Does Throwing Spaghetti At The Wall Show You It's Cooked?

A hand throwing strands of spaghetti against a wall

Short answer
No, throwing spaghetti at the wall, fridge, or ceiling gives absolutely no indication of whether the pasta is perfectly cooked.

Long answer
We've already written extensively about the worst pasta mistakes people make, and in the process, we debunked some of the more ludicrous tips and tricks that have somehow made their way into the public consciousness. However, the popular idea of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it is properly cooked is one urban myth that has, erm, stuck, despite a mountain of evidence showing that it provides no useful purpose.

We've no idea where the concept of the spaghetti wall test originally came from, but Snackdinner has tracked down a book, published in 1946, called "You Can Cook If You Can Read." It contains the first known publication where the recommendation was made.

In many ways, the idea of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing if it falls to the floor, sticks perfectly, or disintegrates into a pile of mush is a visually entertaining concept. We actively encourage a bit of mischievousness in the kitchen, but however you set out to discredit the myth, it ends with the same conclusion: slinging pasta against a wall does not tell you whether it is cooked properly and therefore ready to eat.

For starters, just think of all the factors at play...

1.) How far away is the wall?
2.) How hard are you throwing it?
3.) Is the wall tiled or painted?
4.) Is your pasta a naturally sticky variety?
5.) For how long must the pasta stick to the wall?

We're not scientists, but even we can see that without specific benchmarks, the results of the test will be arbitrary. Stickiness may indeed have a small amount to do with how well cooked your pasta is (after all, uncooked dried pasta clearly isn't going to stick), but far more important is the stickiness of the wall's surface and the inherent stickiness of the pasta you're tossing at it.

In our article, The Best Way To Make Sauces Stick To Pasta, we explain how a pasta's stickiness has a lot to do with what kind of die the pasta has been extruded through. An expensive bronze die gives pasta a rough texture, which is great at attracting and holding onto sauces. Pasta made with a cheap Teflon die will result in a smooth surface that simply doesn’t have any of the inherent sticky qualities.

We hope our final argument, however, is the most persuasive. Just think of pasta like a steak. When you fry a steak, the outside starts creating a nice crust before the heat has even gotten close to the middle of the meat. Pull it from the pan too early, and you'll have a perfectly cooked outside and a completely raw inside.

Pasta works in the same way. The outside can be soft and well-cooked, while the inside can be completely raw. All a wall can tell you is whether the outside of the pasta is sticky or not.

It's far better to use your own judgement and just taste a bit of that pasta. Is it soft but with a slight resistance when you bite into it? Congratulations. You have perfectly cooked, al dente pasta that's ready to be paired with your favourite pesto. Is it still a bit too firm? Keep it on the heat for another minute or two and taste again.