You’re making pasta. Your water finally comes to a boil. You drop your pasta. You walk away.
Minutes later your pot erupts water like a volcano all over your stovetop.
How rude! You didn’t ask for that!
Fortunately, we have ways to avoid another Mount Vesuvius disaster.
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Two Guaranteed Ways to Prevent Your Pasta Water From Boiling Over
Here’s what works.
1. Use a bigger pot.
Whether it’s a pound of pasta or a mere 6 ounces, you need two things: 16 cups of water and a large pot—ideally a 6-quart Dutch oven. Your pasta needs lots of room to swim. But if your pot is too small to hold 4 quarts of water, it will turn against you.
2. Give it a stir.
It’s important to stir your pasta occasionally. This will keep your unstable boiling bubbles at bay. It will also prevent your pasta from sticking together.
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Two Ways to Prevent Your Pasta Water from Boiling Over that Are More Effective in Theory
Here’s what works . . . ish.
1. The wooden spoon trick.
In short, the theory is to lay a wooden spoon across the top of your pot while it’s boiling, the idea being that the wood repels the water, preventing the bubbles from spewing over. While this can work occasionally, it’s unreliable. If your pot is too full, it will still boil over.
2. Moving the pot halfway off the burner.
My colleague came across this self-stirring, convection-current method on social media. I was intrigued, so I reached out to our science research editor, Paul Adams, to ask about its reliability.
“In this case you’re setting up a circulation pattern so the water is self-stirring,” Paul said. “It’ll work as long as the water level is fairly low (otherwise there’s too much water to move in such a consistent way) and the pasta shape is small.”
But there are downsides, Paul noted. It wastes half the heat and the pasta cooks more slowly.
Try this instead! Turn the flame down lower, or put a big pot on a small burner. Then the hot spot is in the center of the pot, so the convection pattern would be water flowing up in the middle, and down on the perimeter, like an underwater pasta fountain.
In the end, just grab a larger pot and give it a stir. You've got this.