A simple technique with an untraditional ratio of water-to-rice along with a few helpful hints ensures fluffy, perfectly cooked rice every time.
The basics can be really helpful.
Case in point: lots of people have asked me how to prepare good rice. An economical pantry staple, rice befuddles many of us, as it often turns out gummy and sticky when it should be light and fluffy.
Usually, all it takes is a little technique tweaking to end up with the perfect pot of rice, whether short, medium or long grain.
Everyone in my family adores a heaping plateful of rice, ideally with a little soy sauce sprinkled on top. In fact, my husband considers this the perfect lunch. So simple but so good.
After a virulent stomach virus recently passed through our family, I had no reason not to finally share my easy how-to. After all, the boys barely ate a thing for three full days and, when they were finally ready to consume something solid, rice was the only thing that appealed.
So, whether you are cooking rice as one of the BRAT sickness staples (I recently had to explain this to my brother－BRAT is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast－all of which are easy on the GI tract), or simply want a perfectly prepared side dish or base for your favorite Chinese, Mexican, Thai, or Indian meal, the following technique should set you on the path to perfectly prepared grains every single time.
I’ve tested the process of cooking rice seemingly countless numbers of ways, and my best tips are summed up below. But first…
Which rice works with this recipe?
- Long grain white rice
- Medium grain white rice
- Short grain white rice except sticky and sushi rice
- White basmati rice (small time adjustment included)
- Medium and long grain brown rice (adjustment to amount of water and cooking time noted, however I have come to prefer the foolproof technique described in this post for Best Way to Cook Brown Rice. The resulting grains will be lighter, fluffier, and plumper when prepared with this easy boiling method.)
How do I make perfect rice?
- Perhaps most importantly, measure the rice and water accurately and use a timer. Precision is the ultimate key to success, and once you find the perfect formula, you can replicate it every single time. (See photo below for interesting quandary.)
- Note that this rice will be fully cooked to the al dente stage. If you prefer softer rice, add an additional 2 tablespoons of water at the start.
- Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid. This will ensure that all the moisture needed to hydrate the rice stays in the pot.
- Make sure your pot is big enough. Rice expands as it cooks, and it will cook better if it has sufficient space. A 2-quart saucepan is what I typically use for 1 cup of rice. If cooking more than 1 cup of rice at a time, you will have the most success with a pot that is 4-5 times the water level at the start.
- “Starve the grain.” The usual ratio we see for cooking rice is 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. I find a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1½ cups water (1¾ cups water for brown rice) leads to a better result.
- Do I need to rinse rice? The short answer is “no.” More on that later.
- Add the rice along with the water, not to already boiling water. The former will allow for a slow, even absorption while the latter will cook the outside layer of the rice too quickly.
Once the water comes to a boil (over medium high heat) and you cover the pot, turn the heat to low. For the most even absorption, the water should be at a very gentle simmer.
Avoid removing the lid while the rice is cooking. If you don’t have a clear lid, you may peek during the last minute or two.
When the rice is done, remove the pot from the heat, keep the lid on, and set your timer for 10 minutes. During this rest, the rice will finish cooking as the remaining moisture evenly distributes itself throughout the rice and essentially makes the exterior of the grains drier. Fluffing the rice before this time has elapsed may result in undercooked rice or rice that is stickier with more clumps.
Do I need to rinse rice before cooking?
I’ve gone back and forth on this one over the years, and I have settled on “no.” While rinsing does remove excess starch, which in theory can make the rice stickier, the following method produces rice that outshines batches I’ve made with rinsed rice.
The exception would be if you purchased rice from a bulk bin. In this case, rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer and drain very well. This will rinse off any dust or debris. Then, when measuring the water, use 2 tablespoons less to account for the moisture that remains on the rice.
How much rice should I cook per person?
- Measure a quarter cup of uncooked rice per person, or a half cup per person for more generous servings. One cup of uncooked rice will yield approximately three cups cooked.
How long will cooked rice keep?
Cooked rice will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, so you may prepare it in advance and reheat or make extra for leftovers. Cooked and refrigerated rice is also perfect for making fried rice.
- Cooked and cooled rice may also be frozen for about three months. Beyond that amount of time, the grains may be slightly mushy when thawed.
How to make the most out of leftovers?
