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Every time I follow directions I see instructions like this:

  1. Bring water to boil
  2. Stir in pasta
  3. Return to rapid boil
  4. Cook for 6 minutes for al-dente

I set the stove burner to high for Step 1. Do I leave the stove burner on high for the remaining steps, or do I lower the burner temperature?

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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It sounds like by "temperature" you're referring to the setting of your stove. If your stove is powerful enough that you don't need it at its maximum power to keep water at a rapid boil, then you can of course reduce the setting once you've returned it to a rapid boil (between your steps 3 and 4). On the other hand, if you have a smaller, older stove, you might need to keep it at high to keep the water boiling rapidly. So the answer is "maybe" - you do whatever you need to do with your stove to keep it doing what the directions say (boiling).

That said, this isn't necessarily the best way to cook pasta. You should test it, rather than counting on the time on the package to be accurate. And you don't actually have to cook it at a full boil, or boil the water before adding the pasta; see this great column by Harold McGee on cooking pasta in a way contrary to popular wisdom, and a Food Lab article based on it. You can in fact start with pasta in just enough cold water, bring it to a good simmer, and keep it there until it's done.

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I never knew it meant "bring to rapid boil and keep it there".. –  Knownasilya Jan 10 '13 at 1:37
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@Knownasilya That's supposed to be implied - if a recipe says to heat your oven to 350F then bake something for 20 minutes, it means to keep it set at that temperature, and if a recipe says to bring something to a boil and cook for 6 minutes, it means to keep it boiling for those 6 minutes. –  Jefromi Jan 10 '13 at 1:44
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