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Feb 5, 2013 04:22 PM

What's your Achilles Heel in the kitchen?

Inspired by this article at serious eats, what's your Achilles Heel in the kitchen? For me, it's the rice. I can't make a pot of rice to save my life.

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  1. Pastry! It's always too short and crumbly.
    Maybe to do with the gluten formation.

    I've only tried it a couple of times though. I probably need to set aside some time to get a feel for it, but it's so much easier to get the frozen stuff.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ursy_ten

      I found with pastry that I yielded better results with each little factoid I learned. Consider making it to be like conducting a science experiment, where a single factor could produce a different outcome.

      Definitely give it a few more shots before letting it defeat you.

      1. re: Musie

        Thanks Musie, It's definitely a skill I'd love to master. You can do so many wonderful things with pastry!

    2. Brownies. I've no idea why, but the two of us just don't work well together.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Musie

        On the Hershey's site there is a recipe for York Peppermint Patty brownies.

        I'm not big on baking but that is pretty user friendly and oh so dang good!

      2. I am very nervous about getting meat done exactly right.

        6 Replies
        1. re: sandylc

          I suck at large, expensive cuts of meat. I don't trust my instant read thermometer, so I just bought the old-fashioned, stick it in the meat and leave it there kind.

          1. re: sandylc

            i feel your pain. roasts, which theoretically should be easy, terrify me.
            also, i sometimes start pork chops on the stove top, then throw into the oven, still in the skillet, to finish. TWICE now i have forgotten the the skillet handle does in fact heat up in the oven. you would think i would learn.

            1. re: rudysmom

              Fold the hot mitt over the handle to the oven. That should help you remind yourself that you need to use it to take the pan out of the oven. :-)

              1. re: rudysmom

                You would think I would learn not to check food in the oven without a pot holder. I always think to myself - the foil won't be too hot I can just lift it to check. Well, usually the foil is not that hot, but the oven rack that my knuckle inevitably make contact with is. Nevertheless, I do it nearly every other day. In fact, someone actually asked me yesterday if I had taken up fighting as I have a collection of small burn scars on my knuckles.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Good to know I'm not the only one who does that. I have scars in my forearms cuz I am to lazy to slide out the rack and I touch the hot rack with my arm or hand all the time

                  1. re: suzigirl

                    Me too, suzi. I have two scars on my right forearm. They'll eventually fade, I keep telling myself:) And rudysmom, I did that years ago after buying my first piece of All Clad. I put something in the oven to finish and took it out without a mitt. It was so, so painful! I kept ice in my hand for about 12 hours and it still stung. Luckily it has only happened once.

            2. Yes, yes, yes! I can't make rice - I buy it from a chinese restaurant or frozen from Trader Joe's. I can make rice mush though!

              22 Replies
              1. re: harryharry

                My formula is: 2 parts rice, 3 parts water (usually long grain rice, and I don't rinse). Microwave on high 12 minutes, check (if using pyrex you can see if there is still water in the bottom), then keep microwaving in 2 minute increments until done/all liquid absorbed.

                I hope this helps!

                1. re: ursy_ten

                  No it won't help - I was about to reply to some of the other posts with fail safe recipes - the thing is that it just won't help.... if you can't make it you can make it...

                  Also, there is no way that I could stand listening to my microwave for 12 minutes.

                  1. re: harryharry

                    Yes! No suggestions can save me from the horrendous rice, I just have decided it is not something I can do :)

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked rice in the frozen foods aisle. All you have to do is nuke it and it comes out fine. I use those in a pinch, even though I'm not rice-challenged. Nuke two packs for your next dinner party and dump them in the serving dish. No one will know or care.

                2. re: harryharry

                  Option 1:
                  a) never make less than about 3 cups cooked rice.
                  b) pour some rice in pot.
                  c) put in water to one knuckle depth above rice.
                  d) bring to a boil on stovetop. turn to low.
                  e) simmer on low for 20 minutes.
                  f) let sit, covered, for 15-30 minutes

                  Option 2:
                  a) buy a rice cooker
                  b) read directions
                  c) follow directions

                  my response somehow looks snarky, not intended to be.

                    1. re: sr44

                      Not sure i understand your comment sr44. Once the lid goes on it doesn't ever come off until the rice is ready to be served. No opportunity to adjust the water, and I've never had a need to do so. By the time the rice is done, all the water is absorbed, thats what that rest period is for, to let all the water be absorbed or escape as steam.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I'm with you. Lid on. No peeking.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          I'm going to try your method KaimukiMan, Just finished a pot of jasmine. Use 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. Add 1 tsp salt to water and bring to boil. Add rice and return to boil. Turn heat to low simmer with tight fitting lid for 25 min. Remove from heat . Gluey.

