Cooking the perfect rice
It sounds so easy, but sometimes it's not: A pot of rice. You follow the directions perfectly but you end up with a mushy mess that looks a bit like Chinese congee but is much less tasty, or it sticks to the bottom of the pot and tastes burnt, or it is still crunchy after allowing twice the cooking time and you just can’t work out what went wrong. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair, we can help.
Understand your rice types
Rice is typically categorized according to shape and size as long-, medium-, or short-grain. The sizes refer to how long the grains are in relation to their width, from long and tender to short and rounded. Examples of long-grain rice are basmati, jasmine and Carolina Gold; they are less starchy and cook up better into individual grains. This is what I turn to most, and basmati is my favorite variety for its aromatic but not overpowering flavour.
Medium- and short-grain, which cook up stickier, tend to run into each other in terms of how they're categorised, but varieties include arborio (used in risotto), bomba (used in paella) and sushi rice. Brown rice is to white rice what whole-wheat flour is to white flour, in that brown rice has not had the outer (brown) bran and germ removed. Other rice types you might come across: Trendy black rice (an unprocessed version of Japanese sticky rice) and wild rice (not actually rice, but a grass).
Get your ratios right
Tradition says 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. If you find that leaves your rice too wet, try using 1 & 2/3 or 1 and ¾ cups of water to each cup of rice. Your ideal ratio may also depend on the size of your pot and how much rice you're cooking.
Rinse your rice
This is an important step. According to "Seductions of Rice: A Cookbook," by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 1998), rinsing rice "means that there is no more loose starch or other powder or coating left on the rice that might gum it up or change the texture of the cooked rice." Use cold water to rinse the rice until the water runs clear and drain well.
Consider toasting the rice
The benefits are twofold. You'll get fluffy and light rice, plus the addition of some wonderful nutty flavor. Try it with a little butter or olive oil over medium-low to medium heat in the pot before you add the water. If you want to get fancy, you can add some aromatics (garlic, onion) or spices for additional flavour.
Pay attention and be patient
Like pasta, you may want to check the doneness of the rice a few minutes before the end of the cook time recommended on the package. Ideally you'll see little craters on the surface from where the steam has cooked out. You don't want to vigorously stir, but push a little rice aside and take a look underneath. Is there wet, mushy rice lower down? Then try a piece. The rice may feel done, or it may need a bit more time. Once you're satisfied, Alford and Duguid recommend letting the rice rest for a bit after it finishes cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes, after briefly lifting the lid to let steam escape. Last step: Fluff with a fork and enjoy.
Source: Becky Krystal for The Washington Post
Four ways to perfectly cooked rice
Rice cooker method
Use 1¾ cups of liquid for 1 cup of rice. Cooking time will depending on rice type. Generally, white rice will take 10-12 minutes and brown will take 20-25. Try to avoid lifting the lid during cooking as it will disturb the cooking process. Rice is cooked when it is tender to the bite. Once cooked, remove from the heat, remove the lid and cover with a tea towel. Stand 5-10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.
Rapid boil method
All rice, long, short and in-between, can be rapid boiled. Like pasta, fill a pot with 4-5 cups of water and bring to the boil, add 1 cup of rice (roughly enough to feed 4) and continue to boil rapidly on high (with lid off to avoid overflowing) for 11-12 minutes for white rice and 20-25 minutes for brown rice. The great thing about this method is you can scoop out a few grains along the way for testing, without ruining the cooking process.
Absorption method: Basmati
Rinse rice until the water runs clear, then drain. Place rice into a bowl and cover with water, then leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain again. For every cup of rice, use two cups water. Place the water in a saucepan with a pinch or two of salt and bring to the boil. Add the drained rice to the saucepan and give it a quick stir, so it doesn’t form a lump. Put a lid on, lower the heat to a rapid simmer and cook for 11 minutes for white basmati and 20-25 minutes for brown basmati — don’t remove the lid while it’s cooking. Take the pan off the heat and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes. Lightly turn the rice to separate the grains.
Absorption method: Jasmine
Rinse jasmine rice 3-4 times until the water runs mostly clear. Don’t leave it to soak, instead place the rice in a saucepan and level it out flat. Using your finger, or a ruler, measure the depth of the rice. If it’s 2cm, you need to add 4cm of cold water in the pan, measuring from the base of the pan, not the top of the rice. Bring to the boil with a lid on, then cook on rapid simmer for 12 minutes. Take off the heat, leave the lid on, and rest for 10 minutes.