The Pasta Boat: Does it work?

Even people who love to cook appreciate things that save time and hassle in the kitchen. So I was curious about a product called the Pasta Boat.

It's essentially a hard, plastic container that promises better pasta by cooking in the microwave instead of on the stove. It comes with a steaming component and a lid with a built-in strainer. It also service as both a serving and storage container. My questions: Is it really easier and faster than cooking pasta the old fashioned way? And what about the finished product?

The commercial sales pitch calls Pasta Boat the answer to having to worry about multiple cooking utensils, measuring, checking for doneness, water boiling over and pasta sticking together when you cook boil it the traditional way. The commercial dramatically exaggerates the "hassle factor" before introducing the "solution."

"Kathy Mitchell here with Pasta Boat the amazing new five-in-one pasta cooker that serves perfect pasta without the hassle! Just put in the pasta, add water to the serving line, and pop it in the microwave. It's that easy!"

Two round, hollow red handles double as spaghetti measuring rings. Each ring measures two servings of spaghetti. I put a large pot of water on the stove, added salt and turned on the burner to boil some spaghetti the traditional way. I then followed the instructions for the Pasta Boat, using the same amount of spaghetti, and setting the microwave for 18 minutes, the shortest time indicated on the instructions.

I started the stovetop process about six minutes before starting with the Pasta Boat. Both pastas were done at about the same time. But the Pasta Boat pasta really held the heat after I drained it and seemed to continue cooking. It was gummy. My instincts tell me I should have set the microwave for less time than the instructions indicated and checked occasionally for doneness, instead of the "set it and forget it" approach. It also seemed like starting the pasta in the water affected the way the heat transferred through the pasta. (I know, there's an huge divide among pasta lovers between starting the pasta in the water first and bringing to a boil, and boiling the water, then adding the pasta. Everyone has an opinion).

I enlisted photographer Randy Carnell to help me with the taste test. Then the pasta boat version.

"This one still has more of it's flavor," Carnell said. "The gas stove versus microwave."

In our experience, the pasta in the Pasta Boat just didn't measure up. I found it only slightly easier because of the built-in strainer top. But it wasn't really faster. And while I didn't have to check it during cooking like I did the stove top pasta, I probably should have. On a scale of one to four, I give Pasta Boat one-and-a-half "noodles." That's just me. I found other cooks who say they love it, especially because of the steaming feature and the built-in strainer in the lid, but for my money, give me a large pot and boiling water.

The Pasta Boat is advertised at $10 online, but skip the internet and check the stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and retailers that sell "As Seen On TV products -- you'll save money. I found mine at Bartell Drugs in Seattle for only 5 bucks.