Kitchen Confidence

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice

By • March 19, 2014 • 83 Comments

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 (83)

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

Comments (83)

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about 15 hours 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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4 days 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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16 days ago Ife

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

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19 days ago Annie

Thanks Wilma.

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19 days 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!

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19 days ago Wilma Diaz-Cruz

Annie, I turned it off. It worked fine.

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21 days 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

21 days 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

21 days 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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22 days 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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22 days ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

So glad this worked for you!

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about 1 month 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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24 days 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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about 1 month 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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about 1 month 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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about 1 month 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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2 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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2 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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3 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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about 1 month 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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3 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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2 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

So glad you found this useful!

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3 months ago Cat

Really badly written instructions. Even experienced cooks appreciate CLEAR instructions. The "put water back", seems to have stumped a few. Great recipes can get kicked to the curb if directions fall short...... Just sayin'

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4 months ago russ p

PS... is there any concern over lost nutrients when boiling over steaming brown rice?

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4 months ago russ p

Tried it and works pretty good. For my stove top I might cut 5 minutes out next time.

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4 months ago Wendy McPeake

When you put the pot with the rice back on the stove, do you keep it on high heat or turn off the element?

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4 months ago Wendy McPeake

Just saw the reply below. Ignore the question above!

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4 months ago russ p

Her point is to boil it in 12 cups of water as you would cook pasta... I'm trying it tonight.

Stringio

4 months ago Ellen Dolo

Are you saying to put it back into the liquid to steam it, or suspend it in a strainer to steam it, or steam it without additional moisture?

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

You discard the cooking liquid, and then you steam the rice in its own heat + liquid!

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4 months ago Miaaf

Straining it is the way to do it. A number of different cultures do this to their rice.
Sorry Marian, but I prefer the method that Persian cooks & many of my mother's (she's Chinese). My 77 year old mother saw your recipe and thought you were on the right track but still not quite 100% on it. My mother has been cooking rice since she was a little girl and she's never made a bad pot of it. All of her non Asian friends have been taught this manner by her and they are die hard converts as well.

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4 months ago S

One GLARING ERROR, 1 Cup of Rice needs 2 Cups of water NOT 12! Other that a good recipe, and you should also tell people to NEVER eat White Rice because it has no nutritional value whatsoever. I've been making superb Brown Rice for decades, and enjoy adding all kinds of flavouring, but are staying away from Soy Sauce nowadays because of the excessive killer-Salt (enough for 3 days). I never add salt to the cooking of Rice either.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Hi Steve, the 12 cups of water are not a typo. You essentially boil this rice in a high volume of water, the way you do with pasta -- this also keeps the water temperature up when you add the rice. It's just a different method! And I've found it's the most consistent way to cook brown rice. Hope you'll give it a try -- 12 cups and all.

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4 months ago Miaaf

I agree with Steve, the 12 cups of water is excessive.

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4 months ago Miaaf

Regarding all rice that you will cook, there are two things you should do that are not mentioned 1) clean the rice thoroughly before soaking, this is a MUST. 2) is to soak the brown rice overnight or any other rice that you want to prepare. The soaking process will reduce your cooking time for brown rice to 20 minutes and white rice to 15 minutes. Strain, cover and cook on lowest heat possible for 5 minutes. Turn off & let rest for an additional 5 minutes and then fluff. It is not necessary to add 12 cups of water nor any salt. What is important is that you have enough room in the pot to add enough water to the pot, 3-4 inches measured from the top of the rice.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

I actually call for rinsing the rice for 30 seconds in this article -- thanks for sharing your experience with soaking!

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4 months ago Miaaf

Marian, my Chinese mother always made sure the rice was rinsed till it was clear. From experience it takes about 3 minutes to do it, fill the bowl/pot of rice with water, agitate it to loosen the starch for about 10-15 seconds, rinse and repeat until the water is clear.

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4 months ago russ p

Thank you Susie and Lynda for asking the question that should have been part of the instructions to begin with. I'll try this because my pressure cooker is consistently inconsistent... why bother tom?

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4 months ago tom

best way to make ANY rice-----leave it in the box , and let someone else eat that junk.

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4 months ago Al

I'm DIABETIC and white rice sends my blood sugar through the roof. Does anyone know if brown rice is better for me? I love rice.

