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Some of my friends pour cold water on pasta after boiling it other don't. What do the professionals do? If they pour cold water on the pasta after the boil, what do they want to accomplish with doing it?

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6 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I would strongly suggest not pouring cold or any other kind of water on pasta; it will rinse the delicious starches off its surface, which would otherwise help your sauce cling to it.

To counteract the negative consequences of overcooking due to remaining heat (which, as belisarius suggests in his answer, is the reason other stuff is often rinsed with cold water), just serve it immediately. You want to have the sauce (hot and) ready just before your pasta is, so you can drain the pasta, mix with the sauce, and put it on the table.

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I usually use the pasta water to thicken the sauce ... so the pasta regains the starches while sauteeing "nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed" :D –  belisarius Nov 22 '10 at 5:21
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Also note that "serve it immediately" is not always possible for large batches. –  belisarius Nov 22 '10 at 5:24
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Or, slightly undercook it if you need a few minutes to plate. Rinsing in cold water both removes the starch (helps stick the sauce to the noodle), but it also cools the noodles down (which is not good eats). –  Bruce Alderson Nov 22 '10 at 5:42
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You can however use this effect to your advantage. If you're making pasta that you're not going to sauce, you can rinse off the starch thus causing reducing the pasta's tendency to clump together. –  Magnus Nordlander Nov 22 '10 at 11:31
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@MagnusNordlander Yes! As in when you're making a cold pasta salad. –  Jolenealaska Dec 8 '13 at 9:12
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Alternatively, I use a little bit of oil to coat the noodles and then stir it up. This way I can prepare or finish off whatever I am doing before I sauce the noodles. This method is also ideal if you are making an intricate noodle dish like ramen (real ramen, not instant) or pho where ingredients are layered or designed in specific ways that can take some time. You then just pour the very hot soup base and the noodles will instantly loosen up. i also use this method if I made too much pho and we need to save it. Oiled noodles won't stick, will loosen in liquids and can be refrigerated.

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How does this answer the question that was asked? –  Aaronut Mar 26 at 16:43
    
I think this might have been meant as a comment to one of the answers talking about sticking? nathan, you might be interested in this question, though with that many answers, I'm pretty sure just about everything has been said. –  Jefromi Mar 27 at 18:22
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It is not the first time that somebody asks about doing X, and somebody else answers "doing X is not a good idea in your situation, do Y instead". I understand this answer to be intended in that way, but nathan just left out the reasoning "pouring water is done to prevent sticking, if you want to prevent sticking you are better off oiling" before continuing to explain how to oil. –  rumtscho Mar 28 at 12:47
    
@rumtscho Sounds good! –  Jefromi Mar 28 at 23:59
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Erik P. is absolutely right, rinsing pasta is a bad idea, and many Italians consider it heresy. Rinsing removes the residual cooking water, which contains considerable flavor, nutrition and texture. This water is often used in recipes as the primary base for sauces. Rinsing also lowers the temp of the pasta. This will stop cooking in the pasta, but you will have to add heat to bring it back up to temp, which will lead to further cooking. Really, pasta is pretty heat tolerant, and the cooking time for al dente pasta and overcooked pasta are not that close to each other. To prevent the pasta clumping, add salt and oil to the cooking water before the initial boil. If you are storing the cooked pasta sauceless, toss it with a little olive oil. This is how it is done in restaurants.

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Even though you might want to rinse pasta that you plan to serve warm with a sauce later, to do so is never ideal. Rinsing in cold water then tossing with a bit of oil works adequately to keep the pasta from sticking if you need to serve the pasta long past the time that it is cooked, but even under those circumstances, consider tossing with the sauce in advance instead of rinsing.

If you're making a cold pasta salad, then rinsing with cold water might very well be your best, ideal choice. It depends upon the dressing, but that starch that makes the pasta stick so nicely to warm sauces can make cold salads unappealingly clumpy.

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Your pour cold water over pasta if you don't want the noodles to stick together later. If you are making enough for the amount of servings -- that you will eat right away -- then it is ok not to. As Erik's answer pointed out, the sauce will stick better onto the noodles.

So you are cooking pasta in bulk and will refrigerate some of it for later consumption, it is better to dump cold water on it. Otherwise, you'll end up with a glob of pasta that you can't sort out later.

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Pour cold water on boiled things when you want to stop the cooking process. Once you get "al dente" stage, the pasta will quickly get past that, so cooling it with cold water helps you manage the final state.

Be aware that the pasta will lose temp, that is going to be re-gained when you briskly sautee it afterward (with some salsa, hopefully).

PS: for vegetables, quickly immersing them in ice-cold water after boiling helps to retain the bright color (although I don't know why).

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In the case of the vegetables, it's called "shocking". My understanding of the process is that other minerals and gases in the cells escape, leaving the chlorophyll more visible. Shocking the vegetables causes the chlorophyll to stabilize before it has a chance to break down. –  GalacticCowboy Nov 22 '10 at 13:52
    
I rearranged your last sentence; even though I eventually understood what you meant, it seemed a little odd reading the phrase "...boiling in ice-cold water". –  Aaronut Nov 22 '10 at 19:46
    
@Aaronaut Thanks ... It was surely a mix of deficient English and an idle mental state :D –  belisarius Nov 22 '10 at 19:55
    
It also cools it down after boiling and draining in a colander. –  user18127 Apr 30 '13 at 14:38
    
@HelpfulAnswers4u Sure, eventually, but it'll still be steaming for a few minutes - it's nothing like running cold water over it. –  Jefromi Apr 30 '13 at 18:59
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