Slow cookers are the ultimate busy life saver. Whether you’re out on the run or busy at your desk, it’s the perfect “set it and forget it” vessel.
How to Prevent Your Slow-Cooker Pasta from Turning to Mush
Published Apr. 28, 2023.
You’ve probably used your slow cooker for tough cuts of meat. After 8-plus hours of low and slow cooking your chicken thighs, short ribs, and brisket come out buttery and tender.
But have you ever cooked pasta in a slow cooker? I’ll bet not.
Or you tried it once and your noodles turned into a pile of mush and you swore you’d never try it again.
Chin up. Just throw your pasta into the microwave.
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
Why exactly is your pasta turning to mush?
The main structural elements of pasta are starch and protein. When pasta is cooked in boiling water, two things are happening simultaneously.
1. The moisture causes the starch to swell up.
2. The heat causes the protein to set, constraining the expansion of the starch and resulting in pasta with the proper texture.
When pasta is cooked in the slow cooker, however, the liquid heats up slowly, so the starch has more time to swell before being checked by the protein, resulting in soggy, mushy pasta.
The Complete Slow CookerThe definitive guide on how to use a slow cooker, The Complete Slow Cooker builds on the test kitchen’s work testing and retesting slow cooker recipes and pushing the limits of what a slow cooker can do.
How do you prevent soggy pasta?
Toast it in the microwave.
It’s that simple! Microwave 1 pound of pasta with 1 tablespoon of oil in a bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until your pasta begins to look toasted and blistered, 5 to 8 minutes.
Toasting allows the pasta proteins to set, which prevents excessive swelling. Which prevents mushy slow cooked pasta goop.
Note: Only a portion will look toasted and blistered.
Don’t have a microwave? You can also toast your noodles right in your slow cooker before adding the rest of your ingredients.
Ready to see it for yourself? Here are a few recipes to get you started.
- Slow-Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
- Slow-Cooker Baked Ziti
- Slow-Cooker Creamy Orzo with Parmesan and Peas
Because a bowl of perfectly cooked pasta is the best way to end a busy day.