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I'd like to know what is the temperature range in which pasta can be cooked in water. I'd be interested in this in order to waste less energy/heat as opposed to cooking it in rolling boiling water and then draining away water that's still over 90 C.

If say the temperature window is 60 C and upwards, and the cooking time (as per manufacturer) is 5 minutes at 100 C, would it be reasonable to consider 5 min x 100 C as a sum that needs to be achieved, and calculate at which temperature water has to be heated to, then drop pasta in, keep heating until reaching a temperature in which the remaining cooking time can be achieved just by letting water cool down to the bottom of cooking temperature range?

Thank you

  • Is this fresh pasta or dried? 5 mins sounds a tad long for fresh but too short for dried. – Tetsujin Jan 21 at 8:29
  • It is dried pasta, however I'd be interested in both. You're right it's more likely 10 minutes rather than 5, mine was just an example. – Alfreds9 Jan 21 at 8:43
  • It's not something I 'just know' I'd have to experiment [though I never use dried pasta] but I'm thinking in comparison to SE Asian noodles, some of which you can just drop in boiling water & leave for 5 mins… but I think they may be already cooked before drying. Another 'guess' is that half the point of the rolling boil is to prevent sticking, so you'd probably have to stir constantly for the potentially doubled time in cooling water. – Tetsujin Jan 21 at 8:48
  • I have a cooking book which answers this very question. I'll look at it and post an answer when I get home. – Kat Jan 21 at 21:19
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Cooking pasta (i assume dried pasta here) has two stages:

  • hydration
  • starch gelatinization

The hydration can be done completely off the stove, earning you back come of the cooking time and energy. Just soak the pasta in water, it depends on the type of pasta and thickness, if your soaking time is more than 4 hours, i would refrigerate it to avoid food-borne illnesses.

The starch gelatinization is the part that actually the pasta becomes cooked. Most starches gelatinize at 80C. That would be a good starting point for temperature, and since your pasta is already soaked, you just need to keep your pasta until you get your desired texture (mine is al dente) and cook in minimal amount of water to gelatinize.

  • I think this is great. So that means that if I keep water at 80ºC it will cook the dried pasta in about the same amount of time as if it would be boiling, using less energy. – Luciano Jan 21 at 15:32
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I sometimes do something similar, and I've found that you have to rely on trial and error and testing. Different shapes have different thicknesses and this seems to affect cooking a little differently at lower temperatures. Of course you'd use a lid and a lower than normal quantity of water. Don't stir, as this means taking the lid off, but swirl the pan to mix and loosen.

Much of my experimenting was done on a petrol camping stove, which doesn't turn down very low. Then I'd boil water, add the pasta, return to the boil and turn off for most of the stated cooking time. Finally I'd turn the heat back on and when it came back up to simmering test it. It might need a couple more minutes at that point.

I've also had success on a more controllable stove (campervan gas stove or at home) by adding boiling water to the pasta off the stove, and wrapping the pan in a tea towel for about half the cooking time, before bringing back to a simmer over a low heat (i.e. quite slowly).

This isn't quite what you were thinking of, but seems to me to work better. I think this is because my approach assures the pasta is hydrated when it gets hot through, while yours gets it hot first, while it's still dry in the middle. Also turning off and letting it cool in the water starts affecting the serving temperature especially if you're putting it in a cold dish (though for my own consumption I use the pasta water to warm my bowl). This could be reduced by more insulation around the pan.

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Dried pasta

If your goal is to save energy, you can do this by starting your dried pasta in cold water. Alton Brown has a cold water pasta method that works great. By starting in cold water, and using less water, this method will be quicker and use less energy.

That method:

  • 64 ounces cold water

  • 1 box dry pasta ((farfalle, rigatoni, penne, etc.))

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a 4 1/2-quart pot, cover and set over medium-high heat.

When water boils, decrease heat to maintain a simmer. Remove the lid, stir and cook for 4 minutes 30 seconds or until al dente.

Remove pasta with spider.

Why not just drain the pasta into a colander and send the water down the sink? Because that hot, starchy water is magical stuff. It can be used to reheat the pasta just before serving or to thicken up a sauce.

Fresh pasta

If you're using fresh pasta, I suggest sticking to cooking it in boiling water. Fresh pasta is a whole different animal. It is basically a dumpling, and needs just a couple minutes in the high heat water to achieve the transformation from dough to pasta. Longer/lower cooks won't achieve the same transformation.

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    If you want to save even more time / energy use an electric kettle; mine boils 1L of water in less than a minute. Faster than starting the pasta on cold water and waiting to boil. – Luciano Jan 21 at 15:27
  • Are you sure about that @Luciano? In order to heat 1L of water from 20° to boiling will take 80*4.18*1000 == 334.4kJ. If you can achieve this in less than 60 seconds, you need to apply more than 5kW. Do you have a three-phase kettle? – Popup Jan 23 at 13:18
  • @Popup maybe not under a minute, but definitely faster than on the stovetop, that was my point. – Luciano Jan 23 at 14:08
  • The power you can draw from a domestic outlet varies by location, and thus also the power of kettles. In continental Europe, most kettles are limited to 2.2kW, whereas in the UK it's typically 2.8kW. In the US, on the other hand, it's rare to find more than 1.5kW. However, a modern induction stove can often pump out over 3kW per ring, so that may well be faster. Especially if you're in the US. bad source – Popup Jan 23 at 15:38

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