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Old 04-18-2012, 11:44 AM   #1
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Boiling Pasta with the Lid on

Hello,

A few weeks ago I asked in the Appliance Forum about the inadequacy of a 13,500 btu gas burner on a brand new range that can't boil water properly with the lid off of the pan*--and thanks again for the many responses.

My follow up is about how I can adjust to this poor piece of equipment, specifically: Are there any ill effects from boiling pasta with the lid on, or mostly on? Will it be soggy, sticky, or otherwise affect the texture...? (I assure you there's no danger of the water boiling over, not with this sorry burner.) What about potatoes or any other foods you usually boil in large quantities of water uncovered?

This probably seems like a really naive question; in Web searches, the only reasons I've found for not covering pasta water is to keep the water from boiling over.

Thank you

Steve



If you're a glutton for tangential details:
*Just to give an idea of the poor design of this range, it takes 5.5 (!) minutes to bring a single quart of room temperature water to a rolling boil in a large aluminum sauce pan with a large surface area on the bottom, and it Will Not maintain a rolling boil for a gallon of uncovered water. Technician found nothing wrong with the flame, & the gas pressure is OK.)
Anyone considering buying a Frigidaire gas range, think twice. Shouldn't the flame at least reach the bottom of the grate? I guess the heavy duty grates in this case are all for show.

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Old 04-18-2012, 01:46 PM   #2
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… Are there any ill effects from boiling pasta with the lid on, or mostly on?
Riversurf, I don't think there'se any ill effect from boiling pasta with the lid on. In your case it may be necessary: when the water is boiling and you put the pasta in, the temperature will lower and you'll need to put the lid back on to raise it again.
To properly cook pasta you need plenty of water and a high temperature, to let the water penetrate in the starch, which will increase its volume and, being kept in place by the gluten net, will slightly increase the size of the pasta. When water keeps boiling, pasta dances in the pot and can be touched by water all over its surface, while the temperature helps water reach the core of pasta.
If you use a proper fire you simply don't need to keep the lid on, quite the opposite since it would be more difficult stirring pasta with a fork.
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:58 PM   #3
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Thanks. Glad to hear I'm not doing any "damage" to the flavor or texture. I don't have the option of leaving the lid on, though, because the water will not return to a boil, no matter how long I wait. That's the big--and very frustrating--problem, particularly since the range is new. The burner simply doesn't transfer enough heat to the pot & it just can't boil water without a lid on the pot, won't stay above a simmer.

Steve
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:11 PM   #4
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Just make sure you give the pasta a really good stir before you put the lid on. And should you find it does boil over, just slide the cover off a little bit to the side and the boil over will stop. Just leave a small opening to prevent it from boiling over again.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:14 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by riversurf View Post
Thanks. Glad to hear I'm not doing any "damage" to the flavor or texture. I don't have the option of leaving the lid on, though, because the water will not return to a boil, no matter how long I wait. That's the big--and very frustrating--problem, particularly since the range is new. The burner simply doesn't transfer enough heat to the pot & it just can't boil water without a lid on the pot, won't stay above a simmer.

Steve
You're welcome.
But I'm afraid it will be difficult to get a properly cooked pasta in those conditions...
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:30 PM   #6
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I put a little oil in the water to keep it from boiling over. It floats at the top and prevents foam from rising. You may also try a wider shallower pot.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:35 PM   #7
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I put a little oil in the water to keep it from boiling over. It floats at the top and prevents foam from rising. You may also try a wider shallower pot.


That foam can be impressive.

I put the lid on the pot when I boil potatoes.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:52 PM   #8
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But if the water is boiling properly and the pot is covered, I should, judging by your previous answer (I think) cook the pasta properly, right? I'll just have to keep removing the lid to stir it now and then.

Steve
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Old 04-18-2012, 03:06 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by riversurf View Post
But if the water is boiling properly and the pot is covered, I should, judging by your previous answer (I think) cook the pasta properly, right? I'll just have to keep removing the lid to stir it now and then.

Steve
If the water stays at a rolling boil with the lid on, and you give it a really good stir at the beginning when you first put in the pasta, you shouldn't have to keep stirring it. The pasta should dance in the water as it boils. You may want to give it a second stir when the water comes back to that second boil. That should be enough stirring. Every time you remove the lid to stir, you will be losing heat. You don't want to remove it too often.
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Old 04-18-2012, 04:12 PM   #10
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So all of this is good news. and I can still use the biggest burner, up front, to do other things and leave the water on the back bench, where it should be.

Thanks
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Old 04-19-2012, 08:10 AM   #11
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@ Riversurf,

This is novel, new and a rarity to an Italian ( me ) ...

However, I trust Luca as he is 100% and I am 50% Italian ...

Kindest and Good Luck with Your Pastas.

