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I have a dedicated stainless steel pasta pan (well I assume that is what IKEA intended it for). It comprises of a pan, unventilated lid and a perforated liner which is designed to be lifted up by the handles at the end of cooking time to allow the water to drain from the food. This is why I am not 100% convinced it is designed just for pasta, as it could also be used to cook and drain vegetables, meat etc.

While I love the convenience, pasta always takes longer to cook even when the water is boiling vigorously. Tonight was a case in point, the linguine stated 11 minutes to "Al dente" on the packet but in reality it took 17 minutes to reach the correct texture.

This trait is identical irrespective of pasta brand, some take a couple of minutes extra, some much longer. Watching the pot boil with the lid off is also very different from a regular pot, while a normal pot would just boil and boil, this one boils, cools down off the boil then returns to the boil again, almost in a cyclical fashion. This pattern is not noticeable with the lid on, but this doesn't speed up the cooking time by much.

Can anyone explain this erratic behaviour?

(Edited to add removing the insert has no effect and we are in the UK).

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  • 4
    What kind of stove are you using? Electric, gas, induction?
    – MJ713
    Jul 5, 2023 at 21:53
  • Gas, on the second biggest ring (the wok ring is too big).
    – Greybeard
    Jul 7, 2023 at 12:31
  • What's your elevation? Also "al dente" is sometimes a matter of preference.
    – AdamO
    Jul 12, 2023 at 16:35
  • 162m above sea level
    – Greybeard
    Jul 13, 2023 at 17:48
  • Not much help in solving your problem, but I have a 5 litre Ikea 365 pot with matching pasta insert; I've been using it since 1999 with no issues. Previously on electric stovetops, and now on induction. Made in Finland!
    – miken32
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:17

6 Answers 6

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Edited to add: based on comments. This addition is based on tests that @Greybeard (the question asker) performed.:

It appears that the issue is something to do with the pan itself. The pan appears to only boil on the edges of the pan and may be lacking at least part of an internal layer of the sandwich on the base. Based on this, heat transfer between the element/hob and the pan is faulty, similar to my initial answer (below).

My initial answer was:

It sounds to me like you are having problems transferring heat into the "inner" space of the pot/strainer system.

The most likely situation I can think of is that the inner strainer is impeding the formation of the convection cells in the water within the inner layer. In a conventional pot you would get large convection cells forming between the heated surface (bottom) of the pot and the surface of the liquid above. These allow circulation of the water and rapid heating. With the strainer in place the small holes/solid walls of the strainer are limiting the heat transfer to the rest of the water. It is likely you are getting small convection cells between the pot and strainer, and these are enough that you can heat the water to near boiling, but the lack of heat transfer and with an exposed surface are not enough to get the water to a continuous boil.

Incidentally, I don't think this pot system is intended for pasta, but rather for blanching of vegetables etc, so that you can lift them out quickly and plunge into the cold water. Having said that I don't see a pot/strainer system on my local Ikea site, so I can't say with certainty.

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  • Tried it without the insert, no difference.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 20, 2023 at 1:14
  • @Greybeard interesting - must be some problem with this pan in particular. I wonder if it is a sandwich format base that is missing the middle part of the sandwich or has an air-gap/no contact between the bottom and the rest of the pan.
    – bob1
    Jul 20, 2023 at 3:12
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    I genuinely think it is a design fault. I tapped the base of the pot with a knife (it has an ~ 10mm thick bottom) and discovered there seems to be a 8-10cm disc or slug in the centre, with nothing on outer 2/3rds or so. This probably accounts for what is happening as the diameter of the gas flame is larger than the slug. The heat will hit the thinner part of the base first and then the slug rather than the other way round which the designers probably intended. I'm going to try turning the heat down (or using a smaller diameter gas ring to focus the heat on the slug) and report back.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 21, 2023 at 8:59
  • @Greybeard sounds about right. You might be able to observe where the boiling is happening in the pan - only above the disc or not?
    – bob1
    Jul 21, 2023 at 22:22
  • Strangely, it boils just at the edges of the pan.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 24, 2023 at 9:14
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To me, this sounds like you are using an induction hob which isn't putting in enough power to reach and maintain temperature. My guess would be it is only reaching a simmer then briefly cooling in this cyclical fashion. simmering starts around 85C so would take longer to cook food (pasta in this case).

On the assumption that it is an induction hob; often one ring is a lower power rating so simply altering which ring you use may be a solution to the issue. Otherwise increase the power/temperature on the hob if possible. The third option would be to use a smaller pan or only half fill it so the hob can put in enough power to bring water fully to the boil.

