HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Boiling pasta - oil or no oil

  • Ashibi Apr 23, 2007 01:37 PM
  • 19
  • Share

Hi hounds!

Adding oil while boiling pasta prevents them from clumping. It also helps previnting boil over. But oil prevent from pasta to absorb sauce. Houders, what is your preference and why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
  1. Salt only. No water for the reason you mentioned. I want the pasta to absorb some sauce and not have it slide off. I guess you could put just a drop of oil that would reduce boil overs and foaming

    1. You may want to read this post from further down the page: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/393060

      1 Reply
      1. re: Megiac

        Very very long thread about this and salt in pasta water at

      2. For me salt only, no oil.

        2 Replies
        1. re: swsidejim

          I use salt and oil just Emril. if he can do it so can I, I will never bne as good as he but
          I can try.

          1. re: bigjimbray

            emeril does strange things that other chefs don't do........like adding oil to his pasta water. just add kosher salt, no oil. you need to use plenty of water, a large pot and stir every now and then

        2. IMO, adding oil does nothing other than waste oil. I salt the water and never have a problem with clumping. Your pot may be too small or you're not using enough water.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Den

            Salt only. It should taste like the sea. Add it after the water has come to a boil.

          2. I agree with the above. Salt only, added after the water is boiling. Be sure to use a large pot, and lots of water. Your pasta won't clump at all.

            3 Replies
            1. re: xtal

              That makes three-only salt and lots of it. Stir within a minute and it won't clump. A tip for finishing: Reserve some of the cooking water, add pasta to sauce and heat together for a few minutes to allow pasta to absorb sauce. Add as much pasta cooking water as needed (usually very little) once pasta if off heat to give pasta gloss and separation. I could eat it everyday!

              1. re: xtal

                Another voice for salt only - but what conceivable difference does it make whether you add the salt before or after the water starts to boil? Granted, salt water has a higher boiling point (by a degree or two), but as long as the salt is in there and the water is boiling before you add the pasta, the end result is exactly the same either way.

                1. re: BobB

                  You're absolutely right; I think the "add salt at the end" comes from the fact that if you add it to the cold water it sits at the bottom of the pan and can in some cases, damage the pot. That's all.

              2. Think about the physical chemistry.... the oil floats at the top, the pasta sits or circulates at the bottom: no interaction, no prevention of clumping, but certainly will prevent sauce absorbtion when tossed out. The oil does nothing. Just add kosher or sea salt. An above posting about the volume of water might be on to the root of your problem. And as for quoting Emeril as a source - don't. I won't be as rude as Bourdain, but AB is correct about EL. Sizzle, no steak.

                1. Salt only and lots of it. Lots of water too. There is no good reason to add oil to the water.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    In my thoroughly Italian family unto a hundred generations - No Oil!

                    Salt the water before or after boiling - no difference. Stir gently after throwing the macaroni into the water, and several times thereafter. (Do not add water the macaronii was cooked into Marinara or Bolognese sauces.)

                  2. I use a small dash of oil when I'm cooking pasta in a smaller pot, to prevent boil over (breaks surface tension). When I'm using a larger pot I don't fill it as high so I don't bother with the oil. I use salt if its handy. I usually cook the pasta and sauce together briefly just before serving, and the small bit of oil does not prevent the pasta and sauce from coming together nicely.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: itsrob

                      (1) You shouldn't be using a small pot.

                      (2) I have seen people dump an oil slick in the pot, and, yes, it does prevent the pasta from marrying the sauce.

                    2. I don't put oil or salt in the cooking water. I turn the fire down to medium-high and that keeps it from boiling over but is still high enough to keep the pasta separated. After the pasta is done and drained, I put maybe a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and toss the drained pasta back with it.

                      1. Oil is some kind of strange urban myth/quasi-cook kind of thing. Posts above indicate a trail leading to idiotic Emeril. Nyet!