For a lot of cultures, rice is life. So getting it right is very important. Achieving perfectly cooked rice from the stove is a dream that many have not yet realized. Failed attempts yield mushy blobs, undercooked crunchy grains or a baffling mixture of both.
You follow the instructions on the package to a tee, but it still doesn't turn out right. Your parents can't help you (or don't choose to because they think a grown up like yourself should be able to cook rice on their own) and your significant other just laughs at you. Yeah, you could buy a rice cooker, but you want to be the rice cooker.
Well, I am here to help you. I promise you will be able to cook rice perfectly before you can say "short-grain-basmati-sushi-rice-master!". After reading this your rice will taste like a chef cooked it exclusively for you!
First, you should get to know the three main types of rice:
- White rice has been milled to remove the outer husk, the bran, and the germ. Although it is less nutritious, white rice does have some advantages over brown rice. For one thing, it stores longer and it also cooks faster. White rice comes in short-, medium-, and long-grain varieties.
- Brown rice is given the lightest touch when it comes to processing. It is the whole grain version with just the outer husk removed, leaving the nutrient-rich bran and germ. It is nutty, chewy, and more nutritious than white rice. Brown rice comes in short-, medium-, and long-grain varieties. Sweet brown rice is a short-grain, starchy brown rice that becomes very soft and sticky when it's cooked, and is popular in Asian cuisines.
- Black rice is a highly nutritious source of iron, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. It actually turns purple when you cook it.
Now, a few generic pointers. Everything depends on the rice type, if it has been soaked, and how it has been seasoned. It's all about water absorption and technique. To ensure flavorful, separate, fluffy grains straight from the stove, follow these more specific pointers.
When rinsing you'll want to rinse most white rice until the water runs clear to get rid of excess starch, which can cause the rice to get sticky. It may take a couple of rounds so be ready for a little wait.
If you're on the fence about soaking, you can always skip the step for most long-grain varieties. For brown rice though, you should soak your grains for 30 minutes to an hour. You should also soak medium-grain white or brown, short-grain white or brown, Basmati, Jasmine, and Texmati for about half of this (20 minutes to half an hour). For wild rice, you should soak the grains for a good six to eight hours.
You don't have to rinse and soak, but soaking rice overnight, draining your batch, then rinsing it before you cook helps make rice more digestible. This method opens up the grain up for better water absorption and speeds up cooking. It also reduces the build-up of arsenic and phytic acid (toxins).
When it comes to actually cooking the rice, the water ratio is super important (and where most people trip up). For white rice, keep to 1 cup of rice to about one and a half cups of water. Get out a measuring jug if you want to really nail it.
With brown rice, the ratio is two to one. So two cups of water (or broth) to one cup of rice. Wild rice takes longer to cook and absorb water, you'll, therefore, want the ratio to be three cups of water to one cup of rice.
In your chosen pot (and lid), combine your rice and liquid and add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil, as well as a teaspoon of salt. Let this boil, uncovered, over a medium-high heat then simmer your rice over a covered pot.
For white rice varieties, simmer your chosen grains over a medium-low heat until all the water is absorbed. This is normally 15-20 minutes but 10 if you soaked your rice. Unsoaked brown rice should be simmered the same way but for 45-50 minutes. Pre-soaked brown rice should simmer for 20 minutes.
With wild rice, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes after boiling - if it was pre-soaked. If you didn't soak it, simmer the rice for 45 minutes. No matter which type of rice you chose, you cannot, absolutely must not, under any circumstances peek a look. You let the steam and your chance at a perfect portion of rice escape through the cracks doing this.
By the way, here are a few extra tips for cooking the perfect rice:
- If the rice is done before you are ready to serve it, place a folded towel over the saucepan, replace the lid, and set aside. The towel will absorb the excess moisture and condensation, helping to prevent overcooked and mushy rice.
- Basmati is the usually the best quality rice as it has slim grains with needle sharp points at each end. Plus it also has the very best flavor.
- Although rinsing the rice helps to get rid of the excess starch some people refrain from doing so because you run the risk of losing a lot of its nutrients.
- Always aim to use a wide and shallow pan.
Remember that rice expands as it cooks so you must half or double your recipe depending on how many people you want to feed. Double check the grains packet for the yield per cup. Good luck! If it doesn't work, you could just order-in again.