A chimpanzee has just returned to the surface after extended time at 1km depth, breathing trimix air. This brings the possibility of hyperbaric habitation, however how would the basic functions of cooking be affected in hyperbaric conditions? Specifically, could we have ice cubes or ice cream? Water boils at over 300°F, so no steaming anything - is steam cooking impossible? I know that tea pots and coffee pots would not work. Some things likely will also not evaporate. This question mostly concerns hyperbaric consequences of food preparation that involves phase-changes.

The question is constrained to processes by appliances used in common residential kitchens to boil, broil, sear, fry, bake, chill, freeze, steep, brew, etc.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why would a tea pot not work. Hot water is hot water, it just won’t boil. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 20, 2020 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ There is little difference in the freezing point of water $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2020 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ You could easily "steam" your food just as you do now by continuing to add heat to a cooking pot until water boiled at a higher temperature, but the steam would exist at 300 F rather than 212 F. Everything that you see now in your kitchen could still be done, but cooking times for steamed items would be MUCH shorter. $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2020 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidWhite - indeed much shorter - a standard pressure cooker is only 2 atmospheres. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 20, 2020 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ Reference to this experiment with 1000m dive depths and chimpanzees? $\endgroup$
    – cms
    Aug 20, 2020 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


Cooking under high pressure is totally possible, but some recipes would need to be changed.

Say the boiling point of water at this pressure is 150 C. That means boiling water will be far hotter than we are used to, and will cause more vigorous reactions and diffusion.

The most salient effect is that boiling water would be hot enough to cause the Maillard browning reaction: boiling would produce similar tastes to frying for meat and dumplings. Steamed buns would go brown.

Unfortunately this also means that food that gets its texture from steam bubbles (omelette?) would have to be heated far more than normal, likely making both texture and taste wrong (the egg proteins coagulate at 60-70C; heating the omelette enough to get steam would fry it to a rubbery mess, I think).

The bread in the oven would brown nicely but would have much impaired evaporation and would only fluff up because of CO2 bubbles from the yeast expanded: the result would be a soggy mess. Heating up further would cause sugar caramelisation around 160 C, which might change taste for normal bread a bit. Above that you will get pyrolysis and charring; it is quite possible that bread would easily end up too brown and charred yet still soggy.

Boiling water for tea would produce a too hot tea that would ruin the taste by dissolving a lot of bitter stuff quickly. The same goes for coffee.

Freezers would work as normal, and at this pressure ice formation is roughly normal.

Carbonated beverages from the surface would on the other hand be rather disappointing, since they would lack much fizz.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting point about the Maillard reaction. So could we make "healthy" French fries using water in an extreme pressure cooker instead of oil? Someone should try this :) $\endgroup$
    – KF Gauss
    Aug 20, 2020 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ The fries would just fall apart. $\endgroup$
    – my2cts
    Aug 20, 2020 at 11:00

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