Chefs advise caution over viral pasta draining hack

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read
What's the best way to drain pasta? (Getty Images)
What's the best way to drain pasta? (Getty Images)

Cooking pasta is a life skill many of us believe we’ve mastered. Boil water, cook pasta, drain water from pasta, eat pasta. Simple.

But a hack that has been doing the rounds on social media suggested we may have been draining pasta wrong this entire time.

In one example, a TikTok user demonstrated a trick she stumbled across, which has now become standard practice in her pasta draining.

Watch: How to make semolina pasta from scratch

Typically we place a colander or sieve in the sink before pouring the pot of pasta and water into it straight from the stove. Then transfer the pasta back to the pan to add the sauce.

But this alternative method suggests putting the colander directly into the pan of pasta, then holding it in place as you tip the pan and strain the water into the sink.

While there’s no doubt the method works as a means to quickly draining pasta, some pasta experts have urged people to be cautious if they decide to give the trick a go.

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This technique cuts out an entire step in the pasta draining process and certainly has TikTok users impressed.

“I also recently saw this and couldn’t believe I was doing it wrong my entire life!” one viewer wrote.

“I think you just changed my life,” another added.

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However, you might need to take extra care not to burn your fingers on boiling water when draining pasta this way as you won’t have full control over the direction of the water.

“Whilst it may look like a clever trick, draining the pasta this way actually doesn’t provide any benefit – in fact, it can actually be quite dangerous,” explains Andrew Dixon, head chef tutor at The Grand, York.

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Dixon adds that if your colander doesn’t fit perfectly in your pan, pasta may escape down the drain too.

“Putting safety aside, from a chef’s perspective, losing all that pasta water is such a waste,” he adds.

“The starch in the cooking water can be perfect to add flavour and thicken your pasta sauce.”

Instead, for long thin pasta, such as fettuccine or spaghetti, Dixon suggests using tongs to remove the pasta from the cooking water.

“For other types like penne or rigatoni, have your colander ready to drain the old-fashioned way – after you’ve saved some of the cooking water,” he adds.

Have we been draining pasta wrong this entire time? (Getty Images)
Have we been draining pasta wrong this entire time? (Getty Images)

Roberto Bassi, executive chef at Barilla, the Italian past company, agrees that it could be best to stick to the traditional technique for draining pasta.

“In Italy, pasta is drained using the traditional method of pouring the pasta and water into a colander over the sink, as this is the method that our grandparents taught us and their grandparents taught them,” Bassi explains.

“That being said, professional chefs do tend to use a variation of this new method, which has gone viral on TikTok, but they actually cook the pasta inside the colander within the pan and then remove the colander from the pan once cooked, therefore leaving the water inside the pan.”

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According to Bassi this is done for a few different reasons including preserving some of the cooking water for tossing the pasta with the sauce in a separate pan.

“This will incorporate more natural flavours into the mix and help to bind the pasta and sauce together,” he explains.

Secondly, putting boiling water directly into a commercial kitchen sink can risk damaging the filters used.

And finally: “The pasta water can be re-used for the next pasta preparation, helping to save energy,” the Barilla spokesperson adds.

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