Kitchen Confidence

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice

By • March 19, 2014 • 91 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 (91)

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

Comments (91)

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Stringio

11 days 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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25 days 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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2 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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2 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

3 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

3 months ago Carmen Ligia Navratil

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

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3 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.

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3 months ago SFJeff

...or just cook it in a rice cooker that is made to handle brown rice....like the Zojirushi NP-HBC10 5-1/2-Cup model, which even has an option to cook brown rice so as to activate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), "an amino acid in brown rice believed to have health enhancement properties such as lowering blood pressure, improving kidney function, and relieving stress." Seriously...once you've cooked perfect rice with no effort _and_ with an easy, simple clean-up afterward, cooking any kind of rice in a pot seems like a lot of unnecessary work.

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3 months ago Sarah B. Harlow

i came across this article about a month ago and haven't gone back to the old way - hovering over the pot, anxiously adding extra droplets of water, and in the end scraping burnt rice from the bottom of the pan despite your efforts - once! this method absolutely makes perfect brown rice every time and is worry-free. such a game changer. thank you!

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4 months ago Ife

You said to cook uncovered, what happens with a pressure cooker

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4 months ago Annie

Thanks Wilma.

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4 months ago Annie

A question. When I put the rice back in the pot to steam for 10 minutes, is the burner on or off? Thanks!

Stringio

4 months ago Wilma Diaz-Cruz

Annie, I turned it off. It worked fine.

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4 months ago Brenda

Ok- so I tried Alton Brown's recipe and I will never cook brown rice any other way again! So easy and perfect outcome - fluffed it w/a fork and it was perfect! I did use chickenbroth instead of water and it was great. Thank you!

Stringio

4 months ago Wilma Diaz-Cruz

Marian, thank you so much for this recipe. You have no idea how I go shopping for brown rice and I get a box of instant because its never a good experience cooking it. You have saved me!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! PS It came perfect and followed your recipe to a T. &;0)

Stringio

4 months ago Wilma Diaz-Cruz

I just finished another batch after the first one it's all gone. It was dinner and lunch for tomorrow and the dogs loved it, too...my hubby, too! <3

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4 months ago Megh

Hi... this is Megh. Since so many days i want to know how to cook brown rice in a
correct way. once tried but ended with gummy sticky rice. yesterday i tried your method and succeed . Thanks a lot for your help

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

So glad this worked for you!

Barn_owl

4 months ago Jeanne

I like to use a rice cooker. Never had any problems with cooking brown rice in it. I simply do it the same way I cook white rice. Comes out perfect every time. Not sticky nor soggy. Wow, people sure get passionate about cooking methods here!

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4 months ago Riffi OBrien

Same with me. Have you ever used veg or chicken broth instead of water when using your rice cooker?

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3 months ago Barbara Pepelko

You must have a fancier rice cooker than mine. I end up with either not fully cooked brown rice or burned to the bottom soggy brown rice, so I'm really looking forward to trying this method! Don't be so negative about people who are interested in learning about new (better for them) ways to do things!

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5 months ago Brenda

I can't wait to try this method! I was raised on white rice due to Hawaiian family members so have been suffering rice withdrawals since going healthy and leaving white rice in the dust with the other "evil whites." The one thing that I do when I cook brown rice is instead of water, I use either beef, chicken or turkey stock - adds lots of flavor. I guess I'd have to split the 12 cups of water this method calls for between water & stock considering the cost of stock vs water.

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5 months ago Emily

I've been struggling with brown rice so I'm really excited to try this tonight! Inspired!! And I must say I've never seen such rude comments before, especially on a subject so subjective as cooking methods. If you think you know better than the author maybe you should start your own blog and leave your negativity there.

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5 months ago Alana Marie

I am really sorry to hurt your feelings. I am surprised with these comments. I am a very respectful person and it was not my intention to disrespect the author or anybody else. I thought that my comments in the way I do it will add some additional help to others. I will cancel my subscription immediately in order to avoid any other misunderstanding. Again my respect to the author.

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6 months ago Barb

Thanks for this idea, I'm going to try it. And can I just say, judging from the judgments below, that I wonder why anyone would try and help others out just to be criticized over and over. I think it's clear enough, 'like pasta' that the 12 cups is not a typo, and posters might want to see what other's have written before they keep making the same comment repeatedly.

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6 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Thanks, Barb! Glad you found the directions clear -- I really think this is one of the easiest ways to make brown rice well, consistently!

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6 months ago Alana Marie

I have been cooking brown rice for about a year. The instructions in the package are four cups of water for two cups of rice. I followed them and finished with an horrible plate. Then I tried with three cups of water for two cups of rice and I finished with a perfect rice. I let the rice to boil for about two or three minutes in high and then change it to medium and cover it until the water is absorbed and then I change it to low and cover it again. All the process takes about 20 minutes.

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5 months ago Monique

Alana,
Do not allow someone to discourage or criticize your opinion. I want to thank you for your feedback. I love many options. Please do not feel their opinion is better than yours. Thanks

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7 months ago Garfield

I have always disliked brown rice, but finally decided I was probably missing something if so many loved it. So, I tried this recipe, boiling it, found I LOVE it, too!! Oh my, what a difference between this and the 2 to 1 method for 40 minutes!!
Thank you, thank you!!

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6 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

So glad you found this useful!