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I am prone to using as many shortcuts as I can in the kitchen. Not to Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade-level extremes, but if I can spy an easy out, I’ll take it. For example: Minute Rice. I have screwed up regular rice so many times that I have basically just given up. Why deal with tooth-chipping undercooked rice, or scraping burnt rice bits off the bottom of yet another pan, when I can just pop some rice out of the bright red box into the microwave and enjoy ensuing fluffy goodness? (Those microwaveable bags work well also.)

As he is wont to do, Takeout editor Kevin Pang refused to accept my failure, insisting (in so many words) that any idiot could make regular rice. Even me! To be fair, my husband also refused to indulge my Minute Rice habit, stubbornly continuing to buy regular rice in bulk, which I was mainly just using as pie weights.

So Kevin sent me the following recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbookhe calls it his kitchen bible—and I promised to try it out. The secret appears to be rinsing the starch off of the rice (something I truthfully have never done before). There’s also the late inclusion of a kitchen towel between the lid and the saucepan (same). At least the Cooks people commiserate with my rice plight, saying, “While rice seems like an easy enough dish to make, it can be deceptively temperamental.” Exactly!

I should point out that I was careful to follow the below instructions to the letter, down to timed simmering and standing. The bonus was having a kitchen that smelled like rice pudding, thanks to the added butter. And yes, I’m not sure why the kitchen towel is in there either—maybe to absorb excess moisture and prevent gumminess? (Although usually, my rice has the opposite problem.)

At any rate, these Cook’s people obviously know what they’re doing, because my resulting pot of rice was an unmitigated fluffy success (please give those nice folks a click, whydontcha?). For the first time in eons I made rice and did not have to scrape the bottom of the pan after. Yes, this method was a bit more complicated than rice in a microwaveable bag—but the results are definitely worth it. This fluffy, buttery, flavorful rice definitely put my watery grains of Minute Rice to shame.

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So rest assured I will be adding colanders and dish towels to my rice-making process forever after. Now… what to make with the rice?

Photo: bennyartist (Getty Images)

Cook’s Illustrated perfect rice recipe

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter or vegetable oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt

1. Place rice in colander or fine-mesh strainer and rinse until cold running water until water runs clear. Place strainer over bowl and set aside.

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2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains become chalky and opaque, about one to three minutes. Add water and salt, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil, swirling the pot to blend ingredients. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. Off heat, remove lid and place kitchen towel folded in half over saucepan; replace lid. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff rice with fork and serve.