Kitchen Confidence

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice

By • March 19, 2014 • 105 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to make perfect brown rice, every time.

Brown Rice on Food52

Compared to its white counterpart, brown rice is a challenge to get right: Where white is stripped down, giving up flavor for ease of cooking, brown has more burliness to fight against, more factors to figure. But when you succeed, you are rewarded with a depth of flavor and texture that white rice will never live up to.

Here's what's tricky about cooking brown rice: You need to soften the outer bran layer, but if you try to force it into submission with too-long cooking times, you're left with gummy innards.

The best route to success, luckily, is a straightforward technique we picked up from our friends at Saveur: You treat the rice like pasta, boiling it in ample water, then strain it and let the rice steam in the pot's residual liquid, which makes things soft but never gummy.

This technique yields a bowl of fluffy brown rice with just the right amount of chew, ready to give curries and stir-fries and braises a place to rest their heads. Don't feel too bad for the white rice you'll soon begin to ignore; it will be helpful in cleaning your coffee grinder and washing your vases.

Here's how to make perfect brown rice, every time:

First, put on 12 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Then rinse a cup of rice in a fine mesh strainer under cold water until the water runs clear -- this should take you about 30 seconds.

Brown Rice on Food52

Once your water boils, add your rice and 2 teaspoons of salt; stir once, and then let it cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Brown Rice on Food52  How to Cook Brown Rice on Food52 

Strain your rice (and discard the cooking liquid), then add it back to the pot, cover it, and let it steam in its own moisture for 10 more minutes -- this lets each grain's outer bran soften without overcooking the innards.

How to Cook Brown Rice on Food52

We end with the timeless rice refrain: Fluff with a fork! And you're done. Go ahead and serve it immediately, or save it for tomorrow's lunch or a week of cheap dinners.

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice on Food52

Tell us: How do you like to cook brown rice?

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (105)

Tags: rice, brown rice, basics, grains, how-to & DIY

Comments (105)

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2 days ago Arden

I've used brown rice in my daddy's famous pork chops and rice dish (browned chops, browned onion and bell pepper rings, add broth, cook til done) and it works fine, although it clearly needs about twice as long to cook. Are you extending your cook time sufficiently? You also mentioned tomatoes -- any chance they're the culprit?

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2 days ago William Stewart

Thank you, James; that is a helpful idea. The basic concept of the recipe, though, is convenience of preparation (in one casserole). Maybe I'll just have to resign myself to using converted rice for this dish.

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2 days ago James Shanley

You could try splitting the cooking times, starting with the brown rice first and then adding ingredients according to their cooking time. I would just find a way to cook the rice on its own.

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2 days ago Deedledum

Perhaps no one has the answer you'd like William. Brown rice does require more liquid than white rice, so perhaps that's your problem here. My suggestion would be to find similar recipes using brown rice, and adapt from there.

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2 days ago William Stewart

So far no one has responded to my request: The information I have seen since I posted seems to be for cooking brown rice separately, which is fine, but I would like information on how to cook it (if possible) with other things. My pork chops with onions, tomatoes, and rice does not work with brown rice as the rice does not get tender. Can someone explain this or offer a remedy, please?

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3 days ago Deedledum

Yup. Read thru the comments, and see how well it works for others.

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3 days ago sandra savoie

12 cups of water to 1 cup of rice ????? really

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17 days ago Annie

Thanks to all who gave advice on whether to leave the burner on or off for the last 10 minutes. Leaving it off wins.

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17 days ago Mike Karnish

Greetings. For those who are questioning whether to leave the burner on or off in the last 10-minute cooking cycle - turn the burner off as the heat from the pan and the hot rice will create the environment and steam to complete the cooking process. Leaving rice in a pan with an active burner will only leave you with burnt rice, a messy clean-up and very disappointed . Lastly, do not rinse the rice as this will only drop the temperature of the rice and defeat the purpose in the last 10 minute step. Hope this helps.

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18 days ago William Stewart

The information I have seen since I posted seems to be for cooking brown rice separately, which is fine, but I would like information on how to cook it (if possible) with other things. My pork chops with onions, tomatoes, and rice does not work with brown rice as the rice does not get tender. Can someone explain this or offer a remedy, please?

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18 days ago lynne

Soaking rice will reduce cooking time, but I believe soaking and even rinsing can also reduce the amount of mercury in the rice. It seems rice is a real scavenger of metals in soil. See this article: http://well.blogs.nytimes...

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19 days ago Nick Jones

I was asked to cook rice recently and the packet suggested soaking them for an hour but everyone around me suggested it was not necessary. Apparently soaking them makes the grain longer. This recipe doesn't suggest soaking...

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about 1 month ago Moll

Just incredible! I think everyone like this recipe - it's so old and simple. Perfect for everyday eating, if you are interesting: I cook it in my Redmond 4502 multicooker and meal is ssssooo tasty! Try it!

Stringio

2 months ago Holden Christopher

There is one flaw in this recipe: after the water has boiled, rice has been rinsed, salt is added, DO I NEED TO TURN THE STOVE TEMPERATURE DOWN?!

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3 months ago alan moos

micky moos
i've been cooking perfect brown rice since my hippie days in the sixties. it's very simple. start with a good pot with a tight fitting lid.add 1 cup of brown rice to 1 and a 1/2 cups of boiling water. turn the heat down to the lowest possible flame. cover and leave undisturbed for forty five minutes. do not under any circumstances lift the lid to 'check'. after forty five minutes, turn off the heat and let the rice rest until the rest of the diner is ready. it will be perfect. then you can add butter or fluff, but that won't be necessary, as the rice will be perfect.

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4 months ago William Stewart

I have found that brown rice will not soften when cooked with pork chops, tomatoes, and onions. Can someone explain this? I know that acid (as found in tomatoes) will prevent beans from becoming tender when cooked together. Is there some similar reaction at work here?

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5 months ago Leann

I live in Colorado at 7600 feet ... Altitude is always a challenge with brown rice. Any suggestions to modify your technique for high altitude preparation, please?

Stringio

5 months ago Carmen Ligia Navratil

Thank you so much for this article! I made brown rice the other day as per your instructions and it turned out perfect and fluffy! What a life changer! I make a look of white rice, but now-not anymore! What a life changer! And so easy! I added fresh herbs to the boiling water for added flavor. Yum!

Stringio

5 months ago Carmen Ligia Navratil

*I make a LOT of white rice (not "a look of white rice")

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5 months ago lynne

The Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker makes quick and predictable work of cooking rice, quinoa and other grains in about 8 minutes. If you infuse with herbs (e.g., kaffir lime leaf and ginger, or saffron + cardamom), the rice will be especially flavorful. That said, I can appreciate the boil-first-and-dump-the-water method as this is probably breaking down the phytic acid in the grain, allowing one to access the nutrients therein. Cooking rice in leftover whey from cheese making is also a great way to break down phytic acid and give grains a nice boost of umami flavor.