                              1. re: emglow101

                                remember, its rice not pasta. you don't want excess water when you are done, you dont need to stir it around while it is cooking. rinsing is recommended, 5-6 times seems excessive to me. In Hawaii the 'universal' rule is 3 rinses, but we mostly cook medium grain calrose rice here which tends to be slightly sticky, but not as sticky as long grain rice. But I learned this method of cooking rice from my mom and grandmother cooking short grain "fluffy" rice. They never rinsed their rice, and never used 'converted' rice either.

                                But even with calrose or long grain, it should still come out with each grain being discrete, not an indistinct mass, although having it stick together is correct, sticky but not gluey. Oh do I wish Sam Fujisaka was here to guide us. We miss you Sam.

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  I wanted to have a nice rice, with my live dungeness crab I steamed tonight.Local caught from Half Moon Bay, CA. I will make crab cakes with leftovers tomorrow. Not to have thread drift. I had the best crabcakes of my life in Kona,with a light citrus dressing. I like your recipe for rice.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            If you get consistently mushy results, use less water when you start. If the rice is not soft when the cycle is done, add a bit more water.

                            1. re: sr44

                              Thanks sr44. Our family was raised on potatoes.We never had rice as a starch. I have tried numerous times to cook rice. It is always hit and miss for me. With my continuous faulty results I will keep trying make rice. I do not want to give in to the rice maker.

                              1. re: emglow101

                                My family was just the opposite: my mom's default starch was rice, and she rarely cooked potatoes (and no, we're not Asian). Since I've never had any problems cooking rice, I never thought I needed a rice cooker. However, when I acquired a Chinese roommate who cooked rice several times a week and usually managed to have it boil over and make a sticky, starchy mess on the stove, I decided to get a cheap rice cooker. I think it was $10 at Walgreens. Works fine and doesn't take up much room.

                                For all you people having trouble cooking rice -- are any of you at altitude? I think even a relatively small amount of altitude might affect rice cooking.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  I could have sworn Ruth Lafler was a Thai name.

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      Good point: I was gifted with a name that is virtually unpronounceable for most Asian language speakers. But you know, there are lots of people who have names that don't match their ethnicity.

                                  1. re: emglow101

                                    Potatoes for me too. My mother used Minute Rice exclusively, so when I made the leap to Uncle Ben's, it wasn't pretty. And now when I cook rice on the stove, I stir it several times and don't use a lid.

                                    Can you cook other grains?

                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                  If you keep coming up with mushy rice, use less water at the start.

                                  I started cooking rice many years ago by frying the grains in a bit of oil or butter, then adding water and baking until done. Cooking the surface starch helps keeps the grains separate, but if you add too much water, it's mush again.

                            2. re: harryharry

                              Buying rice from restaurants, I usually buy Mexican restaurant rice. I don't know what they do but it's fluffy a lot easier to than making at home. I have a decent recipe, but my rice just turns out different and takes time.

                              Mushy rice implies too much water.
                              For plain rice - I suggest a ratio of 1 rice to 1 water or 1 rice to 1.5 water.

                              0) Use a measuring cup
                              1) rinse rice in a fine mesh strainer.
                              2) Bring water to a boil. (Optional - add a little salt)
                              3) Add drained rice to boiling water and turn down heat to a simmer.
                              4) Cover and come back in 20-25 minutes.

                            3. Long pasta. That stuff sees me coming. I actually made up a name for the result: spaghetti stumps. You know, when a bunch of ends clump together and don't cook through, no matter how diligently you stir or how carefully you maintain the boil.

                              Solution: the SO also has a name. He is Starch Boy. Takes care of all the starchy things in our kitchen. He is a dab hand at rice cooking as well.

                              FWIW, the photocopier at work sees me coming too and develops the copying equivalent of spaghetti stumps. Coincidence? I think not.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: grayelf

                                I have to man the spaghetti pot for the entire time it's cooking, otherwise I end up with logs about 15 noodles thick. It hates me. :/

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  I have this problem too... long pasta. Glad to see it's not just me :)

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    If it might help, I've found that a lot of stirring in the beginning makes a big difference, but definitely continued stirring throughout but I focus heavily on the first few minutes.

                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                      Frequent but not continuous stirring here. And I've learned that Barilla pasta clumps MUCH more than other brands.

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        I stir rarely but sample frequently. I think the key to non-clumpage may be not overcooking the pasta in the slightest. Al dente pasta is less likely to clump.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          No kidding! I switched to the cheap supermarket brands and I only have to stir for the first few minutes.

                                      2. re: grayelf

                                        Instead of stirring, I use tongs to separate the strands of angel hair throughout the cooking period. I do not go and sit down while it cooks. I usually grate cheese, get out the butter if I'm using it.