To get a perfect, dry, fluffy texture when cooking rice, remove the pan from the heat once the rice is tender. Put a clean kitchen towel folded in half over the saucepan, put the lid back on, and set the pot aside for ten minutes. The residual heat will continue to steam the rice and improve the texture, and the towel will absorb excess moisture.
Some recipes call for broken spaghetti, and sometimes full strands don’t fit in standard sized pots, making it necessary to break them into smaller pieces. But breaking spaghetti can end with dry noodles all over your floor. Here’s a cleaner way to do it: Roll up a bundle of spaghetti in a kitchen towel and hold both ends firmly. Center the rolled bundle over the edge of a table or counter and push down with both hands to break the pasta in the middle. Hold the bundle vertically over the pot of boiling water and release the bottom of the cloth so that the pasta slides tidily into the pot.
Chopping nuts often means that they end up rolling around the cutting board and falling off onto the floor. To stop this, wet a kitchen towel, grasp both ends, and twist them in opposite directions to form a tight rope. Lay the rope on the board in a ring around the nuts. Leave enough room in the center of the ring to fit the knife, then chop away.
Pancakes are best fresh out of the skillet, but if you need to keep them warm for a few minutes while you round up the troops, put them on a platter lined with a clean kitchen towel. Pull the towel over the pancakes and then cover them with an inverted colander to keep them warm.
Sometimes the skins of walnuts can be bitter. To remove them, toast the nuts and then rub them inside a clean kitchen towel; the skins should slide right off.
Like these? See more quick tips at Cook's Illustrated.