Margi Cintrano.
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Old 04-19-2012, 08:57 AM   #12
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You mean leaving the pot covered?
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Old 04-19-2012, 09:26 AM   #13
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River Surf,

Yes, it is a rarity to leave the lid on during the boiling of pastas.

I have never seen this before and I am publishing journalist and Food, Wine & Travel Editor ...

However, let´s say, if the pasta is divine --- you are going to set a trend perhaps !

Kind regards and thanks for note.
Margi Cintrano.
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:23 AM   #14
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For most purposes, adding oil to pasta water is a poor solution. Pasta and sauce dishes depend on the sauce adhering to the pasta. Oil on the surface defeats that. sauce won't stick. Obviously, if the pasta is simply dressed with olive oil and spices, that's no problem But it's bad news with tomato sauces.

The boil over is caused by the starches released from the pasta. It allows the water to form and hold lots of small bubbles, and the increased surface tension prevents them from popping quickly. So a foam is formed and "boils over" before the bubbles can pop.

A "pot minder" ("milk minder," "pot watcher) may be the solution to pasta and other boil overs. It's like an upside down saucer, except that the underside slopes upward toward one spot in the edge where there's a gap or spout. Bubbles that form under the minder join to become larger bubble before they escape via the spout, and they rise quickly and pop because they are too big to survive.



There's an added bonus in the situation here where a lid is required to keep the temperature up. The minder rattles on the bottom when the water is boiling, so you don't have to wonder what's happening under the lid.

They are inexpensive.

Amazon.com: Stainless Steel Pot Watcher: Home & Kitchen

Or just put a saucer upside down in the bottom of the pot.
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Old 04-19-2012, 11:02 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margi Cintrano View Post
@ Riversurf,

This is novel, new and a rarity to an Italian ( me ) ...

Margi Cintrano.
Margi, he is having problem with his stove, as he mentioned above, he has posted and we had I think 3 pages discussion about it. The stove/burner doesn't produce enough heat to boil the water in the uncovered pot, thus is the question of covering the pot during cooking to keep the water boiling.
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Old 04-19-2012, 11:33 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margi Cintrano View Post
@ Riversurf,

This is novel, new and a rarity to an Italian ( me ) ...

However, I trust Luca as he is 100% and I am 50% Italian ...

Kindest and Good Luck with Your Pastas.

Margi Cintrano.
Thanks Margi!

Boiling pasta with the lid on is, indeed, a rarity because it is a practice not in use in Italy, and to publish that answer of mine I had to make some thorough research and reasoning. You don't want to destroy your online reputation on a humble lid...

Ciao
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Old 04-19-2012, 12:09 PM   #17
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So, GLC, that thing goes into the pot, at the bottom?
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Old 04-19-2012, 12:14 PM   #18
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I believe your burners need an air ajustment. As far as heating your pasta water, keep the lid on till the water boils then remove the lid. You want to simmer the pasta anyway and not keep it at a boil! Don't add oil to the water. After the pasta is cooked you can add butter to it and this will help your sauce "stick".
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Old 04-19-2012, 12:29 PM   #19
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Technician came out and said it's working as it should and the gas pressure checks out. My opinion is that the range is just poorly designed (Frigidaire) and a huge amount of heat energy does not reach the pot. The top of the flame doesn't even lick the bottom of the grate because it's so high off the deck, and we're talking about a 13.5K BTU burner. In comparison, the flame from the biggest burner reaches the pot and does the job wonderfully. Those big, "professional looking" grates are probably a big part of the problem because they're so high off the deck.

On your other comment about simmering, I've never heard that pasta should be simmered. Water that is simmering is not at boiling point, but at 190-200 degrees F.

Thanks for weighing in. I really have gotten a lot more than I ever expected from this forum.
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Old 04-19-2012, 12:37 PM   #20
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So, GLC, that thing goes into the pot, at the bottom?
Yes. Try it by laying a saucer upside down in the bottom with something that would normally want to boil over. It will collect bubbles that will consolidate into large bubbles like those that form in plain water that will burp out from under the saucer and rise to burst on the surface. The idea is that even with the increased surface tension created by pasta starch or milk, regular size bubbles will still burst promptly, and the foam of fine bubbles that cause boil-over won't form.

I will point out, too, that we had a discussion a while back about heat transfer and the rapidity of boiling, and the point was that the water remained at the boiling point temperature and could rise no higher. Increased heat transfer caused more rapid boiling, which was conversion of more liquid to vapor, but the water temperature stayed the same.

So the actual cooking of pasta is as rapid in barely boiling water as in rapidly boiling. However, the rapid boil may somewhat take the place of some of the stirring needed to keep pasta from sticking to itself. But the "rapid boil" called for in boiling pasta is important only in the beginning, when the pasta is dropped in, so that as much heat is being transferred as possible, and the water returns quickly to a boil. Rapid boiling and the attendant increased tendency to boil over is not necessary and cooks no faster.
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