Nobel Prize in Physics teaches a different way to cook

Nobel Prize in Physics teaches a different way to cook pasta and irks Italians Tilt

Boil the water, add salt and spread the pasta out so that it cooks evenly for a period of time with the pot open and the heat turned on. That’s the right way to start pasta, right?

Not for Italian physicist Giorgio Parisi, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize, who shared a path to using science to bring more efficiency and gas savings to the process.

According to him, it is possible to get the perfect point of dough by cooking it with very low heat. “The most important thing is to keep the lid on,” he says. “Noodles are cooked well even in the mountains when the water boils at 90 degrees.”

What you up to?

The idea came about after the local government urged citizens to reduce gas consumption. The supply was reduced by the Russian energy company Gazprom after the outbreak of the war with Ukraine.

According to Forbes, an average Italian consumes 23.5kg of pasta per year, which would account for a significant portion of the country’s gas consumption, given the need for water to reach and maintain high temperatures.

In this context, Parisi decided to share on his Facebook page the publication of the architect Alessandro Busiri Vici, who claims that it is even possible to turn off the heat and keep the pan with the lid closed so that the dough reaches the right point — he calls the “passive cooking” process.

Does it really save fuel?

In practice, gas could actually be saved with the method demonstrated by the Nobel Prize winner.

The Italian Food Union has stated that Italians who adopt this alternative way of cooking can save up to 47% of the energy currently consumed, according to The Independent newspaper.

Physics professor Fred Zenorini, author of the Physics in the Beetle project, explains Tilt that this happens because the energy required to bring the water to a boil is greater than the energy required to just change its temperature (e.g. to keep the heat down throughout the boiling process).

In order to reach the gaseous state, it is necessary to break water’s intermolecular interactions, known as hydrogen bonds. These compounds are pretty strong, which is why more gas is needed to cook, he points out.

The income of the economy

According to the ScienceAlert website, when we add the dry noodles to the pan of boiling water, the liquid soaks into the noodles and rehydrates them. This makes it softer and the dough is heated.

If you’re always keeping the heat low, two things are important to make it work: wait for the water to return to boiling point after adding the pasta, and keep the lid closed until the pasta has reached the desired temperature.

The first detail occurs due to the change in temperature. Even though the water is boiling, the noodles are at room temperature. The water will soon cool down.

“The water and pasta combo will be a little below boiling, so it’s going to take a while [por isso a ideia de 2 minutos] so that the set can reach the boiling temperature of water again,” explains Fred Zenorini.

The lid is a key factor in slower heat dissipation. The professor explains that there are three ways to dissipate heat: conduction, convection, and radiation. The first two are affected by the lid during the process.

“The thermal convention occurs when the heat is dissipated by density differences, that is, the hot air goes up, the cold air goes down. The fact that you cover the pan helps the heat dissipate less through convection will,” says Zenorini.

“The other mechanism is heat conduction, which occurs when the particles collide—the fact that the pot is covered also helps a little,” he says. “In my opinion, of the three mechanisms, heat convection is the most affected by the fact that the pot is covered and heat is dissipated more slowly,” he explains.

An additional tip is to use a thicker iron pan. It will retain heat longer, the professor concludes.

Method that not everyone liked

The physicist and architect’s cooking strategies didn’t really appeal to audiences in the country, known for pasta as a national passion.

At La Republica, chef Antonello Colonna, who owns a Michelinstarred restaurant, denied the claim, saying the method would leave the dough gummy.

“I remember well when my parents’ gas bottle ran out while the spaghetti was cooking. And when that happened [nós] We were in trouble because the consistency of the product was now compromised,” he said.

Chef Luigi Pomata stated that “it would be a disaster”.

“Let’s leave the kitchen to the chefs while the physicists experiment in their labs,” he added.