
I struggled to identify what exactly was different from normal, mostly it was just an impression that this was not usual.
On a related note, I ended up watching a series of lectures on boiling online to try to answer this question myself and I would recommend them to anyone interested. However, my observations don't match the descriptions and recordings provided in those lectures, leaving my question unanswered.