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4 months ago S

Al, I know that White Rice has no nutritional value whatsoever. I would ask a Certified Nutritionist about raising blood sugar, but can't see plain Rice doing that. Have you looked at what you add to the Rice?

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4 days ago Sarah B. Harlow

brown rice still has the fiber and nutrients that have been taken out of white rice. it can actually help stabilize your blood sugar as it's a whole grain. everything in moderation, obviously, but brown rice will be much better for you and your blood sugar than white.

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4 months ago David

I picked up a simpler recipe that is pretty much foolproof from a cookbook many years ago. I believe it was Madhur Jaffrey:

3 parts H2O for 2 parts brown rice (salt if desired)

Place rice and cold water in a pot with a well fitting lid (not a pressure cooker).

Bring the water to a boil then let simmer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes turn the heat to high for 5-10 sec. (gas stove works best). Then turn off heat and let sit for 30 minutes.

Perfect rice every time.

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4 months ago Susie Harley

so is it really 12 cups water for 1 cup rice? also, i imagine during the 30 mins "cooking time", the stove is set to simmer? what about during the last 10 mins, once you've strained the water out - still keep the stove on low? or just let it sit w stove turned off? thanks!

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4 months ago Lynda wise

I also have the same questions.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, you use 12 cups of water; think of it as cooking rice the way you cook pasta. And the rice boils for the whole 30 minutes! Once you drain, the stove should be off. Hope that clears things up!

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4 months ago S

It MUST be a misprint or this Author is out of their mind.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Nope, not a misprint! My mind is still intact.

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5 months ago Mr_Vittles

I'm living in South Korea and brown rice is just kind of starting to come into popular diet. Beore it was used primarily as a mix-in and not really eaten alone, for example 3/4 white:1/4 brown. The brown rice I find in markets is milled a little more than most brown rice I found back in the States, but still definitely tastes like brown rice. I soak mine in salted water for 4 to 8 hours, then dump the water, rinse, then add enough fresh water to cover by about 1.75 inches, add about teaspoon of salt and cook in a standard single switch rice cooker. The trick is letting it rest unmolested for about 45 minutes after it is done. Since the type of rice cooker is not of the "smart" variety it cooks my brown rice just as it would white rice, READ: too fast. Letting it rest gives it time to absorb the liquid and fully cook.

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5 months ago LoriW

I mix 3 varieties of brown rice together (short, long, whatever I find at the Asian market), along with "wild rice", and about 5% dry soybeans. I cook one-to-one measure of water (or broth)-to-rice for 40 mins then let sit off the heat for about 10 mins. It's chewy and nutty and great for stir fry as a left over.

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4 months ago Susie Harley

loriW - you cook it for 40 mins 1-1? isn't that not enough liquid? you use 1 cup water, for 1 cup rice, for ex?

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4 months ago LoriW

Susie - I goofed! I do use 2 cups liquid for each cup of rice.

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4 months ago LoriW

Place the rice in boiling, salted (or herbed) liquid, stir well then cover, immediately reduce heat to low/simmer for the cooking time. When time's up, turn it off and let sit unmolested for about 10 mins. Uncover and stir gently. It's ready.

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5 months ago James Shanley

One last observation: for cooking one cup of rice, a smaller pan seems to work better than a larger one. I'll leave it to the food scientists out there to explain why.

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5 months ago Mr_Vittles

Surface area. READ: less direct contact with the heating element. READ: bottom of the pan.

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5 months ago susan g

About the rinsing issue: we have been told not to rinse rice by the producers and packagers of enriched white rice. I would rinse any agricultural product -- there is rice dust from processing and abrasion; there could be all kinds of foreign objects ranging from the rice husks themselves to the ambient or human 'dust.' Remember, even organics grow in dirt and have human handlers, even exposure to fuel particulates, etc.
About the white rice, consider what you have and what your priorities are. (I'm not even mentioning rodent and insect contamination.)

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5 months ago MarieH

1 part rice: 2 parts water. Bake at 350 for one hour. Easy!

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5 months ago Joana Correia

I normally soak the rice in water for about 8h and then cook it as would cook the white rice :)

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5 months ago Lisa

This is great! I have a family of six, how can I cook more than 1 cup of rice? Any ideas?

