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Cooking Tips

How to Prevent Your Slow-Cooker Pasta from Turning to Mush

Spoiler: Start it in your microwave.

Published Apr. 28, 2023.

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.

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.

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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.


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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.

Because a bowl of perfectly cooked pasta is the best way to end a busy day.

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