High-Altitude Cooking

What’s the big deal with High Altitude? The change of air pressure makes things in the kitchen act a bit differently.

At high altitudes:
Air pressure is lower, so foods take longer to cook. Temperatures and/or cook times may need to be increased.
Water boils at a lower temperature, so foods prepared with water (such as pastas and soups) may take longer to cook. Temperatures and cook times may need to be increased.
The atmosphere becomes much drier. Moisture quickly evaporates from everything.
The air has less oxygen and atmospheric pressure, so cooking takes longer.

Did you know it can take longer to cook eggs at high altitudes? Especially those cooked in boiling water such as poached and hard-cooked eggs. Because water boils at a lower temperature at high altitudes, hard-cooked eggs will take longer to prepare. It will most likely take longer to hard cook eggs at high altitudes than at sea level.

What is considered a high altitude?
Most cookbooks consider 3,000 feet above sea level to be high altitude, although at 2,000 feet above sea level, the boiling temperature of water is 208 °F instead of 212 °F. Most of the western United States (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) are wholly or partly at high altitude, however many other states contain mountainous areas that are also well above sea level.

Is cooking affected when using microwaves at high altitudes?
Due to the faster evaporation of liquids at high altitude, microwave cooking may take less time than at sea level. There are exceptions: meat, poultry, pasta, and rice require the maximum cooking time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or recipe and microwave for slightly less than the minimum length of time recommended. Add cooking time, if necessary. Use a food thermometer to determine if the safe minimum internal temperature has been reached.

How do high altitudes affect cooking with a slow cooker?
Allow longer cooking times at high altitudes. Do not remove the lid from the slow cooker; it can take 20 minutes or longer for the lost steam and heat to be regained. It may be helpful to place aluminum foil on top of the foods being cooked in a slow cooker and under the lid. The aluminum foil will reflect the heat downward into the food. Use a food thermometer to ensure that all food in the slow cooker has reached a safe temperature of 165 °F.

Is cooking affected when using a pressure cooker at high altitudes?
If your pressure cooker only comes with one weighted gauge, you will need to increase the cooking time to account for the lower cooking temperature at higher altitudes. Be sure to follow the directions that come with the pressure cooker for making altitude adjustments for the type of pressure cooker you are using. If there are no recommendations for altitude adjustment, contact the manufacturer directly.

How should home canning processes be altered?
All home-canned foods should be canned according to USDA or USDA-endorsed recommendations. Low-acid and tomato foods not canned using these methods present a risk of botulism. If there is a possibility that any deviation from the USDA-endorsed methods occurred, boil low-acid and tomato foods in a saucepan before consuming to prevent the risk of botulism. At altitudes below 1,000 feet, boil foods for 10 minutes. Add an additional minute of boiling time for each additional 1,000 feet elevation (for example, at 3,000 feet, boil for 12 minutes).

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