MadSci Network: Physics

Re: What is the fastest way to cook pasta?

Area: Physics
Posted By: Michael Weibel, Grad student Chemistry/Physics, University of Utah
Date: Sun Feb 9 12:17:26 1997
Message ID: 854496311.Ph

Hi Linda.  

In response to your question, I would say that the answer is in the rate
at which you would like to cook your pasta...

You are quite right that the temperature of the boiling water is limited
(100 degrees Centigrade at sea 96 degrees here in Utah at
4500 ft above sea level).  However, the pasta that you add to the boiling 
water is at a lower temperature.  This means that the temperature of the
mixture will drop.  By turning the heat all the way up, you add more
energy to the cooking pot, and subsequently the water comes back to a
(rolling) boil quicker than if the stove was on a lower burner setting
(this is true for gas, but not always for electric stoves.  Electric 
stoves have a thermostat, and will often heat up as quickly as they can,
but then have the electricity turned on and off to maintain a constant 
burner temp.)

So the answer is that turning up the heat will cook your pasta faster
because it will get you back to boiling quicker.  

One other trick to cooking pasta:  add salt (NaCl) to your cooking water.
The salt has the effect of increasing the boiling point of the water/salt
mixture (I don't know that adding a few teaspoons of salt will make a big
difference in the boiling point, but it is a common practice in cooking.
One day, I suppose I will calculate the boiling point increase (see any
introductory chemistry text))

email me if you still have any questions.

Mike Weibel

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