Al dente, Italian for “to the tooth,” is most often used when cooking pasta and rice and means something is cooked but lift with a bit of firmness or a small snap when you chew. The term technically includes vegetables, beans, pasta, and rice although vegetables must be cooked long enough to lose their raw taste. Beans cooked al dente would be meatier to the bite rather than mushy. Cooking rice al dente is tricky and you must consider the grain, cooking time, and amount of water more carefully.
With the taste of the pasta generally agreed to be much better al dente, contemporary Italian cooking now identifies this as the ideal consistency for pasta. When using grocery store pasta, al dente occurs immediately after the white in the center of the pasta disappears.
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