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I love using a pasta pot/steamer where there is an inner "colander" pot so that you can pull all the pasta out easily.

BUT... in all of the ones I've seen, the inner colander doesn't go all the way to the bottom. There is a gap of about 1.5 to 2", plus the 1/4 space of the bottom of colander itself.

The means I have to boil a LOT more water. That takes more time, uses more water and energy.

It seems like a gap of just 1/2" or so would be sufficient to "insulate" the bottom of the pasta from the hot bottom of the pan. (And I've boiled pasta for years without a colander inside (so zero gap) fine).

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    I don't know, but see the serious eats article on pasta with much less water.... I just drain into a colander. Primitive I know, but effective. seriouseats.com/2010/05/… Frankly, I think the inserts are expensive and look fancy on television, but are impractical in real life--the reasons you mention are part of that. Then there is the issue of their sheer size, storage, and cleaning. No thanks. – SAJ14SAJ Dec 4 '12 at 22:52
  • I have the same question and came to the same conclusion as @SAJ14SAJ: they're impractical and more of a pain than a colander in the sink. – JoeFish Dec 4 '12 at 23:00
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    Neither of the pasta insert pots I've used have a gap of 2". The anonymous sheet steel pot has a gap of about 1/2", and the caphalon has a gap of about 3/4". I think you're just using the wrong brand. Oh, and I agree with SAJ; pasta inserts are useless for pasta. I use mine for steaming veggies and making stock. – FuzzyChef Dec 6 '12 at 6:25
  • @JoeFish ...on the other hand, usually I like to lift the pasta from the water, if I'm finishing the cooking of the pasta in the sauce, in an open, shallow pan. 1. there is a fuss-free source of pasta-cooking- water to help emulsify sauces. 2. you can keep the pasta and sauce warm on top of the pot, without overheating it. – Robin Betts Feb 2 at 10:04
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You might have given the answer in your question. If the device is to be used as a steamer as well, then there has to be enough room at the bottom of the pot for steaming. How much is enough? There are two things to consider:

  1. The bottom section should hold enough liquid that there won't be concerns about boiling the pot dry for anything you might want to steam. Longer steam items might include mussels, lobster, or tamales.

  2. There should be some 'air margin' for foods like tamales or broccoli, so that the boil splatter doesn't render the food soggy.

Based on FuzzyChef's comment, it sounds like there are tools that suit your needs better. Perhaps it's time to put your steamer on Craigslist? :)

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    Interesting point, although the pot has another insert (which leaves 6" or so of space between pan bottom and insert). – Clay Nichols Dec 7 '12 at 17:46
  • In that case, you've stumped me. Perhaps water conservation wasn't a design consideration? – Eric Hu Dec 8 '12 at 0:59
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I've noticed this issue too--that the pasta inserts do not go far enough down into the pot. Makers of a pot sold as a pasta cooking pot should not factor the possibility of steaming into its design. After all, pasta cooking does not require steaming in any way, shape, or form.

But, make no mistake about it, pasta inserts are very useful! They, most importantly, allow for the use of the slated water in which the pasta was cooked to be incorporated into sauce production. So, dumping the water down the drain through a strainer is a serious waste of the water's flavor and texture enhancing properties that could be lent to a sauce.

In any case, makers of these pots ought to dispense with imposing a multi-cooking dimension to pasta cooking pots, and instead make pasta cookware only. Most of us who search for these pots do not want a steamer built into it, especially since a good number of us already have steamers.

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Try putting the insert in after cooking the pasta, and then pour out the water while holding the insert in place. The insert holds the pasta at the bottom of the pot. I haven't tested this with every size or amount of pasta.. but it works so well I have to assume this is the correct method... and boiling more water than needed because of a short insert would be very aggravating!

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