Alton Brown’s Weird Trick for Cooking Pasta Actually Works

updated Aug 5, 2020
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When you were learning how to cook, pasta was probably one of the first dishes you made. The method is simple, fast, and you probably never questioned it: Add uncooked pasta to heavily salted boiling water. Of course, this method requires that you wait at least 10 minutes for your water to boil, then you have to go back and add the pasta. The last step isn’t much extra work, but you’ve probably wondered if there’s a better way. Good news: A Reddit thread unearthed a pasta-cooking hack courtesy of Alton Brown, and it’s going to turn your life around. 

Now, you might think this is pasta-cooking sacrilege, but apparently it’s a tried-and-true method that has the Good Eats stamp of approval: Brown actually adds his dry pasta to salted cold water (just enough to fully submerge the noodles, about 1 1/2 inches deep) and then brings the whole thing (water and pasta) to a boil. I know, everything you thought you knew about cooking pasta is wrong. 

Once the water reaches a boil, you’ll have to turn down the heat to a simmer, occasionally stirring so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. While the pasta is cooking, you can start making your sauce or the rest of your dinner. It will take a total of 10 minutes to cook — you want the pasta to be “just barely al dente,” according to Brown’s recipe for cacio e pepe

Redditors who have tried this method insist that it’s faster, as it cuts out the extra step of adding the pasta to the water after it comes to a boil. Many even commented that it’s the perfect cooking method for when you’re feeling lazy. Others, however, weren’t convinced: Some people like to get started on other elements of the meal while the water boils, or don’t mind the extra energy involved in the traditional cooking method. 

You have good reason to be skeptical of this method, since it seems to fly in the face of everything we know about cooking pasta. But Alton Brown really is the king of finding ways to save time and energy in the kitchen. If there’s an easier way to do a basic cooking task, Brown has probably figured it out. So go ahead — throw caution to the wind and cook your pasta in cold water! Just don’t tell any Italian grandmothers. 

More Easy Pasta Recipes from Kitchn