or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Cooking pasta

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I would like to ask if cooking pasta in salted water only is better or cooking pasta in salted water + oil. There are 2 schools of thoughts regarding this.

I hope someone can clarify this.

Thanks,
Boychef
Cook not because we have to, but because we like to!!"
Reply
Cook not because we have to, but because we like to!!"
Reply
post #2 of 18
And so you'll probably get differing opinions. I'm of the opinion that it really doesn't matter, so I guess that makes three points of view. Alton Brown, on the Food Network, suggests that adding oil isn't necessary, but that doing so won't create problems, like sauce "not sticking."

I feel that the key is to use lots of water in a large enough pot (i.e., more than 4-quarts per lb of pasta - maybe 6 quarts) in an 8-quart pot, and you'll be OK. I usually use 4 quarts of water for 1/2 lb of pasta, salt liberally after the water comes to a boil. The pasta comes out just fine.

Shel
post #3 of 18
Cook's Illustrated found in their testing that oil and salt made no difference in cooking or saucing but tasters preferred the taste of pasta cooked in salted water.

That should answer all the questions about cooking pasta and the issues of salt and oil

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
post #4 of 18

(empty)


Edited by Luc_H - 11/1/15 at 8:25pm
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
post #5 of 18
Adding oil to the water while cooking makes it not boil over, which is great.

Won't add flavor to the served pasta tho.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

thanks

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the answers. It was indeed helpful.


Rgds,
Boychef
Cook not because we have to, but because we like to!!"
Reply
Cook not because we have to, but because we like to!!"
Reply
post #7 of 18

Slippery

I have found that adding oil to the water makes no difference to the boiling.

The main reason I have found that people advise against adding oil, is that the sauce has a harder time sticking to the pasta. If you want your pasta to be covered in sauce then oil is a no no as adding it causes the sauce to slip off and pool in your plate.
post #8 of 18
The reason pasta water boils over in a foam like matter is because starch from the flour leaches in the water during the cooking process thickening the water slightly. This happens more with fresh pasta because they are coated with flour to prevent them from sticking so that the flour (a starch) readily dissolves in the boiling water.
Dry quality pasta are made of hard durum wheat and are often washed before drying then air cleaned before packaging to minimize any flour or fine residue on the surface preventing water thickening.

Oil seems to reduce the foaming somewhat slightly but not entirely explaining this persistent <kitchen trick myth>.

To prevent foaming boil over, use more water (in a bigger pot probably) which will dilute the flour that will leach in the boiling water and reduce that effect.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
post #9 of 18
That's almost verbatim what Alton Brown said and concluded with his tests, and what I found out over the years just by cooking pasta. More water in a bigger pot (relative to the amount of pasta being cooked) is probably the best solution.

And while I've not tested this, I suspect that once you get eight or ten quarts of water boiling, and add a relatively small amount of pasta (say 1/2 - 1-lb) the water will take less time to come back to a full boil.

Shel
post #10 of 18
I got to get cable at home to watch this Alton guy.... (I don't watch much TV and do not know many celebrity chefs). Alton will not always be able to verbatim me because I speak French.. joke.

You suspicion is correct!!!
Additional note: Boiling water tells you that it's temperature is 100C or 212 F (excluding any corrections due to elevation). Adding pasta to it and making the water stop boiling only means the temp is below 100C (probably 95C) meaning the pasta is still cooking (swelling) but not moving. Stirring is the key to prevent sticking until it boils back up again.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
post #11 of 18
Sounds like a waste of good oil......but I have heard there's a benefit when making gnocchi of adding oil to the water.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
Reply
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
Reply
post #12 of 18

about big pots

Just a little note - i have some very big pots, but if they get too big they can be counterproductive. The stove has to have the strength to bring such a large quantity to the boil, or back to the boil after adding the pasta. In which case, i yuou have a lot of pasta, use two pots.
You can speed up the reboil by covering, but have to stir frequently anyway, and then have to be there to uncover as soon as it does because it will boil over for sure if you don't.

Pasta cooked without salt in the water is not worth eating.

But a question - i notice when i put the salt in the water, if it's not quite boiling, the addition of the salt makes it boil up suddenly. Strange because the salt would cool down the water a bit, so what is that effect due to?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #13 of 18
Siduri,
The phenomena you explain is what many refer to as proof that water boils faster or hotter with added salt and is the reason this misconception and myth persist.

The phenomenon in question is called nucleation:
A gas dissolved in a liquid requires an activation point to form a bubble. Boiling water (or near boiling) has lots of heated water ready to turn into gas (steam) and bubble out of the liquid.
Bubbles form easily around sharp edges and corners (knicks it the pot or a sand grain or a salt crystal). When salt is added to nearly boiling or boiling water a sudden burst of bubbles appear because there are many crystal anchor points for bubbles to form (nucleation). Once the salt crystals dissolve everything comes back to normal without any temperature modifications involved.

