Your Burning Questions

How to Make Great (Fluffy, Stress-Free) Rice

By • March 8, 2014 • 15 Comments

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Stop thinking about it and just do it -- here's how to make perfect rice a reality.

If pasta is the life of the carb party, and bread is the staff of life, rice is decidedly more complicated. We adore it -- it's cheap, it's gluten-free, it globetrots from India to East Asia to Italy -- yet it seems as though we spend more time talking about how to cook it than we do actually making (and feasting on) it.

Enough already, we say! Lincoln cut to the chase and asked how to make perfect rice a reality. If your answers are any indication, there can be no going wrong -- just choose the method you like best:

Before You Start

  • Andrea Nguyen points out that "the amount of water varies per the type of rice." She uses 1 1/4 cups of water to 1 cup of regular, long-grain rice; 1 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of basmati rice; and even more water for brown rice, though she recommends the partially milled 'beige' rice instead, since it cooks as quickly as white rice.

Stovetop

  • When it's time to cook, Andrea Nguyen says: "Wash your rice to give it a good, clean flavor. The water won't be clear with white rice so there's no need to aim for that. Rather, aim to rinse off some of the starch. In a heavy saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil over high heat, slightly lower the heat, stir occasionally 'til you see a few craters/holes and a glossy layer of liquid on top, then cover and put the heat to low. Cook 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit 10 minutes. Fluff, then sit 10 minutes. Refluff before serving. The sitting and fluffing finishes the cooking process, and separates the grains."
  • HalfPint and dinner at ten both follow similar boil-cover-steam-fluff routines, though the difference is in the details -- HalfPint uses a 1:1 water to rice ratio, while dinner at ten uses a ratio of 2:1. Best to pay close attention on your first go-round, until you hit your magic number.
  • Before she adds her water, dinner at ten does what Roberto Santibañez does: "Sauté 1 cup of rice in a heavy pot over medium heat in a bit of oil or butter until translucent." (Dave on the grill swears by this method, too.)
  • For brown rice, Stephanie "basically fills the pot up," adds oil and spices, brings it to a good simmer, and lets it cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. "At 30 minutes, turn off heat and drain off water while you count to 10. Cover pot and let the rice sit and steam for at least 10 minutes. Fluff and enjoy perfect rice with little fuss."

Oven

  • Patty marguet never measures rice to water ratios, but advises: "always rinse well, pour it into a glazed baking dish with a glass lid, and sprinkle with salt. Cover with cool water a half-inch above the rice and bake at 400° F for 45 minutes to one hour, or until all of the water is absorbed. Remove the lid so the steam escapes; after about 10 to 15 minutes, fluff; fluff again after another 10 minutes, and serve."

Rice Cooker

Pre-Soaking

  • Michael -- a voracious rice eater who puts away "one to two pounds of rice a week" -- offers one way around fiddling with cook time and ratios when using brown rice, in response to Inko's question elsewhere on the Hotline about The New Persian Kitchen. "All it requires is some advance planning," says Michael, and a long soak in acidulated water. After thoroughly washing the rice, "I rinse and drain it well, pour a tablespoon or two of raw organic apple cider vinegar over it, cover it with water, then seal the container and place it on top of my refrigerator to keep warm for sixteen to twenty hours...Rinse and drain it thoroughly before cooking to lose the flavor of whatever acid you used. You'll find that not only does this make brown rice cook faster, but it bears much more similarity in texture to white rice," and helps you digest the rice and absorb more of its nutrients.

 What are your strategies for perfect rice? Tell us in the comments!

Jump to Comments (15)

Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, best question, rice

Comments (15)

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3 days ago Christina Phillips

I cooked brown jasmine rice the last time in homemade chicken stock - 2:1 ratio. It came out shiny, fragrant, soft and really nice.

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4 months ago Robin

My husband and I saute onion and garlic in a mix of toasted sesame oil and some bland oil. We add a heaping tablespoon of Curry paste like "Madras" or "vindaloo." Then we rinse our Basmati rice at least 3 times, drain and add it to the pot. We coat it with oil and add twice as much chicken broth as rice. As soon as the broth boils, I move it off the heat, wait til the burner cools down and replace it with no heat. When the main course is ready, so is the rice. Two nice additions are cardamon in the green pods and raisins.

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4 months ago cassiem

My Italian mother taught me to just boil the rice - we use short-or medium-grained rice - basically like I boil the pasta, with lots of salty water, for the amount of time that it says on the package - easy! and you can add any pasta-like sauce you want (though I do prefer the ones without tomatoes for this) and it's ready. I do not understand all this fuss about needing a rice cooker or crazy tips..

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4 months ago Gerald5001

You don't need a rice cooker but it is a lot easier than in a pot. I have done both and if you ever used a rice cooker you would see the difference. I was married to a Chinese woman and every house in China has a rice cooker, and the Chinese know a lot more about rice than your Italian mother

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4 months ago Les DeWitt

I have a friend from the P.I.s, and he eats rice every day. His method has always worked for me. Put the rice in a pot. Cover it with water above the rice until it is deep enough to the first joint of your pinky finger. Your finger tip touches the rice and the level of water is to the first joint. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer until water is gone. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't cook dry or burn. No matter the size of the pot or amount of rice, the method works every time.

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4 months ago Abiku Errol Hnr

Absolutely, I can’t recall how I gained this long lasting tip, but I’ve been using this method for years. The depth (fingertip to first joint) of water above rice measures roughly an inch. And yep, it works every time.

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5 months ago b

cooking rice in the oven for 45 min? And then steaming for 10 min, then fluffing for 10 min? Are you kidding me? What a waste of time and energy. Simple rice cooking directions:
1. put rice in pot
2. wash or rinse the rice to remove the white talcom
3. You will know when it is clean when the water is clear not cloudy white.
4. Put in 1.5 time water as there is rice. That is for example: 1 cup of rice, use 1.5 cups water.
5. put on high heat to bring to boil, turn down to simmer for 10-15 min. done. Serve and enjoy.
The Asian people have been doing it this way for hundreds of years. Cant be wrong on this.

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6 months ago joane

I do it all, depending on the amount of time I have. Rice is my starch of choice. Hands down,number 1,top of the Heap,Cream of the crop,my go to food.

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6 months ago Gerald5001

I always use a rice cooker. It is a lot easier that any other way of cooking rice

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6 months ago Maggie

Here's a trick for non-sticky rice from my Turkish husband. After your rice is cooked take the pot lid off, then place a clean heavy kitchen towel across the top of the pot. Place the lid back on the pot with the towel underneath. Let the towel absorb the extra moisture that accumulates while keeping your rice hot before serving.

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6 months ago joan

Makes sense! I will try this too.

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6 months ago jbright50

I'm a big fan of cooking brown rice in the oven....it's easy and turns out perfectly every time. Put 1 cup brown rice in a 9x9 ceramic pan, mix in salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, etc., bring 2.5 cups of liquid (water or stock) to a boil, pour it into the rice and stir. Add a pat of butter, cover with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour @ 350F.

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6 months ago Rémy Robert

That sounds great! Always looking for new tricks for brown rice. I'm curious about the double layer of foil -- never heard of that before. What's the idea behind it?

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6 months ago jbright50

The double foil is just to keep the steam in. I guess only a single layer would be fine, but just to be sure....

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6 months ago joan

Cook 10 minutes, set 10 minutes.... definitely will try this.