A last suggestion would be that this pan may not actually be stainless steel but another alloy which doesn't heat as well. In this case you can buy induction plate converters which allow less conductive pans to heat more efficiently

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  • not all types of stainless steel are magnetic (eg austenitic surgical steel). I suspect that some formulations might be weakly magnetic (and need the converter plate, like you mentioned)
    – Joe
    Jul 6, 2023 at 0:19
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    OP has stated that he's using a gas stove, not induction hob.
    – gnicko
    Jul 12, 2023 at 2:00
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Ok thanks to gnicko, who has corrected me and said that the OP didn’t use an induction hob days ago, but gas.

I will change my answer and ask a question. Does your ikea pot have the sandwiched metal plate on the bottom? If it does perhaps the bottom of it is not correctly welded on. I have had one of those Ikea pans and the bottom of it had come off and it seemed to have a thinner piece of aluminum inside. Not quite thick enough to be “sandwiched” between the bottom of the pot and the stainless steel outside.

I believe in most cases, you will have an outside of stainless steel and the inside would be aluminum. The outside is made to be more ferrous if it is intended for induction and the inside aluminum is responsible for heating evenly and quickly.

In my case perhaps the aluminum plate was not thick enough or welded properly that it broke off. In your case perhaps a similar thing where the aluminum plate is not anchored and has some play. When it gets hot and expands it touches the bottom of the pan making the water boil, then cools down and settle back onto the stainless steel, slowing the boil.

I might also ask where do you live? If you live in a higher elevation, you will have issues with water boiling point and time. The more elevation the longer it takes to get water to boil. Just asking.

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  • OP has stated days ago that he's using a gas stove, not induction hob.
    – gnicko
    Jul 12, 2023 at 2:03
  • Sorry just got on and was on my phone. I see it now. Thanks!
    – JG sd
    Jul 12, 2023 at 5:30
  • I can't tell for certain, the bottom is certainly thick enough to hold an insert. I'm in the UK, so 162m above sea level. Removing the insert has no effect on the cooking times, so I'm coming to the conclusion it is down to the construction. Even with the pot on the highest burner minus the insert (without letting the flames going up the sides), it will not provide a consistent rolling boil. It will boil violently, stop for a second or so then carry on boiling again.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 20, 2023 at 1:23
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I had a similar experience with a pan from IKEA which I used for cooking pasta or veggies.

With the lid on it could make the water boil in a decent time when put on the medium burner of my kitchen, but then when I added pasta/veggie it would take forever to reach boiling again, making time keeping very difficult.

I solved the problem by moving to the large burner and adding an excess of water into the pan.

I suspect that adding the cold food to the boiling water would take away heat from both the water and the thick bottom, which would then need to be heated up again before boiling can restart. Therefore adding more water increases the thermal inertia of the system and using a larger burner supplies more energy to it, shortening the transient.

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    pasta will take the same amount of heat out of any size of pot, since it will reach equilibrium with the rest of the pot. It will therefore take the same amount of time to re-boil the pot once pasta is added (the amount of time needed for the burner to bring the volume of pasta up to boiling temperature). The "takes longer to heat a thicker pot" is balanced by "average temp when you add the pasta is higher, because there is extra heat to divide"
    – Esther
    Jul 6, 2023 at 18:54
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I agree with others that this sounds like an induction hob, but this on/off cycle normally only happens at lower power levels. If you set it to full power this effect should not happen and so then your pasta should take the usual time to cook. You'll want to leave the lid off though or your pot will almost certainly boil over. Of course using full power isn't ideal but you could experiment with lower settings (that are still higher than what you're currently using).

This cyclical effect is worse in smaller pots or pots with thinner walls and bottoms, as they don't retain heat as well. A larger and/or heavier pot retains more heat and thus will smooth out the heating cycles so that the internal temperature doesn't fluctuate as much. Same goes if you fill the same pot with more water. A heat spreader plate could also help with this as it has the same effect.

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  • OP has stated that he's using a gas stove, not induction hob.
    – gnicko
    Jul 12, 2023 at 2:03
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    Stated a few days after the majority of these answers were submitted. This doesn't invalidate the follow ups as others searching for this question may find them useful.
    – Tragamor
    Jul 12, 2023 at 9:59
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Did you also end up with some pasta overcooked and some undercooked?

I am wondering whether the gap within the two pieces disrupts the convective flow. Thus the hot water would rise and boil away without mixing with the cooler water.

This is easy to verify, just try to cook without the liner and see the result.

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  • Excellent idea, I'll try that. Now why didn't I think of that ?
    – Greybeard
    Jul 14, 2023 at 23:17
  • Tested it out, made no difference.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 18, 2023 at 5:52
  • In this case the only possible reason is the way the pan in manufactured. Probably heat does not spread in an even manner.
    – FluidCode
    Jul 18, 2023 at 8:30
  • Looks like that is the cause.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 20, 2023 at 1:13

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