- Rice is very absorbent, so leftover rice can become dry if it sits for several days in the refrigerator, even though it is fine to eat. To refresh it, I sprinkle leftovers lightly with water and then cover with a damp paper towel while warming in the microwave. That way, some of the steam permeates the rice and brings it back to life.
More rice tips & troubleshooting:
- Is the water fully absorbed but the rice still too firm? There are several possibilities. First is measuring correctly. Even a lightly-rounded measuring cup will lead to too much rice compared to water. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, shake the measuring cup to make certain the rice is completely below the top edge of the cup. Second, did you peek while the rice was cooking? Lifting the lid allows the steam to escape which, in turn, can interfere with proper cooking.
- Was some of the water not absorbed? Avoid removing the pan from the stove before the liquid is fully absorbed (tilt saucepan to check). 13 minutes is the average time for an average stove, but if yours is weaker, it might take 15 to 17 minutes. In addition, don’t skip resting the rice for 10 minutes after cooking. During this stage, any residual water will be absorbed!
- When you fluff the rice, did you notice that the bottom of the pan was scorched? This can mean two things. First, the heat could have been too high. Also, keep in mind that some burners are more powerful than others and moving to a smaller burner may help. Second, the pot may be too large, and this will cause the liquid to evaporate too quickly inside the pot, which will lead to scorched rice.
- Do you end up with overflow mess on the stove? Make sure your saucepan is 4 to 5 times the water level and that it has a heavy lid.
- Remember to let the rice rest, off the burner and with the pot covered, for 10 minutes. This gives the rice time to absorb the steam in the pot and finish cooking.
- Keep in mind that rice will be a little sticky. While we don’t want our rice to be gluey, mushy, or otherwise overcooked, part of the inherent appeal of rice is that hint of starchy stickiness. This technique will result in grains that separate rather easily, but it’s worth keeping in mind. This is the nature of rice!
- Are you looking for true sticky rice? Sushi rice is meant to stick together, and the technique is different but completely achievable at home. Here are my directions for foolproof sticky rice, which is perfect for a fun night of making your own sushi!
How do I fix overcooked or undercooked rice?
If your measuring cup of rice was on the heavy side or water overflowed from the pot thanks to a loose-fitting lid, here are some solutions:
- If your rice is too hard and no water remains at the end of the cooking time, add a ¼ cup of water and return the rice to the stove. Cook on low, covered, for 5 minutes and then rest for 10 minutes.
- If the finished rice is too soft for your liking, you may have to grin and bear it the first night (and then check the steps above or email me before the next time!). That said, if you let the rice cool and then refrigerate it overnight, you may very well discover that the day old rice is firmer and tastes quite good. This is because the rice naturally dries out over time.
What About Brown and Sticky or Sushi Rice?
Though I’ve included adjustments for brown rice in the recipe below, I prefer a boiling method for the longer cooking grain. That easy, foolproof technique is described in this post for Best Way to Cook Brown Rice, and the resulting grains will be lighter, fluffier, and plumper when prepared that way.
If you’d like to make sticky or sushi rice, I suggest following the method described in How to Make Sushi Rice.
- 1 cup (180g) white rice (short, medium, or long grain; see notes for brown rice and white basmati rice)
- 1½ cups (12 ounces) water (may substitute broth or stock)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste, and 1 tablespoon butter (cut into small cubes or softened) or olive oil (these additions make plain rice taste really good when served without other sauces)
- Add the water, rice, and optional salt to a large saucepan or pot with a tight-fitting lid, and set over medium high heat. When the water is bubbling gently but evenly and the surface is a bit foamy, stir once to loosen, and then turn the heat to low and cover with the lid.
- Cook on low for 13 minutes without stirring or removing the lid, after which time the water should all be absorbed (tilt the pot to check) and the rice should be tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and stir in optional butter or olive oil. Serve hot.
•Cooked rice will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, so you can prepare it in advance and reheat or make extra for leftovers. Cooked and refrigerated rice is also perfect for making fried rice. If leftover rice seems dry, sprinkle lightly with water before reheating and/or cover with a damp paper towel when warming in the microwave.
•You may double the recipe, but I do find that the deeper the rice is in the pot, the more difficult it is to cook perfectly.
For brown rice, increase the water to 1¾ cups and cook for 35 minutes. Follow the rest of the recipe as written.
For white basmati rice, follow the directions for regular white rice (using the same 1½ cups of water) and cook the rice for 12 minutes.
original post 3-21-14; updated 4-17-21