Don’t be afraid, you CAN cook fantastic rice without an electric rice cooker. A couple weeks ago, I posted information on myths and truths about cooking rice and people contributed lots of helpful tips and personal stories. Now, I’m following up with insights on how to cook perfect rice in a pot.
Whether you cook long-grain rice in an electric rice cooker or a saucepan, practice and consistency are the keys to doing it well. The following tips will put you on the path to cooking a good pot of rice every time. What is perfect rice?That’s something to be debated. I like my grains to retain their individuality but not be dry. The cooked rice should be soft but not mushy. It should taste clean and sweet and have a wonderful fragrance. Rice is a wonderful canvas upon which you can put other textures and flavors. It should be great on its own (I sprinkle a little fish sauce on plain rice on many occasions!) but also be ready to play nice with other dishes.
You may enjoy rice that’s more stick-to-your-ribs, and you can achieve that by cooking a medium grain rice, such as what’s enjoyed in Japan and Korea. If a dry rice is preferred, basmati may be your ticket. For Vietnamese and other kinds of Southeast Asian and East Asian cuisines, basmati is a little too dry for most uses. However, I’ve found that it is quite nice for fried rice!
My everyday rice is Thai jasmine long grain rice. Currently, I buy Phoenix brand at the Chinese market. For information on shopping for long-grain rice, visit the the Basic Vietnamese Kitchen page.
The pan for making riceIf you elect to cook rice on the stove top, choose a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Since rice more than triples in volume during cooking, the amount of raw rice should fill no more than one-fourth of the pan. For example, use a 1½- or 2-quart pan for 11/2 cups of rice, and a 2- or 3-quart pan for 2 cups of rice.
Amount of rice to cookOne (1) cup raw rice yields 3 ½ cups cooked rice, or enough for 3 light eaters. To be sure you have enough rice, prepare 1 ½ cups raw rice for 3 or 4 people and 2 cups raw rice for 4 to 6 people.
Time required to cook a pot of rice?Plan on 30 minutes from the moment you turn on the heat to when the rice is cooked. For that reason, I start my pot of rice first before preparing other dishes for our everyday meals. Rice will keep warm for about 30 minutes so if it takes roughly 1 hour to make dinner, you'll be set.
For a dinner party, I start the rice right before or soon after guests arrive so that it can cook while we're sipping wine or cocktails and nibbling on snacks. You can keep a pot of cooked rice warm in a low (250F) oven too after it's done cooking.
How to wash riceWhether you are rinsing the rice in a pan, a rice cooker insert, or abowl, use plenty of water and always start by stirring the rice incircles with your fingers or by rubbing it gently between your palms to
loosen the starches.
How to Cook Rice in a Rice Cooker
Cooking rice in a rice cooker is insanely easy, which is why it’s our recommended method. If you’ve got a rice cooker on hand (or if you eat enough of it to justify purchasing one), it will save you all the headaches of under-cooked rice or charred grains that you have to scrape off the bottom of the pot. If you’ve got the legendary Instant Pot, it works as a rice cooker, too.
Sam Slaughter/The Manual
Rice cookers heat water to a boil quickly and shut themselves off when the grains reach the perfect temperature, so you end up with yummy, fluffy rice with less time commitment and less work. On top of that, many rice cookers will only have one button: on or off. That’s it. Just put in the proper amount of rice and water, turn it on, and leave it alone. Here is the tried and true method for cooking perfect rice every single time.
- If you prefer less sticky rice, rinse before you add it to your cooker. This isn’t necessary with brown rice, because it doesn’t have the same high level of starch that white rice does. It’s alright to throw the rice into the cooker when it’s still a little wet; it won’t disturb the cooking process.
- Add the appropriate amount of rice and water to your cooker. A good rule of thumb is to use 2 cups of water to each cup of rice, and you can scale up easily if you’re making a larger batch. Some rice cookers may advise a different ratio, so feel free to consult your manual and experiment a little the first couple of times you use it.
- Close the lid and make sure it’s nice and secure so all the steam produced will stay inside the cooker.
- Turn on the rice cooker and walk away. Some rice cooker models may have timer settings. If that’s the case, you can consult your manual to see the timing it advises for different types of rice. White rice takes 18-20 minutes, while brown rice can take up to 45.
- Once the cooker senses that it has reached the ideal temperature, it will shut itself off. At this point, you’ll hear a beep, the click of the latch releasing, or both to let you know your rice is ready.
- After the rice has finished cooking, let it sit in the cooker for 10 minutes. This will give it a fluffier final texture.
- Open the rice cooker, fluff your grains up with a fork, and serve how you like.
Because this handy little appliance steams your rice at the perfect temperature – no more, no less – cleaning it is even easier than cooking with it. Any rice that remains stuck to the side of the cooker will brush or rinse of easily. No scraping or elbow grease required.
How to Cook Rice on the Stove
Cooking rice on the stove is trickier because you’ll have to monitor the temperature and resist the urge to impatiently lift the lid while it steams. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can still whip up perfect rice every time. For large batches (enough for two or more), use a large stockpot. The increased surface area on the bottom of the pot will help to distribute heat more evenly and keep your rice at an ideal temperature. If you’re only making rice for yourself, you can use a smaller saucepan. Just make sure whatever dish you use has a properly-fitting lid, because you want to be able to seal in as much of the steam as possible while your rice cooks.
Sam Slaughter/The Manual
- Just like in a rice cooker, rinse white rice before you add it to your pot to prevent it from being too sticky.
- Add the appropriate amount of water to your pot. Use the same water-to-rice ratio as before: 2 cups water to 1 cup rice.
- Add a pinch of salt, place the lid on the pot, and let the water come to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add in your rice. Stir it a couple of times to keep the grains from sticking together, but don’t over-stir – once or twice should do it. TIP: add some butter (about 1 tbsp) to the pot when you add the rice.
- Keep the heat on high until the water rises back to a simmer, then reduce it to low. You want just enough heat to keep the water simmering, but not enough to create a rolling boil. Once it’s simmering nicely, put the lid on.
- Now is the most important step: Don’t touch the pan again for at least 18 minutes for white rice and 30 minutes for brown rice. Don’t lift the lid, don’t move the pot around, don’t stir the rice. In fact, don’t even look at it. Leave the room if you must! This is when bad things happen. Steam is the most critical component of tender, fluffy rice. If you take the lid off while it’s cooking, you let all that precious steam out into your kitchen where it’s doing no one any good. Well, except maybe your tile. But you weren’t setting out to steam clean your backsplash, were you? No, you’re here for that tasty rice. So, don’t do it.
- After 18 or 30 minutes (depending on the type of rice you’re making), carefully lift the lid and check the consistency of the rice. Even if there’s water left in the bottom of the pan, go ahead and check the texture. If it needs more time, put the lid back on and check again in a few minutes.
- Once your rice is nice and tender, turn the heat off completely and let it sit in the warm pot, with the lid on, for 10 more minutes to absorb the last bit of steam and reach peak fluffiness.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
So, there you have it. Choice, fluffy rice every single time. If you want to flavor your rice while cooking, consider substituting stock for water or using bouillon cubes during the cooking process. Now that you know how to cook rice, whether you’re using a rice cooker or the stovetop, it’s time to look for some killer recipes.