Many areas of the UK have hard water, especially in the south-east of England. This means that the water contains much higher levels of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium than soft water. There is nothing unsafe about hard water, although it can cause inconvenient build-ups of limescale in pipes and kettles.
If you live in an area with hard water, you may not also realise that your tap water tastes different to soft water, because of the higher mineral content. While some people may not mind the taste, using hard water when preparing meals will also affect the flavour of your dishes, meaning they will not taste quite the way they should.
Cooking vegetables to the optimum level can be a particular challenge with hard water, because it takes slightly longer to reach boiling point and it also makes them tougher. Once they are softened, this can be at the expense of flavour, texture, and nutritional content.
Baking the perfect cake or loaf of bread can be a tricky feat to pull off at the best of times, but using hard water can make the task even more difficult. This is because the minerals in hard water can interact with ingredients such as gluten and yeast, causing them to perform less well. This may result in baked goods with a tough or crumbly texture.
When preparing drinks such as tea and coffee, the flavour is more easily absorbed in soft water than hard water. The extra mineral taint of hard water is also intensified when combined with other ingredients. This will be noticeable when you prepare stocks, sauces, and gravies as well, and is the reason why top chefs prefer to cook with soft water.
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