When we want to prepare a nice dish of pasta , it is common practice to fill the pot with hot tap water . But is this habit really advisable? Let’s see what the experts say.
Shortening boiling times by using hot water: what are the risks?
This is nothing new: all, or almost all of us, use tap water on many occasions, especially for cooking. When we then want to enjoy an excellent plate of pasta, perhaps with a delicious homemade sauce, the procedure we follow is quite common and widespread. First you take a pot , then you turn on the hot water from the tap and wait for the stream to become lukewarm. This is because the next step is to place our metal container on the stove and wait for the water to boil . Therefore, you might as well opt directly for the hot jet, so as to be halfway there: it wouldn’t make sense to use cold water if you then have to boil it, right?
Well, that might not be the case at all . Even if the reasoning follows an unquestionable logic, there are aspects that must be taken into consideration and that experts are keen to underline . This not only concerns the preparation of pasta, but also the practice of drinking a glass of hot water directly from the kitchen sink.
That’s why you shouldn’t use hot tap water to cook pasta
Although many people think that it is completely harmless to cook pasta using hot tap water, doing so is absolutely not recommended: this practice, in fact, can be very harmful to your health . Generally, experts say, it is not at all safe to proceed in this way. Why?
The reasons are various, but there is one particularly important one, which no one should overlook: hot tap water contains contaminants , which not even boiling can destroy. Keep in mind the presence of chlorine, but also of fluorine: fluorosilicic acid is used industrially to extract lead from brass , the material of which most domestic plumbing systems are made and which often contains a small percentage of lead (about 4%). Water containing fluoride, therefore, could be contaminated by it. Additionally, boilers and hot water system tanks have metal components that can corrode over time, ultimately contaminating the water you use. Furthermore, the hot one has the power to dissolve harmful substances – such as lead – more quickly than the cold one.
But the reasons for not using it don’t end here:
- Food : if the hot water in the pipes accumulates chemicals, bacteria and other sediments harmful to humans, these could contaminate the pasta and other foods we want to cook. The result will be a tasty dish, but full of impurities that are not good for our body.
- Unpredictable temperature : The hot water coming out of the tap may not always have the same temperature. This means that the cooking result may not always be predictable.
- Energy consumption : using hot water, instead of cold water, to boil pasta also represents a waste of energy, resulting in increased costs.
Tap water for cooking: how to reduce risks
So what to do? To prepare your pasta, drink from the glass and wash food in a healthy and safe way , it is better to opt for cold tap water , then heat it in the microwave or on the classic stove. This will protect you from, or at least reduce, the risk of ingesting harmful substances or contaminated food. To overcome these problems and reduce the amount of unhealthy elements from tap water, however, there are some solutions you can adopt:
- Analysis : you can have your water examined by a specialized laboratory to check which specific contaminations are present, so you can choose a suitable filter.
- Filter : There are different types, including devices that connect directly to the faucet, filter jugs or home filter systems for the whole house. These can eliminate pesticides, bacteria, chlorine, and heavy metals from your tap water, depending on which you choose.
- Maintenance : a periodic evaluation of the filters is necessary to replace them when wear or serious damage occurs.
- Bottled water : another solution could be to use bottled water for drinking or for cooking your food, so as to avoid the pollutants that could hide in tap water, despite taking precautions.
Finally, remember to always use cold water!
Hot tap water for cooking pasta: do not add iodized salt!
Not only is hot water not recommended for preparing pasta, but also another factor: adding iodized salt . This is also a well-established practice that we all more or less do, but according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina, this can create potentially worrying chemical reactions . The combination that should be avoided involves iodized salt and chlorinated tap water : this can lead to the formation of iodized disinfection by-products , which in the long term could expose you to serious health problems.
During the experiments, the scientists realized that the method of cooking the pasta affected the amount of these harmful compounds in the final dish.
Study co-author Susan Richardson , a professor of chemistry, explained that she was “surprised that 70% of the iodine-DBPs were ‘washed out’ in the filtered water . I expected the paste to absorb nearly 100% of the compounds.” Her advice is to cook pasta using salt without iodide, adding some useful suggestions for preparing safer first courses:
- Remove the lid from the pot when boiling the pasta
- Drain the pasta and, if you want to use iodized salt, add it at the end of cooking
- To flavor your pasta, use pink or kosher salt .
However, it is not necessary to give up iodized salt when you are not cooking pasta, as it still remains an important source of nutrients for our diet.
And how do you cook your pasta ?