Adding sand to boiling water will do the same effect. Add salt to a soft drink and a rush of bubbles appear. Nucleation also explains the mentos/Diet Dr. Pepper fountain phenomenon.

Chemists add small glass beads to flasks to enhance bubble formation when they distill liquids. (I know being a biochemist).

Another way to enhance bubble formation is with a sudden shock:ever dropped a soda can right before opening it? ever clunked somebody's beer bottle while he holds it? Every tapped the side of a pot of boiling water?

I hope this helps explain the mystery?

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
post #14 of 18
Just as a safety note to any aspiring amateur chemists out there, Never Ever add the glass beads to a hot flask!~ The beads go in when the flask and contents are cold. Adding glass beads to a boiling flask will crack the flask. If you're boiling something like Acetone, the result is pretty stupendous and dangerous!~

doc
post #15 of 18
Thanks for the explanation - always curious about these phenomena.

But it's strange it makes people think salt makes water boil at a higher temp. It actually should make you think it boils at a LOWER temperature, no?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #16 of 18
Siduri,
Your assumption based on your observation is sound. If near boiling water would suddenly boil when adding salt it would mean that the water would boil at a lower temperature (which is not the case as explained above).

As stated earlier salted water actually boils trivially slightly hotter which follows the physical-chemistry law that substances boil at a hotter temperature when a solute is dissolved and it increases according to the concentration.

What I come across often is people trying to argue that adding salt makes water reach it's boiling temperature faster by instantly increase the boiling temperature higher explained by the sudden and sometimes violent burst of bubbles when adding salt. False.

Water can actually boil at a lower temperature if submitted to a vacuum. The reduction of air pressure above the liquid facilitates the water molecule to escape the liquid phase to steam. High elevations is another way to say reduce air pressure. People that live in higher elevation understand that boiling pasta takes longer to cook because the water boils at what could be many degrees lower then normal.

(Caution: As Deltadoc is trying to say: please do not attempt to practice chemistry at home. We are what are called experts and know what we actually are doing (most of the time)).

Luc H
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
post #17 of 18
Luc, in my experience, oil almost eliminates foaming.

I've studied physics in college and believe it or not I've unintentionally superheated water in a pyrex container in a microwave oven. Was taking way too long to boil and I wondered what was up. Started to open the microwave and SPLOOF almost all that water vaporised in a second.

But then before I went to college I also opened a hot pressure cooker and figured there was no pressure since the weight thingy on top wasn't moving. That SPLOOF was bad, my whole face was one big 2nd degree burn and the lid made a dent in the ceiling.

Now as an air conditioning tech I am very aware of what difference pressure makes :bounce: And I forgot what my point was.

A cool experiment is to have a vacuum pump de-pressurise the air in a container of water. Bring it to near total vacuum, and the water boils rapidly at room temperature.

Oil helps prevent starches and proteins from forming large links, making foam hard to form, true?
post #18 of 18
Hi Oregonyeti,

You are relating many different things which do not correlate.

Instant boiling of heated water in a microwave that was not previously boiling beforehand is called superheated liquid. Clean pure water in a very clean container slowly heated in a microwave does not have many nucleation possibilities. The water actually becomes hotter then 212F (100C) without boiling. The moment the water is disturbed by nudging the cup it instantly burst in a boil. Very violent and a well documented household hazard.
see:Superheating - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The pressure cooker works by increase the air pressure above the water hence preventing the water from boiling at 100C but at a higher temp. The food cooks faster. The weight on top is precisely calibrated to increase the boiling temp to 125C or so. If you open the cooker when under pressure all the water inside will be at 125C but the air pressure suddenly comes back to normal (boil at 100C). Again the superheated water will burst like a bomb.
see:Pressure cooking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When you vacuum out the air from a flask of water it will appear to boil but actually what is happening is dissolved air escapes in small bubbles at first them larger (boiling like). This is called degassing. The water will become still afterwards and remain as such. To boil water at a lower temp (around 60C), you must actively maintain a vacuum and heat the water to 60C and it will boil.
see:Degasification - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I grant you that adding oil to pasta water will reduce the foaming but again this effect is minimal. The starch will still gel the water and the effect of the oil is minimal because oil does not dissolve in water and floats so cannot prevent the gelling to take place.
Experiment this: fill a pot halfway with water, bring to a boil, add pasta wait till it boils again. Let the pasta overcook then when foam appears add some oil, the foam will be knocked down (true) but wait... it will come back. Momentarily, the oil will take some heat away from the water and prevent it from boiling for a little while. Oil can take a lot of heat but the water will recover again.
If oil prevented the starch from reacting, the pasta would not soak up water, swell or gelatinize. The pasta would be adversely affected which is not the case.
Even better: use 2 identical pots, same amount of water and same pasta and make a parallel experiment, one with and one without oil. You will notice how feeble the effect really is.

I hope others can corroborate, at least partly, with what I am saying here?

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
I eat science everyday, do you?
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Food & Cooking