Myth or Magic: Does a wooden spoon stop a pot from boiling over?

Remember our myth or magic series, which kicked off with woeful onion tears? Well, we’ve stumbled upon another kitchen legend that warranted some semi-thorough testing. Ever had to run to the rescue of an over-boiling pot? You might be interested to know whether a wooden spoon can ease the steamy tension.

myth or magic

Since the invention of fire, cave men and women have been running to the rescue of their rapidly bubbling dinners. We’re not too sure who the first foodie was to set a spoon over the cooking pot but it sparked the belief that a wooden spoon placed over a pot prevents the contents from boiling over.

So, to test this myth, we equipped ourselves with a pot, which just so happened to be a beautiful Caribbean blue Le Creuset cast iron one. Next in our myth-busting cavalry, an array of wooden spoons. Yes, we dipped them in pink. It’s our weakness.

wooden spoon myth or magic

With the pot set on high heat, the highest in fact, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. After what seemed like a dark age, our rhubarb pink timer tinkered a tune. Still no bubbles. Hmm, was this Le Creuset pot enjoying all the attention? We needed some furious boiling to put the spoon to the test. No matter, we put a lid on it and after a serious case of stage-fright, steam and eventually gurgling sounds churned within. Lid off, spoon on and some more waiting.

Our Le Creuset pot and Joseph Joesph timer

We’ve got to be honest with you here. While we would love to report that the rising froth obediently subsided upon tickling the wooden spoon, there was no such luck. The water just kept boiling politely at a respectable distance away from the spoon.

We even added pasta hoping to aggravate the mix into a rapid state of over boil. Apparently some foods contain ‘surfactants’, which are little compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, and in this case, act as foaming agents. The surfactants in pasta are lipids and proteins.

Testing the wooden spoon and boiling water myth

And yet, even with all these bond-breaking little lipids, no eager over boiling came close enough to test the true power of the spoon. Others have researched this myth before and found that a wooden spoon firstly absorbs some of the heat from the pot and secondly breaks the surface tension of the bubbles, stopping them from building up but all we can be 100% sure of is that a watched pot never boils.

Have you tried this myth at home or is it just a myth-nomer?

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Written by Andrea Fedder

From yoga to painting, baking to recycling, Andrea is our editor and she is interested in everything. When she's not skilfully honing or writing articles and drawing on chalkboards, she can be found, salt in her hair, sand in her toes, on a beach with her golden retrievers. View more articles by .

6 Comments

  1. Rene says:

    I tried this one at home in our cheapy pots while boiling pasta and it didn’t work. Had pasta water all over the stove.

  2. mike says:

    Heat has nothing to do with it since wood is a very poor thermoconductor. Impurities in the water create a foam and which causes water vapor and gases from the impurities to be trapped under the foam. The spoon break just enough bubbles to allow the release of these gases from under the foam and thus you don’t get any over gassing of your boiling liquid… If you don’t believe it boil pasta in distilled water and you’ll find that there is no foam. because there are no impurities.

  3. jenna says:

    this article just looks like a way for you to make money off of selling a pot… completely unhelpful and what I call shrewd manipulation.

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Jenna,

      We’re sorry you feel that way. Making sales off this article really wasn’t our objective. We just wanted to play and experiment. We did however get some requests for the pink dipped wooden spoons, which did put a feather in our myth busting cap. Nice hey?

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