Humans perform fascinating science experiments at home on a daily basis when they undertake the modification of natural and naturally-derived materials by a cooking process prior to consumption. The material properties of such foods are of interest to food scientists (texture is often fundamental to food acceptability), oral biologists (foods modulate feeding behavior), anthropologists (cooking is probably as old as the genus Homo and distinguishes us from all other creatures) and dentists (foods interact with tooth and tooth replacement materials). Material scientists may be interested in the drastic changes in food properties observed over relatively short cooking times. In the current study, the mechanical properties of one of the most common (and oldest at 4,000+ years) foods on earth, the noodle, were examined as a function of cooking time. Two types of noodles, each made from natural materials (wheat flour, salt, alkali and water) by kneading dough and passing them through a pasta-making machine. These were boiled for between 2–14 min and tested at regular intervals from raw to an overcooked state. Cyclic tensile tests at small strain levels were used to examine energy dissipation characteristics. Energy dissipation was >50% per cycle in uncooked noodles, but decreased by an order of magnitude with cooking. Fractional dissipation values remained approximately constant at cooking times greater than 7 min. Overall, a greater effect of cooking was on viscoplastic dissipation characteristics rather than fracture resistance. The results of the current study plot the evolution of a viscoplastic mixture into an essentially elastic material in the space of 7 minutes and have broad implications for understanding what cooking does to food materials. In particular, they suggest that textural assessments by consumers of the optimally cooked state of food has a definite physical definition.