Water is the universal solvent, capable of dissolving just about anything given sufficient time and energy. It's also a fairly universal ingredient for most foods, from soup to homebrewed beer, and like any other ingredient it brings its own flavors to the party. If what comes out of your kitchen tap tastes like it came out of a public pool there's a good chance it's imparting that same taste to everything you boil, braise, brew, brine, steep, or stew. By improving the quality of the water you cook with you can allow the actual flavors of your recipes to shine through, without having to compete with whatever your municipal utility provider has added.
Additives, Particulate and How They Affect Flavor
Municipal utility providers take great pains to ensure that the water reaching your house is as safe to drink as possible. That safety isn't necessarily indicative of great taste though, and it can leave a number of extras in your water, such as chlorine used to sanitize it. You may also notice a metallic taste which usually finds its way there from pipes leading up to your faucets. Also watch for fluoride, iron oxide, and other trace minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which can be present in your local geology, and thus present in your water.
The most obvious impact public water can have on the taste of food is the result of the most common additive and particulate, chlorine and copper respectively. The lingering metallic tang can throw off many protein laden dishes, and the acrid chlorinated taste can sour any number of long brewing dishes, especially stock, soup, and beer. Trace particulate can have a less dramatic impact on taste, but may have dire results for reactive metal cookware, such as aluminum pans.
Resolving to Solve the Dissolving
Simply put, filter the water you cook with. It's the easiest means of ensuring the quality of your ingredient without paying several dollars a gallon for store-bought water. Any activated charcoal filtering system will make a major difference in the taste of your water and the taste of anything that cooks in it. This can be a simple pitcher device you can keep in your refrigerator, or a whole house filtration system if you're really committed to the idea. There's nothing necessarily wrong with using bottled water for cooking, but it can end up being far more expensive than purchasing replacement filters in the long run. That said, activated charcoal filters may not remove all of the trace particulate, especially calcium and magnesium. For this, you may need to consider a water softener, which uses sodium to bond with the calcium particles and render them inert. This approach can also save many plumbing fixtures too, preventing them from being gummed up by hard water deposits.
Water is the single most essential element for life. You can't live more than three days without it, but too many cooks take it for granted all the same. Make a difference in your culinary future by choosing to improve what you cook with. Talk to a professional like Hague Quality Water of Kansas City Inc. for assistance.