There are many recipes that call for one to “secure” something with a skewer or toothpick. Things like stuffed chicken breasts, meaty roulades, and bacon wrapped whatever — so many of these little food parcels need to be stabbed with a bit of wood to help them keep their form while they cook. But what if you’re out of wood? There’s always spaghetti (or bucatini or fettuccine).
I found this tip in the “Quick Tips” section of the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Sent in by a reader, this little hack will save your butt when you’re out of skewers and toothpicks:
Lee Satterfield of Tallahssee, Fla., was making stuffed chicken breasts when he realised he didn’t have any skewers or toothpicks to hold the raw chicken together during cooking. He did, however, have a box of bucatini on hand (fettuccine works too), and the long noodles skewered the poultry with ease. (Plus, there’s was no need to worry about accidentally biting into a sharp skewer or toothpick.
Beyond stuffed chicken breasts (or even stuffed chicken thighs), you can use little pieces of uncooked pasta to secure a myriad of things, such as pineapple rings and cherries on a baked ham, bacon around a scallop or a shrimp, or lemon slices on a piece of fish. You can even use the noodles to serve appetizers, like a caprese skewer (cherry tomato, mozzarella ball, basil leaf); or stabilise a towering sandwich (or stab an olive onto the top of said sandwich).
I would not, however, use a piece of pasta as a grilling skewer. The ends will burn and the noodle will soften inside of your food, making it hard to get the skewer off the grill. (A floppy skewer is not an effective skewer — I am always saying this.)