I eat pasta nearly every day, which means I cook pasta nearly every day. Because cooking pasta is one of the things I do all the time, I’m very open to ideas for small improvements to my routine that, put into place, can scale into a big aggregate improvement over time.
Some things I’ve done so far:
- Cooking pasta in a much bigger pot
- Adding salt to my pasta water
- No longer putting oil in my pasta water
- Very slightly undercooking pasta (al dente)
- Adding starchy pasta water to the pasta’s sauce
- Cooking the pasta in its sauce for a minute before serving
My method for years has been, after under-cooking the pasta, to pour it into a colander that’s in my sink, then to drain it there quickly and then to pour it again from my colander to a saucepan with its sauce, then to cook again there for a minute.
The hassle of pouring the pasta three times – from pot to colander, from colander to sauce pan, and finally from sauce pan to bowl – has been a very minor daily irritant. But multiplied by more than three hundred times a year, which is how often I cook pasta, I have a big incentive to fix the irritant.
Here’s what I decided to try using: Cuisinart 77-412 Chef’s Classic Stainless 4-Piece 12-Quart Pasta/Steamer Set.
I’d been trying to decide on one of these sets for years. The basic idea is that the pasta is cooked inside its own strainer, which sits inside the bigger pot. Then when the pasta is done cooking, you can just lift the pasta strainer out and the water will not come with it because it has a lot of holes, and you can pour the pasta immediately into the sauce pan or bowl.
I wasn’t sure because I wasn’t convinced that it would work as advertised. And after trying it for some time, I can confirm that it doesn’t.
Here’s the biggest problem with this item: when the pasta is cooked inside the strainer, inside the bigger pot, and then you lift the strainer out, the water in it doesn’t drain immediately. Instead, it actually takes several minutes to train. That means pasta water will get all over your kitchen counter and floor. Even lifting the strainer out of the pot and trying to get it directly to the sink won’t work: there will be a lot of pasta water. Because of this, there’s no way to lift the pasta strainer out of the pot and pour the pasta directly into something.
Because I couldn’t get it to work the way it was intended, I tried something else. Once the pasta was done cooking, I lifted the entire pot off the stove and put it in my sink. Then I wanted to lift the strainer out of the pot while in the sink and place the strainer into the sink next to the pot. But my sink wasn’t big enough to hold both. And I couldn’t move the pot back to the stove because I was holding the strainer. And I couldn’t put the strainer down anywhere because it would drain there.
I eventually settled into an uneasy semi-solution to the strainer-draining problem. After the pasta was cooked, I moved the pot to the sink, I then lifted the strainer up out of the pot only halfway, and held it above the water level in the pot, but still inside the pot. I then shook it around inside the strainer, getting it to drain back into the pot. Then I’d move in a hurry to pour it into the sauce pan to continue cooking with the sauce.
The problems with this were that it took a lot of time – not saving me any time, in fact, when compared to my previous method of dumping it all into a colander in the sink – and that the pasta stuck to the edges of the strainer and required even more time and effort to pull all the pieces out.
In short, I regret this purchase and I don’t advise buying the Cuisinart 77-412 if you were thinking about using it for pasta.