Alton Brown's Pasta Cooking Trick You Should Be Using

Cooking pasta is a pretty standard three-step process: add water to pot, boil water, add pasta. Finito! Or so you probably thought. It turns out that Alton Brown, the Food Network star of such shows as Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef, like many of us, had been cooking pasta this way for years without knowing that there was a better way to prepare it. That better method is simply adding your pasta to a pot of cold salted water before bringing it to a boil. And you don't need a full pot, either — you only need just enough water to submerge the pasta.

Back in 1999, during an episode of Brown's show Good Eats, he proclaimed that he never cooked pasta in "anything less than a gallon of boiling water." Brown later admitted on his website that it was just always how he'd prepared pasta, and he hadn't bothered to question that a better method could be out there. "In the years since I've learned that the big-pots-of-boiling-water paradigm is quite simply... a myth," he said. 

Brown shared his conversion to the cold water pasta method on Good Eats: Reloaded in October 2018The tip got some extra attention from the internet when The Kitchn picked up on the hack via a Reddit thread where one Reddit user swore by the method when cooking pasta. "I'm an AB/Good Eats devotee and always cooked pasta his way (lots of heavily salted water). Since his Reloaded method was introduced, I've never gone back. It saves time, energy and water," said the fan

While some Redditors pointed out that the benefits of the pasta hack might not be groundbreaking, its small benefits aren't be to be overlooked. You'll be saving yourself the boredom of waiting for a gallon of water to boil, and the reduced amount of pasta water has extra benefits. Brown notes that because you're cooking your pasta in less water, the starch in it is extra concentrated. This makes it fantastic for thickening up whatever sauce you might be cooking on the stove. 

If you're worried that cooking pasta in cold water will diminish the taste, don't sweat it. Serious Eats' culinary consultant J. Kenji López-Alt put pasta to the test and cooked it both ways. López-Alt felt that both pasta samples were indistinguishable when it came to taste. The starchier pasta that was cooked in less water did prove to have an advantage when it came to the sauce sticking to the noodles, though, which is another benefit of Brown's method.

Hey, if Alton Brown is willing to change how he cooks pasta, it's at least worth trying the cold water method on your next spaghetti night.