There are few staples in the kitchen as versatile as fluffy white rice. Not only does it taste perfectly good in a bowl all on its own, but it is a great way to stretch stews and other meals across many days. It’s inexpensive and should be easy to make. Nonetheless, it is a challenge for many cooks to achieve the right texture. It is all too easy to undercook rice and get those slightly-hard grains, or overcook it and get mush.
Start by Rinsing and Soaking
There are a couple of different ways you can cook white rice: in a pot on your stovetop, or in a rice cooker. Whichever method you choose, you should always start out by rinsing your rice. Why? There are a couple of reasons. You want to get rid of loose starch; unless you are specifically cooking short-grain rice (which is a complicated process), you don’t want your rice to be sticky. Secondly, you want to get rid of any talc which may have been used in the milling process. This is a common procedure with imported rice.
Next, you want to soak your rice. This will make the grains stronger, so they are less likely to break. It can also extend the length of the grains. Once you have soaked your rice for about half an hour, pour it through a colander and drain the water out. Be thorough about this, or you will wind up using more water than you intended when you are cooking, which could lead to unpredictable results.
Method #1: Stovetop
There are many ways you can cook white rice, but let’s go with one of the simplest around. It is called the absorption method. Simply put, you are going to cook your rice on a stovetop with a certain amount of water in the saucepan. As the rice cooks, it will soak up the water. Since you will put in just the right amount, all the water will be absorbed directly into the grains by the time the cooking is completed. A lid on top will trap the steam, which will complete the cooking process.
How much water do you use? For every cup of long-grain white rice, you want to use around 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of water. The exact amount depends on a number of factors, including the type of rice you are using and the results you are aiming for. The less water you use, the firmer your rice will be. Using more water will result in softer rice. If you are cooking brown rice, you need more water than you do if you are cooking white rice. Short-grain rice requires less water than long-grain rice.
It is essential that the lid of your saucepan fits properly! If it is not snug enough, steam will escape, and the cooking process may not completely. This is often the reason for undercooked rice when you think you have done everything else right.
Here is a quick and simple recipe: Combine one cup of white rice with 1 ¾ cup water, and add a small amount of salt and olive oil. Bring the mixture to a boil on high on your stovetop, then drop it down to a simmer and put the lid on. Continue to cook on a simmer until the water has all been absorbed. You can lift the lid to check the tenderness of the rice, but if it is not done, be sure to put it back quickly. It should take about 12 minutes for the cooking to be complete. Then pull the pot off the heat and leave it covered for another 5 minutes before you serve. Doing this will allow the heat to continue to distribute inside. This will prevent a layer of dry, fluffy rice on top of moist, breakable rice. You will get a much more even consistency. You may need up to 30 minutes of waiting before you get the uniformity you desire. Fluff it up and serve.
Method #2: Rice Cooker
Rice cookers are great because all you have to do is drop your ingredients in and walk away. You can use the exact same ratios discussed above: put in around 1 ¾ cups of water for every cup of white rice. Read the instructions that came with your rice cooker, but most will recommend you use cold water. Add a little salt and olive oil if you want. At that point, cooking your rice is as simple as pushing a button and walking away. You may want to take the extra step first of pushing any rice grains you find on the sides of the cooker under the water level with a wooden spoon. That way they will not burn and stick to the sides.
Rice cookers are programmed to stop cooking once their internal temperatures exceed the boiling point of water. This means that all the water has been vaporized. Once your rice is finished cooking, the rice cooker will beep or the switch will click, and it will automatically turn itself from the “cook’ setting to the “warm” setting. This will keep your rice warm for you until you are ready to unplug it and eat. Once again, be sure to wait for around 5-30 minutes before you take off the lid. This will once again help to ensure uniformly cooked rice with a consistent texture. It may also reduce rice sticking to the pot. Then fluff it up and serve, just as you would if you cooked your rice on the stovetop.
Rice cookers are exactly what most local cooks favor in areas where rice is a main dietary staple. It is hard to beat a rice cooker for ease of use, and most of them offer a range of other cooking functions as well. You can buy one for $25-$250; it is a low-cost investment that will provide you with perfect fluffy white rice for years!