Boiling requires no fat, is relatively simple, and has a generally easy clean up afterward. On the other hand, boiling can leach vitamins and minerals out of foods. Many delicate vegetables are better off steamed. Boiling works well for starches like rice, dried pasta, and potatoes.
When boiling potatoes, make sure the potatoes or chunks of potato are about the same size. Start with a cold pot. Pour enough cold water into the pot to cover the potatoes. Starting cold ensures that the potatoes cook evenly. Turn on the heat and bring the potatoes to a full boil. Do not cover the pot (it makes the cooking environment too hot). Check the potatoes for doneness after about five minutes by poking with a fork.
If preparing dried pasta, you can immerse the pasta in rapidly boiling water (a “full boil”). Fresh pasta is more delicate, and should be prepared at what we call a “slow boil,” which means turning the heat down slightly so that bubbles break a little less violently on the surface of the water. With both kinds of pasta, taste test for texture and doneness, keeping in mind that fresh pasta often takes considerably less time than dried pasta.
Boiling is commonly the proper process for rice and many other grains (quinoa, barley, oats, etc.). In many cases, depending on the recipe or box instructions, you will combine the grain with cold water, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer (a stage cooler than a slow boil).