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High Altitude Cooking

 

Cooking at high altitude is different than when at sea level. At higher altitudes the air is less dense and that can affect certain cooking facets. Propane is piped to your appliances via a regulator. Unless you live in higher elevations, this regulator is undoubtedly adjusted at a lower elevation than where you will be camping. This can result in less gas pressure at higher altitudes. When cooking or grilling you may find that it takes longer to heat things because the flame is not as hot as at lower elevations. When baking a cake at an altitude of more than 1,500' above sea level, it is advisable to use a little more flour and egg. It's also a good idea to use a bit less baking powder, sugar, shortening, or butter. Also try baking the cake with a little less heat. The baking time should remain the same.

One of the biggest differences is in boiling water. Water normally boils at 212 F. At higher altitudes the air pressure upon the surface of the water is less. This means that the water will boil at a lower temperature and give you a false impression that the water has reached 212. This is critical when sterilizing things or canning things. If you are canning at an altitude in excess of 1,000', the time for the hot water bath should be increased by 10 per cent for each additional 500' over the 1,000' level.

Because water boils at a lower temp, you will have to allow extra time for cooking at higher altitudes. If you normally boil an egg at 212 F at sea level for 5 minutes you will need to compensate accordingly. It takes energy to cook that egg and there is no such thing as free energy so we need to compensate with our cooking time. If we are boiling this egg at 6,000' we will see from the chart below that the water will boil at 201.1 F. If we take the original temp of 212 and multiply by 5 minutes we can see that it takes 1,060 degree-minutes of energy. If we then divide the 1,060 degree-minutes by 201.1 we can derive that it will take approximately 5.27 minutes of cooking time to transfer that much energy to the egg in order to properly cook it.

Note that air pressure is a function of altitude but air pressure is commonly measured with a barometer. That's why experienced cooks know that certain weather days aren't optimum for ideal cooking conditions. If you know your altitude, you can use Table 1 below to find the boiling temperature. If you have a barometer and know your air pressure rather than your altitude you can use Table 2 below to find the boiling point of water. Then just multiply your cooking time by 212 and divide the result by the new boiling point to arrive at an approximate cooking time for the new elevation.

 

TABLE 1
Altitude (ft.) Boiling pt.
(Degrees F)
-500 212.9
0 212.0
500 211.1
1000 210.2
2000 208.4
2500 207.5
3000 206.6
3500 205.7
4000 204.8
4500 203.9
5000 203.0
5500 202.0
6000 201.1
6500 200.2
7000 199.3
7500 198.3
8000 197.4
8500 196.4
9000 195.5
9500 194.6
10,000 193.6
      
TABLE 2
Pressure
(in. Hg)
Boiling pt.
(Degrees F)
27.6 208.04
27.8 208.39
28.0 208.75
28.2 209.10
28.4 209.44
28.6 209.79
28.8 210.13
29.0 210.47
29.2 210.81
29.4 211.15
29.6 211.48
29.8 211.81
29.921 212.00
30.0 212.14
30.2 212.46
30.4 212.79
30.6 213.11
30.8 213.43
31.0 213.75
31.2 214.07

 

Submitted by Mark Quasius - 2/07/06
 

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