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Is it better to cook pasta in cold water?

Alton Brown loves cooking pasta in cold water but other experts say it’s not the best way to get al dente pasta.
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/ Source: TODAY

Is cooking pasta in cold water something you should actually do?

Last year, a viral tweet ignited a debate among pasta lovers all over the world. Conventional wisdom has always been that you boil the water in a pot first and then drop in dry or fresh pasta to cook.

Now that more people are staying at home and cooking, the debate has been revived.

In the original post, one tweeter revealed his girlfriend's cooking technique, which inspired experts like Food Network personality Alton Brown and chef J. Kenji López-Alt to weigh in.

"My girlfriend just added uncooked pasta to cold water and then turned on the stove and when i said that she should boil the water before adding pasta she said 'literally all men are the same,'" the tweet read.

Brown was brought into the discussion by another Twitter user and said the man's girlfriend was "right on both counts."

He took the side of adding pasta in cold water, referring to a 2015 post on his own website.

"Although I may be blocked from ever entering Italy again for saying this: I have come to prefer the texture of dry pasta started in cold water," he wrote in the post.

López-Alt also showed his support for the cold water method, writing, "Usually when you get called out for mansplaining you don’t double down and mock your significant other in public. She’s also right about everything."

However, food stylist and pasta expert Anthony Contrino, star of TODAY Food's original series "Saucy," is definitely on the side of the traditional method which involves boiling the water first.

"By adding pasta to boiling water, it cooks more evenly since the temperature is a constant," he told TODAY. "When you add to cold water, first of all, the salt isn’t going to dissolve quick enough to flavor the pasta and, depending on the pasta, you risk not being able to achieve al dente."

Superstar chef Lidia Bastianich also recommended the traditional method when she shared her tips for making the perfect pasta with TODAY in 2016.

"Before you put the pasta in, the water should be boiling rapidly and it should be salted to the point that it tastes almost like sea water," she wrote.

Chef Palak Patel of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York is another expert on the boil-first side.

"Although you can definitely cook pasta in cold water, you risk overcooking (it) because the starch has more time to release," she told TODAY. "It’s not as precise. In other words, the pasta had more time to absorb water, causing it to be mushy.

"Pasta cooked too long also can have an increase in glycemic index. During the cooking process, the protein and starch interact, which allows the pasta to cook. The longer the interaction with water, the more cooked the pasta."

Boiling the water first is the best way to get firm, al dente pasta, according to Patel.

"Alternatively, cooking pasta in boiling salted water allows the water to slowly absorb into the pasta," she said. "The proteins and starch have little time to interact, giving you a perfect al dente noodle. Salted, roiling, boiled water also ensures the pasta doesn’t stick together as the starch is releasing."

Ultimately, both methods can result in an exquisitely cooked noodle (just remember to take the pasta out in a timely manner!), but if you're a little short on time, the cold water method can save you a few minutes since you don't have to wait for the water to boil to start cooking.