Boil (something) down

to heat a liquid or food so that part of it is turned into gas and its amount is reduced, or to be reduced in this way

If I boiled water, and water decreased to the bottom of the pot, can I say "I boiled water down to the bottom of the pot"?

  • 1
    Do you mean that all the water vanished, or there was just a little bit left at the bottom of the pot?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 26, 2023 at 12:55
  • 1
    @StuartF The latter.
    – user182348
    Dec 26, 2023 at 15:34
  • 1
    No, boiled down to the bottom of the pot. sounds like all the water is gone.
    – Lambie
    Dec 27, 2023 at 16:51
  • You could not say that, nor anything like it, no. 'To boil water down to the bottom of the pot…' makes perfect sense but that's as far as it goes. How could 'Boil (something down) down' not be nonsense? 'to heat (anything) so its amount is reduced…' is a broad description of the culinary process of 'reduction.' 'to heat (anything) so part is turned into gas' might have many meanings. Choosing one is up to you If you did anything, the appropriate Question would never be 'can I say…' but only ever 'could I…' Dec 28, 2023 at 17:18
  • @RobbieGoodwin This isn't an academic writing site. It's for people learning English
    – gotube
    Jan 5 at 23:00

7 Answers 7


To "boil something down" usually refers to making it thicker, more viscous, as with a sauce. In your case, it would be more idiomatic to say the water boiled away, not down.

I left the pot on the stove by accident and the water boiled away.

But you could say

I left the pot on the stove and the water boiled down to nothing.

There is also the saying, "something boils down to ______" which means that when extraneous details are eliminated, the essence of the thing is _______.

  • 13
    Another related, idiomatic expression is "boiled dry" Dec 25, 2023 at 16:01
  • 1
    I won't say my mother-in-law is a bad cook, but she managed to burn water. Dec 25, 2023 at 19:15
  • She said there is still a little water in the bottom of the pot. Read the comments under the question.
    – Lambie
    Dec 27, 2023 at 16:51
  • 1
    @Lambie In that case you could say "I left the pot on the stove by accident and most of the water boiled away." or "I left the pot on the stove and the water boiled down to almost nothing."
    – wjandrea
    Dec 28, 2023 at 1:23
  • @Lambie: As for your demand that I read the comments, I answered the question a day before that comment was posted. Apology accepted.
    – TimR
    Dec 28, 2023 at 12:53

The expression is to "boil dry".

You would use it as "The pot boiled dry". Normally this is a bad thing to happen (as if the pot boils dry, any food in the pot is likely to burn)

Don't let the pot boil dry. You will ruin the vegetables.

  • 1
    Isn't vegetable ruination a small problem, comparing to ruining the pot and potentially burning one's house down? Dec 27, 2023 at 7:45
  • 1
    @GeorgeMenoutis: Yes, "boiled dry" implies the water is all gone, no longer limiting the pot temperature to the boiling point by carrying energy away as steam. As you say, that's very bad if the input power (energy per time) is set high. Apparently that's not what the OP is looking for; they clarified in comments they're talking about an end result where there is some water (or more likely water-based liquid) still in the pot, but only in the bottom. So boiled down but not dry. Dec 27, 2023 at 8:14
  • Don't let the water boil away. is also good.
    – Lambie
    Dec 27, 2023 at 16:48

If the content of the pot was only water, I would say that I left the pot on the stove (US) / cooker (UK) and the water completely evaporated.

  • Evaporation takes a lot more time that having the water boil away. Also, it does not require the stove/cooker to even be on.
    – Lambie
    Dec 27, 2023 at 16:49
  • @Lambie Technically, yeah, but colloquially it's fine. I mean, even fog can be called "steam" in some cases.
    – wjandrea
    Dec 28, 2023 at 1:33
  • @wjandrea Evaporation is not what the OP is describing at all. Sorry.
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2023 at 14:40
  • @Lambie Boiling water causes it to evaporate, so it is. It can evaporate without being boiled of course, so you'd have to say something like "I boiled it so long it all evaporated" to be clear.
    – Thierry
    Dec 28, 2023 at 22:46

Another way to say this is 'boiled off' as in "all the water boiled off". When pan-frying or browning, I will 'boil off' any excess water.


boil out or boiled out - e.g., I left the flame on and forgot about the water and it boiled out.

TIL that in addition to "boiling all of the water out of something" that the same phrase is used for cleaning fryers - drain the oil, fill with water and special cleaner, bring to a boil, drain. In that context "out" isn't "the water itself boils out" but rather "using boiling water to clean out the fryer".

  • This is synonymous with "Boil dry" but has a wider use to indicate you've boiled to a point where the water has been "boiled off" but the other contents remain. If you actually boil a pot of water until it is empty, "boil dry" happens and if you're lucky there is only slight discolouration of the pot. "Boil out" is a better description when the contents was not only water, for instance if you left a pot of stock on to boil, what is left at then end is a tar like sludge and likely a lot of smoke. Hopefully you get to it before it is dry, but it is now "boiled out" and cannot be reused. Dec 28, 2023 at 13:10

Another very common way of saying this is to say that the water boiled away. This means the water (or liquid) continued boiling until there was nothing left. Presumably the "away" refers to the water leaving as steam.


The word you require is in the quote you have used - Reduce

Merriam-Webster 1b (2): to decrease the volume and concentrate the flavor of by boiling add the wine and reduce the sauce for two minutes


5: If you reduce liquid when you are cooking, or if it reduces, it is boiled in order to make it less in quantity and thicker.
Boil the liquid in a small saucepan to reduce it by half. [VERB noun]
Simmer until mixture reduces. [VERB]

can I say "I boiled water down to the bottom of the pot"?

No, as other answers point out, it would mean boil/reduce until all the water has evaporated.

You could say:-
"Reduce the liquid/sauce to the required consistency"
"Simmer until the volume of sauce/liquid has reduced by 75%

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