Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Make Perfect Pasta in Half the Time

The folks at CHOW recently teamed up with food writer and kitchen scientist Harold McGee to show us a clever way to prepare pasta in less time.

The traditional way of cooking pasta (spaghetti in this case) goes something like this:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, add pasta, and then cook for 9 minutes.  Pretty standard stuff.  But, according to Mr. McGee, there's a better way.  By using a frying pan instead of a pot, and by placing the pasta in the water from the beginning, you're able to save time, energy, water, and a little bit of salt while getting the same results.

This all sounds great, but we had to be sure, so we put both methods to the test:

Traditional Method

We placed 4 quarts of cold tap water into a 6 quart stock pot and brought it to a boil.  On high heat, it took 22 minutes. Then we added 2 tablespoons of sea salt and a standard two ounce portion of spaghetti and cooked for 9 minutes.  From start to finish, it took 29 minutes.

Frying Pan Method

For the frying pan method, we placed 1 quart of cold tap water, a standard two ounce portion of spaghetti, and 1.5 teaspoons of sea salt into a 10-inch frying pan and cooked on high heat for exactly 15 minutes.

The Results

Both methods produced perfectly cooked pasta.  Given the identical results, it's a no-brainer:  the frying pan method is the way to go.  You end up using 75% less water and salt, and get the job done in half the time.

A few notes:  We only used single portions of spaghetti in our trials, but there was plenty of room for additional pasta.  Also worth mentioning is that you can use other types of pasta.  Cooking times vary by shape, so be sure to adjust accordingly.


  1. Wow! Great post. I've saw the video a while ago, but didn't try because I wasn't sure if it would come out ok. But now i'll try making it.

  2. Thanks! Let us know how it works, and if you have any questions.