Al dente
In cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

, the Italian expression al dente (icon; Italian: al ˈdɛnte) describes pasta
Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine, now of worldwide renown. It takes the form of unleavened dough, made in Italy, mostly of durum wheat , water and sometimes eggs. Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes that serve for both decoration and to act as a carrier for the...

 and (less commonly) rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 or beans
that have been cooked so as to be firm but not hard. "Al dente" also describes vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

s that are cooked to the "tender crisp" phase - still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. Keeping the pasta firm is especially important in baked or "al forno
Al forno
In cooking, al forno or al forno di legna, are both Italian expressions describing food that is "at/from the oven". Baked pizza, breads and pasta dishes are often part of this genre...

" pasta dishes, where the pasta is cooked twice. The term "al dente" comes from Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and means "to the tooth
Teeth are small, calcified, whitish structures found in the jaws of many vertebrates that are used to break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, also use teeth for hunting or for defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are embedded in the Mandible bone or the Maxillary bone and are...

" or "to the bite
A bite is a wound received from the mouth of an animal, including humans.Animals may bite in self-defense, in an attempt to predate food, as well as part of normal interactions. Other bite attacks may be apparently unprovoked. Self inflicted bites occur in some genetic illnesses such as...

", referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness.

Pasta that is cooked al dente has a lower glycemic index
Glycemic index
The glycemic index, glycaemic index, or GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more...

 than pasta that is cooked soft.

Misconceptions of "al dente"

Perhaps the most common misconception about the term is the idea that "to the tooth" means the item should stick to the teeth.

The term is also occasionally used in reference to cooking vegetables, such as green beans or brussels sprouts, though this is often misunderstood as meaning that instead of being cooked all the way through, they still have a raw taste to them, generally undesirable in cooking. It should be interpreted as cooking them just until they lose their raw taste, as a way to avoid overcooking them.

A more esoteric usage is also germane to the cooking of meats; specifically, the idea of cooking meats to a specific "under-done" consistency so that further cooking/preparation processes can be applied to the meat, with respect to the additional ingredients. For example, a particularly popular recipe is that of making "sugared bacon", where brown or confectioners sugar is applied to the bacon
Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon . Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating...

. Some recipes call for the sugar to be added to raw bacon and then baked. However, other recipes insist that the bacon be cooked "al dente" in a frying pan, set off to the side, sprinkled with confectioners sugar, and then boiled for about 5 minutes. The "al dente" bacon approach is often times preferred in that, while the bacon will firm up, the sugar does not crystallize or harden. [6]
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