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5 months ago Cassandra Brown

I would assume its the same way just with more rice.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

You can definitely get away with doubling the rice but not the water here.

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5 months ago Deedledum

Yup, 12 cups is right. I've doubled the recipe, using 2 cups rice to the same 12 cups, and it's still perfect.

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Thanks for sharing -- I've tried the same thing with great success.

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5 months ago meg

12 cups? Not two or 3 perhaps?

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Nope! 12 is correct. Think of it as cooking your rice like you cook pasta.

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5 months ago Joan Stickles

I have used this method for over a year. Perfect every single time.

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5 months ago Deedledum

http://www.foodnetwork... Here's Alton Brown's recipe; and yup, it works on Basmati too.

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5 months ago jesseclark

The article says '12 cups of water'. Surely that is a typo and they meant '2'...

I make brown rice in the pressure cooker too. Done in 25 minutes!

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5 months ago Caitlyn Rhodes

I have to agree that Alton Brown's method is definitely the superior method resulting in perfect rice every time. Finding his recipe was a Godsend.

Stringio

5 months ago lucia.gregory

In the pressure cooker! See instructions for brown rice in "Pressure Perfect" by Lorna Sass.

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5 months ago katie hill

Oops just noticed that I said add ? c. cold water…should be 1 ? c. cold water...

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5 months ago katie hill

Here's another way to make perfect long grain brown rice. Rice:water ratio is 1 cup rice to 1 ? cup water (with a pyrex measuring cup as the measure). Measure out one cup of rice and put it in a fine mesh strainer. Run the rice under cold water for less than a minute, moving it around with your fingers or a spoon to release the starch. Shake the strainer like you would pasta in a colander to get more of the rinse water out. Put the rice in a saucepan and add ? cup cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for 50 minutes. Take off the lid and fluff. This rice doesn't gum up even when cold or reheated. To reheat, simply put a little water in the bottom of a saucepan and heat on medium, add a serving of rice and keep the rice moving until it warms.

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5 months ago Arden

Gotta agree with spinal77 -- although this method might work okay, *nothing* beats Alton Brown's oven method. Totally transformed my relationship with brown rice!

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5 months ago spinal77

sorry, the best way to cook brown rice is alton brown's oven method. Comes out perfect, and is really easy without all the babysitting involved here.

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5 months ago Tara

I've been making brown rice for years in the pot method (1 cup rice, 1 1/4 cup cold water, 1/2 tsp salt, let boil, lid off, for 5 min, cover turn down heat, simmer for 40 min. remove and let sit. cover on, for 5 min. Works well. But once I found Alton Brown's method, I will never go back to stove top rice.

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Wow, spinal77 and Tara Mills, the Alton Brown method sounds perfect (and useful, too, as I'm always looking for ways to use my oven while roasting/baking other things) . . . Does this work with brown basmati rice, too? Is it necessary to rinse? Thanks so much! ;o)

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5 months ago Tara

I use brown basmati quite often using this method and it works beautifully. I do rinse the rice first.

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5 months ago James Shanley

Any links to the Alton Brown method?

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5 months ago James Shanley

Never mind. I found the link in a previous response.
I've been disappointed with the results I have had cooking brown rice in my rice cooker, so this is helpful information. White basmati rice seems to be very, very easy to cook on a stove top. For me, the trick is once the rice comes to a boil, give it a good stir, cover, and then turn the heat down as low as it will go. Comes out better than in a rice cooker, every time.

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Alton Brown's recipe on foodnetwork.com is poorly drafted, in that it suggests that you should put butter in your tea kettle (?!). Also, he suggests that the rice be made in a baking dish covered with foil. Being a real curmudgeon about the irresponsible and unnecessary use of any disposable product, the use of which has a negative environmental impact, I prefer this recipe, which (a) is better drafted, and (b) has you make the rice in a Dutch oven.
http://simplifried.com...
;o)

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4 months ago colobill

AntoniaJames, Where does it say put butter in tea kettle?

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4 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Fair enough. It says to put them in a kettle. I hear or read "kettle" and I think "tea kettle;" I don't know anyone who uses the term "kettle" in the broader dictionary sense (which I just looked up) of any pot with a cover used for boiling water or stews. You learn something new every day. I stand corrected. ;o)