The Kitchen Utensil That Prevents Pasta Water From Boiling Over

We've all made mistakes when cooking pasta. Sometimes, we forget to add salt to the water or don't stir to keep the pasta from sticking together at the bottom of the pot. However, one of our biggest mistakes involves dumping the pasta in the pot, waiting for the rolling boil, and then struggling to turn the heat down as the water starts boiling over the edge. Fortunately, there's an easy kitchen trick to prevent this: Put a wooden spoon over the pot. 

While you may think a simple thing like laying a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water couldn't stop it from overflowing, science can explain precisely why this does work. Michelle Dickinson, a science educator and author of "The Kitchen Science Cookbook," explained to Simple Most that this method works because wood is an insulator. 

The outside of the boiling bubbles from the pasta is held together with starch. Because wood doesn't conduct heat well, the spoon will remain cool when placed on top of the boiling water. "If the larger, starchy bubbles touch the colder and dryer wood, these molecules break their chain and the bubble bursts, which releases the steam inside the bubble," said Dickinson. 

Don't use other spoons to stop water from boiling over

Before attempting this method, it's important to note that the type of spoon matters. For example, some people who tried this trick claimed it doesn't work with treated wooden spoons. Using a plastic or metal spoon won't work, either — it has to be wood because of its absorbent, heat-resistant nature. That said, laying a wooden spoon on a pot of boiling water to prevent your pasta water from spilling over is only one of many things you can do to make perfect pasta every single time.

Of course, if you don't have a wooden spoon, there are other actions you can take to avoid spillover. One solution is to toss an ice cube into the pot, which should stop the rising, foamy bubbles. You could also purchase something designed for this exact purpose: a spill-stopper lid. Other methods include reducing the temperature or using a larger pot. Also, while some cooks claim you shouldn't add olive oil to pasta water, others say adding a little oil will prevent boilover because the oil stops bubbles from sticking together.

Whether you use a wooden spoon or another technique, consider it a success if the outside of the pot and the stove are still clean when your pasta is done.