Rice is a cereal grain; there are white, brown, black, red and purple varieties of rice. Rice offers a wonderful backdrop for other flavors, because it is has such a neutral flavor. Combined with legumes, it becomes a vegetarian protein. It is low in fat and offers a good deal of Vitamin B, potassium, and phosphorus, as well as some fiber, which is all great…but how do I cook perfect rice? UPDATE: I have discovered the best way to cook rice is the Absorption Method, which I touch on in the article. I have revised the recipe to reflect the way I now cook rice. I’ve found this works with converted, Jasmine, Basmati, and Chinese Black Rice. I have not used this with the short-grained rices, but usually one make risotto or paella with those and the method is similiar, but different enough so as to fall under its own category. Please check the changes and you’ll have better rice. I promise!
When I give cooking classes and demonstrations, I get asked this question more than you might think. Usually people come up to me after class, working their way around the outside of the room, furtively glancing over their shoulders, because they think this is a dumb question. It’s not; if you are wondering about something, always ask, because I can guarantee you that other people are having problems with, want to know about, would like to do a better job of…in this case, cooking rice. There are 2 things that are extremely important in preparing perfectly fluffy rice. First, you need to know which cooking process works best for which rice. I’ve spelled that out below for each of the different rices. Secondly, DO NOT omit the resting period at the end of cooking. This step allows the moisture in the rice to redistribute itself, thus producing a more uniform texture throughout the pot As to equipment, a heavy-bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid gives the best results. If the lid doesn’t fit tightly, place a tea towel over the pot, put the lid on the pot and bring the ends of the towel up on top of the lid, otherwise you may experience a visit from your local fire department when the towel catches on fire.
We’re going to look at Long-Grained White, Converted (also called Carolina Rice), and Brown rices. We’re going to focus on 2 types of cooking methods, the absorption method and let’s call it, the “pasta-cooking” method.
Long-Grain White Rice is the most common and least expensive rice, generally speaking. Generally, it is a good idea to rinse rice under cold water until the water runs clear, because sometimes the rice is coated with talc to help in the milling process. The talc is harmless, but if you don’t wash it, you can indeed, end up with a sticky, gooey finished product. After washing this type of rice, drain it well.
The general rule of thumb is for every cup raw rice, you’ll use about 1 teaspoon salt and 2 cups water/broth. If you prefer slightly firmer rice, then you will reduce the liquid to 1 3/4 cups water/broth. Cook it uncovered, over medium heat, just until steam holes appear in rice and grains on the surface appear a bit dry, about 3-4 minutes. Cover the pan and cook the rice over very low (use the lowest BTU burner you have) heat for 12-13 minutes more—do not remove the lid during this time (this is a common mantra, but I have been known to lift the lid to make sure the rice is fully cooked and the water is absorbed—just replace the lid quickly). Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes or as long as 30 minutes; do NOT skip this step.
Fluff the rice with a fork or chopstick before serving. If you have an electric stove, use two burners: bring the rice to a boil on a hot burner and then immediately slide it to a burner set on low to continue cooking at a slow simmer. When many of the Latino women I know cook rice, they heat some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan they will cook the rice in, add the rice and stir it around for a few minutes. The rice will begin to be a bit opaque. Then they add boiling water and salt and continue as suggested above.
Converted Rice is par-boiled rice. The rice is steamed under pressure before being milled. This process forces the nutrients into the center of the grain. The rice is then polished, resulting in more nutritious rice than white rice and more digestible rice than brown rice. This steaming process ensures a firmer grain that requires no pre-cooking rinsing and makes it move difficult to over-cook, will always be fluffy and not stick together. This rice is cooked using the same proportions and procedure as long-grain white rice.
Brown Rice has the bran still intact. It can be cooked conventionally, but I think it works better to cook it like pasta. Wash the rice, then drain well. Place the rice in a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook uncovered for about 22-25 minutes. When the grains reach the desired tenderness, pour the water off; drain well and return to the pot. Let stand for 10 minutes; do not skip this step if using immediately. If you are using the rice in a salad or stir-fry, throw the rice on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool. Any excess water will tend to evaporate. Many people feel that brown rice is “healthier”. While brown rice has more fiber, it also has far more fat than an equal amount of white rice. NOTE: Because of the higher fat content, dry brown rice can become rancid, but most people use it up before this happens.
Perfect White Rice
- 1 cup long-grained white rice
- 1 3/4 cups water or broth
- 2-4 teaspoons olive oil, butter bacon fat, vegetable oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
If you wish, rinse the rice in a few changes of cold water. Drain the rice well in a sieve. For most rices this isn’t absolutely necessary.
Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid; add the oil. Pour in the rice and stir until well coated and the rice is beginning to become a bit opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1-3/4 cups water or broth, the salt and the bay leaf, if using (the liquid should cover the rice by about 3/4-1 inch). Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and continue to simmer until the water has boiled off and is almost to the top of the rice. Cover and turn off the heat. If you have an electric stove, slide the pan to an unheated burner. Let stand for 15 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove the lid, taste and fluff the rice. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes more or as long as 30 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice again and serve.
- Fact: The amount of water to add can vary depending on the rice. New crop rice grown in the same year is not as dry and requires less water when cooking.
- Fact: Arkansas is the major producer of rice in the US.
- Fact: Wild rice (Zizania palustris), looks similar to but it not directly related to rice.
- Fact: Cold, cooked rice (leftover rice works perfectly) is essential to making good fried rice that doesn’t clump.