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?

Written by Andrèa Fedder

Drea, as we fondly called her, was wordsmith and content manager here at Yuppiechef for several years. She thought in metaphors and was always hungry. When not dreaming up recipes, stories and food journeys, she writes, observes, explores and collects natural things and travel experiences. Can also happily eat capers and cheese for dinner. Follow her journey on @andreafedder. View more articles by .

28 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?

  4. Dwayne says:

    I want that pot…take my wallet now!

  5. Kaylah F says:

    Hello!

    I’m always making pasta and every single time, the water boils out. I tried the wooden spoon over the pot for the first time and not a single drop of water got overboiled. I don’t know if it depends on the type of pot or wooden spoon but it works for me. I do NOT think is article is meant to advertise a certain pot. It worked for me.

    Thanks!

  6. tara says:

    When we make macaroni and cheese the pot frequently gets to the point of almost boiling over and if we don’t notice in time it does. I put a bamboo spoon over top this time and it got to the point of almost but it never actually did.

  7. Arthur T. says:

    So you guys can’t even manage to make a pot boil over?

    This isn’t mythbusting it’s merely incompetent testing.

    You made it sound as though you had a truth to impart.

    Why did you even publish the article when a simple sentence would have done it: “Oh we tried that but we couldn’t make the water bubble over.”

  8. I have tried this method & you do not need a wooden spoon a any wooden kitchen utensil will do, as I used a wooden fork the first time and put a pot of veg on the boil and forgot to go back into the kitchen for approx. 10 to 15 minutes later and the pot was bubbling on the boil but did not boil over, I was amazed by this result,

    Gerry.

  9. MawMaw says:

    I’ve tried the wooden spoon several times and it REALLY does work. Don’t know why nor do I care, I just know it works. Btw, my pots are cuisinart. So boo to the person who says you are trying to sell yours

  10. Mumma Hack says:

    I really want to believe this will work. The amount of times I’ve left something to over-boil on the stove!!! Will have to give it a go.

  11. Tina Hutto says:

    The spoon does Work, I am cooking chicken and yellow rice right now, my water was about to boil over so I put a wooden spoon on top…no boil over, I think the water has to be about to boil over first…not sure…I’m just an old country cook.

  12. MariahQ says:

    You did a very poor job of testing this phenomenon. It’s meant for pots that have starchy foodstuffs in them, like potatoes or especially pasta. The starch that escapes from the pasta during cooking forms very durable bubbles that build on top of each other until the mess boils over. You did not establish first off that water cooking pasta will indeed boil over. (It will, provided you fill the pot to within two or three inches of the top, as most people do.) THEN you repeat the process with the wooden spoon. I promise you, you will see an elimination (or at least a very significant reduction) of boil-over.

    • Jade Lenferna says:

      Hi Mariah, We will definitely do some more experimenting in our kitchens and test out your theory. Thanks so much for the feedback

  13. Loreece says:

    Wooden spoon works for me every time when boiling water. I use R O water.

  14. Kendra says:

    My mother just tried this and it worked! Bamboo spoons never did the trick, but the 100% wooden one worked perfectly!

    • Jade Lenferna says:

      Hey Kendra, thanks for the feedback. I’m very pleased that the trick worked. Happy cooking. :)

  15. Opposite Day says:

    When I’m cooking pasta in boiling water—I insert the room temperature wooden spoon, and it boils over every time.

    So while laying a spoon on top of the pot seems to do nothing, inserting it WILL cause a boil over.

    Strange that this wive’s tale caught on, when the opposite is actually true.

  16. Cheryl says:

    The wooden spoon ‘trick’ has worked for me for years – on all different kinds of pots and boiling concoctions from water to soups. I have even substituted a wooden rolling pin for pots that were too wide for my spoon. It works! For those of you who think you are being conned or manipulated – Really?- get a real problem to worry about.

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