Making pasta: must I use boiling water?
August 26, 2011 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Must I boil water to make pasta/rice?

So with all this talk about being prepared for Hurricane Irene, I've gone through my cupboard and tried to see what I have to eat that I don't need power to prepare (because losing power is very likely). I was pleased to see I was pretty well stocked on "ready to eat" things but noticed I have a lot of pastas and rice. So it got me thinking...

If the power goes out and I am unable to boil water, is it possible to just put some pasta/rice in a pot of water and hope for the best? Any tips? Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!
posted by NoraCharles to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
when you boil pasta and rice, youre not just hydrating it, you're actually cooking it. Pasta in a pot of cold water will soften/melt eventually, but it will taste like raw flour soup. If you have any Asian rice noodles, though, those are usually alright just softened.

Better, if you want to do something with it: Boil some rice and some pasta now and then dry it, spread out on a cookie sheet in the absolute lowest setting in your oven (door propped open), stirring and breaking up clumps once in a while. Now it is instant pasta/rice that just need to be hydrated to be eatable.
posted by peachfuzz at 4:36 PM on August 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

You could get a camping stove at REI or some similar outdoors shop. A propane 2-burner or a white gas stove will be big enough to support your average household pots and pans. Most canister-top screw-on type stoves have small pot supports that are only intended for supporting smaller/lighter backpacking cookware.

There are pros and cons to propane vs. white gas:

You will be able to cook just about anything on a propane two-burner stove that you would cook on a regular stovetop. Most white gas stoves, however, do not simmer well and will only be good for boiling water. This is the only white gas stove that I know of that can simmer with ease. In terms cost efficiency, propane canisters are way more expensive than white gas. Also, many white gas stoves will also burn other fuels if you run out of white gas (The Dragonfly I linked will also burn kerosene, unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel, and... jet fuel). Starting a propane stove is similar to starting a gas grill, while white gas stoves require a more complicated priming process.

If you're worried about your power going out, you should probably also worry about running out of potable water. Maybe get some of these?
posted by strangecargo at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Please don't use a camping stove inside. Please.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:43 PM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Why don't you just boil the pasta before the power (that you're sure will go out) goes out and stuff your refrig with extra ice? If you don't open it too many times, it should last a few days.

Think like a single dude - make a bunch of big batches of food at once that can be slightly changed over the weeks. Mexican food works well for this. How many different things can you make with beans, rice, tortillas, salsa, ___fav__topping_whatever?
posted by alex_skazat at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cooking with this kind of equipment inside is dangerous, because of the carbon monoxide or dioxide hazard, IIRC. You must only use this type of kit with adequate ventilation!
posted by thelonius at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2011

Now me, I'd just cook pasta or rice now and slap it in the fridge for later. The more cold stuff you have in the fridge, the longer the stuff will stay cold if the power goes out, by the way.

If you can get water to a boil, but not keep it there, you could try this technique (seems useful for saving fuel). It's a long article, so here's the money quote: "I brought one last small pot of water to a boil and dumped in my pasta. After allowing it to come back up to a simmer, I stirred it once to ensure that the pasta wasn't sticking to itself or the pot, immediately threw a lid on the thing, and shut off the burner." Much to his surprise, it works.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:53 PM on August 26, 2011

Oh, come on people.

It's OK to use a camp stove inside if it is small and you can crack a window. I use this burner to heat my teapot every morning. It boils water just fine and it doesn't kill me. I've made pasta on it several times. Get one, a little pot, and a six-pack of propane, and you'll be very well prepared.

It is also much, much faster than using my hotplate. I really love it. It solves a few problems for you and means that you don't have to worry about storing the insta-pasta that peachfuzz recommends - which might not last long if your fridge has no power.
posted by fake at 6:53 PM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I tried pasta in warm water but it just got gummy. It's gross, but you could eat it if you were starved.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:09 PM on August 26, 2011

Tip: rice freezes okay. It's not a delicious fluffy delight after defrosting, but it's rice flavored and shaped and goes with other food. Make some now and try to get it in the freezer and as frozen as possible before the power goes.

Defrosted pasta is...edible. It will put nutrients in your body and make you feel full. Better than nothing, anyway.

Don't pre-cook your entire supply, because once the power goes the pre-cooked stuff is only going to be safe for a limited amount of time.

Hold your remaining dry supply and see what happens. I remember many fairly happy stories of Bring Whatcha Got block parties in Houston after Ike and Rita (when a lot of people didn't have power for 4-5 days) and folks rolled their grills and propane turkey fryers into the street and cooked whatever showed up. First you eat all the perishables, and then you start making Canned Stuff Etouffee and Chili With Beans and Beans. Your rice and pasta might just come in handy if things reach that point.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:15 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it too late to pick up one these for $25 or less? I use them all the time indoors for catering, outside at home if I want to make bacon but not make a mess. They're easy to operate! Fuel is $1.25 a canister!!
posted by jbenben at 7:45 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you need to get to boiling to cook it.

Get the water to boiling with either an array of tea candles or a buddy burner and then remove from heat and let it slow cook in a hot box (two links) or just wrap with a lot of densely packed towels and walk away for awhile. Or you could just practice the art of thermos cookery.
posted by codswallop at 8:14 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Soaking rice will reduce cooking time substantially. I have, more than a few times, eaten rice that wasn't cooked, but just left to soak for hours.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 9:37 PM on August 26, 2011

The best cookbook in this situation is, Apocalypse Chow. Very good tips and recipes on how to eat well without power and other hostile conditions.

Now, if we are talking post-apocalypse I'd roll with a solar oven.
posted by jadepearl at 11:54 AM on August 27, 2011

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