Here’s one way to prep your instant ramen: Follow the recipe on the back of the 40-cent package by boiling the noodles, mixing with water and flavor packet, and calling it dinner. You can’t really go wrong. ​ 

But there’s more than one way to be right, and these noodles have bigger capabilities than their package can explain. Engineered to be crisp and rich (they’re actually deep-fried before being packaged), the 3-ounce rectangle can be the base of stepped-up bowls of noodle soup and crunchy summer salads, as wells as the start of decidedly non-Japanese quick meals like mac ‘n cheese. In other words, not just a cheap-o fallback option.

The appeal goes even deeper than taste, according to instant ramen lover Justin Warner, author of The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them. “I think any good meal starts with confidence,” he says. “Most of us re confident when it comes to making instant ramen. So, it provides not just a gustatory backbone to a meal, but an emotional one as well.”

With Warner’s help, we get to find out just how good instant ramen can get, all without getting too complicated or requiring that much actual cooking. And, though you can use whatever ramen you get your hands on, one easy way to experiment, he says, is to try different brands: “Branch out from Nissin. I like Shin Ramyun as my every day,” he says.

To check out The Complete Guide to Cooking With Instant Ramen, click here.