Stretching the brittle truth about spaghetti.

Hooke’s Law. Proteins. Chemical Bonds. And what no one tells you about spaghetti.


Brittle Spaghetti Becomes Ductile as it Boils in Water 1-Minute NomNom

Uncooked spaghetti (and any form of dried noodles such as those found in parts of Asia) breaks easily. Drop it on the floor and the long sticks will smash into shorter ones. Or bend them with our fingers and the same happens.

Cooked spaghetti on the other hand does not break as readily; in fact it bends and stretches easily, and can be effortlessly wrapped around any shape.

gelatin strands like tangled noodles/spaghetti
Why is this so? Uncooked spaghetti is brittle while cooked spaghetti is ductile. Both properties are governed by Hooke’s Law (how much something stretches is proportional to the force applied to it — the BBC has a short explanation).

When raw spaghetti is cooked in water, the proteins in it mix with the water, become hydrated, and begin to stick together because new chemical bonds are formed. These new bonds, called cross-links, make the spaghetti very elastic.

Chinese noodles pulling

Cross-links are also very much behind the practice of noodle pulling in Chinese cuisine, which gives noodles an especially fresh and springy taste. The science though is just part of the equation. What no one might have told you is that getting the right balance of cross-links is another. In fact, it is an art that even master chefs may struggle with!

Feed Me!

How do you keep dry spaghetti from breaking into shorter strands? And have you ever tried breaking a strand of cooked spaghetti? Share your experiences!


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photos: in order -istockphoto/limpido; depositphotos/teine26; istockphoto/P_Wei

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