How to Cook Rice — Reader’s Question

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17 Jul How to Cook Rice — Reader’s Question

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When I held the contest for Dana’s Top Ten Table giveaway, I asked you to post your dinner dilemmas and promised to answer them all. So far, Dana has answered 10 of your most pressing questions in a podcast (don’t panic, I’m going to be posting recaps) and I covered Debbie’s yam versus sweet potato question.

Today, I’m addressing Marta from Calgary’s question. She wrote:

I cannot believe I’m admiting to this in public… I don’t know how to make white rice!! Yes, just plain, fluffy white rice! Mine always turns out sticky and clumpy. How do people get each grain to be separated?!?!?!

I had the same issue, Marta. I now stick to basmati and follow the directions I posted for Perfect Basmati Rice. Because the technique requires light frying, I do not rinse the rice. I buy good quality basmati and have never had an issue. To be on the safe side, I stick to one or two trusted brands. The one time I ventured into the bulk bin, I regretted it.

For those who want to move beyond basmati, here’s a quick primer on rice.

While there are far too many types of rice to deal with in one blog post, the two main types you’ll find in the grocery store are short grain and long grain. Short grain rice tends to be starchier and is more tender and sticky when cooked. This makes it perfect for sushi, risotto and rice pudding. Long grain rice tends to have less starch and is drier when cooked, separating into drier, fluffier individual grains.

The rice on the left is short grain arborio. The rice on the right is basmati, a long grain rice. They are not interchangeable.

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No matter how you cook arborio rice, it will not cook up fluffy and light. Conversely, even I find it hard to make basmati sticky.

Long grain rice may or may not need rinsing. If you’re steaming or boiling the rice, rinsing won’t make a difference. But if you’re making a pilaf, which requires frying, you don’t want to rinse the rice because it will steam.

Short grain rice, on the other hand, is usually rinsed — sometimes several times — to remove the outer starch. Of course, there’s always an exception. Don’t rinse arborio rice when making risotto because you want all the sticky starch to make the risotto as creamy as possible.

Now before you ask for specifics, I’d follow the instructions on the package. A lot depends on the type of rice you buy and how it’s been processed. However, to get a jump start on the most common questions:

  • Most rice is cooked with 2 parts water to 1 part rice. Basmati, is an exception and requires 1 1/2 cups water to 1 cup rice.
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice yields 2 to 3 cups of cooked rice. Again, this depends on the type of rice you’re making.
  • If stored in a cool, dark, dry pantry, uncooked rice keeps for years. But once cooked? It will survive only a few days in the refrigerator.

So that’s the long and short (grain) of rice. Which type do you prefer and how do you make it?

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  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 15:07h, 17 July Reply

    I'm an equal opportunity rice lover … though any kind of wild or brown rice is my absolute favorite. I'll choose the shape/type depending on what I'm cooking and I must say I've never really had a problem with rice. My favorite thing to do is make a pilaf out of brown rice, so yummy!

    My main rice issue? The husband doesn't really like it. Feh.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 15:07h, 17 July Reply

    I'm an equal opportunity rice lover … though any kind of wild or brown rice is my absolute favorite. I'll choose the shape/type depending on what I'm cooking and I must say I've never really had a problem with rice. My favorite thing to do is make a pilaf out of brown rice, so yummy!

    My main rice issue? The husband doesn't really like it. Feh.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 16:50h, 17 July Reply

    Very informative post, Charmian.

    My completely unsolicited advice to anyone who cooks a lot of rice and doesn't want to figure out the cook times or ratios for each variety: get a rice cooker. They've got a built in brain and make screwing up extremely difficult.

  • amyproulx
    Posted at 17:10h, 17 July Reply

    As someone who lives with a born-and-bred rice eater, the perfect fluffy, no-stick rice is always basmati, picked over by hand for off coloured grains, rinsed at least three times in cold water, then parboiled like pasta in excess boiling water. Cook until still cardboard-like in texture, then drain, and gently return to the same pot (generously buttered of course). No extra water needed. The rice is left to steam at very low temperature (and I mean low!) for about an hour.

    When done perfectly, the rice should slide out of the pot like a golden crusted cake, perfectly shaped. Chop of the delicious crunchy crust, and the most gorgeously perfect rice is inside. Otherwise just scoop it out, still delicious, and scratch the crunchy bits off the bottom.

  • danamccauley
    Posted at 20:50h, 17 July Reply

    I ador really great basmati rice but I find most brands that sell in relatively small quantities (under a kilo) are terrible. I've even started buying Gourmantra Indian dinner kits just 'cause their rice is so great (to be honest, their kits are excellent in all aspects but I can make many of the same dishes less expensively with items I already have in my pantry).

  • Amy
    Posted at 14:43h, 18 July Reply

    I should clarify my butter comment, ha ha. The pot is buttered, not the rice.

  • Marta
    Posted at 16:03h, 18 July Reply

    hahahaha thank so much for addressing my question!!!!
    It hurts my cook's pride so bad every time I make one of my sticky-clumpy batches of rice. It even hurt reading my comment on your post! That's why I love making risotto so much… it's supposed to be sticky!!! hahaha I need to get over this!
    I'm going to start researching brands, like you say, and find one that works for me.
    Thank you so much for answering my question!!!!

  • sofood
    Posted at 19:28h, 18 July Reply

    I grew up eating rice esp long grain rice. For South East Asian, the predominant long grain rice called Jasmine rice from Thailand is always used, and must cooked fluffy.
    We always use rice cooker(invest in one, it will really pay off), one cup of rice to one cup of water.
    And why washing the rice? To ensure as much starch is wash off as possible but no excessively, so the rice would turn out just right (and fluffy of course). Rinse only 3 times at most.
    The above the ultimate & no brainer way to cook the perfect long grain rice in my book.
    Hope this tip helps! Cheers!
    –adel

  • Maggie D.
    Posted at 10:29h, 19 July Reply

    I don't bother to rinse the rice and I usually use two parts water to one part rice. I like the aged basmati which usually cooks up just fine in 20 minutes. If some of the rice sticks together…oh well. It seems to absorb any of the sauce better that way.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 11:23h, 19 July Reply

    Diva, my husband isn't a big rice eater either, but that means more for me.

    Cheryl and sofood, rice cookers are great. I don't have one because they take up too much room and I don't eat rice often enough to justify the space. However, if you eat a lot of rice, they are worth the money and kitchen real estate.

    Amy, thanks for describing the boiling method. This works really well if you're making a large quantity. My only complaint is waiting that extra hour :-)

    Dana, thanks for the recommendation. You're right. The small packages are usually terrible.

    Marta, if you're not sure what brand of basmati or jasmine to buy, go to the Asian market and ask what brand the owner eats.

    Maggie, not rinsing the rice leaves just enough starch for the sauce to stick but still leaves it fluffy. Rinsing or not is a very personal choice. Glad I'm not alone in the no rinse camp.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 13:19h, 19 July Reply

    I found out by accident how to make perfect rice. I put the rice, water, salt and butter in a pot with a (not) tight fitting lid (it just sits there…). Put in oven with other stuff (350 degrees) and don't touch for an hour. Take out, and it's perfect. I do this with Jasmine all the time and I hate cooking it on the stove anymore. I have a rice cooker, but the oven method makes better rice.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 14:40h, 19 July Reply

    Anonymous, the oven method! How could I have forgotten this one? I only do with when I make lemon rice, but now that you say it works for plain rice, I'm definitely going to do this in future. It really cuts the work down. And you can't burn the rice.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post this great suggestion.

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