- Long-grain white rice is not as difficult to cook on the stove as it may seem.
- Be sure to rinse excess starch off the rice first and remember the 2:1 water to rice ratio.
- After your rice is boiled, let it steam and fluff it with a fork to ensure a lighter texture.
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Cooking rice can be intimidating, and it may take several tries to get it right. But once you’ve perfected it, fluffy white rice is a versatile foundation for a global array of flavors. It’s easy to cook white rice on the stove or microwave if you don’t have a rice cooker.
Chef George Chen, founder of San Francisco’s premier Chinese food emporium China Live shares his tips on how to consistently cook rice. Chen imports WuChang organic rice from the Heilongjiang area in China’s northeast, favored by ancient royalty, as well as Champion rice from Taiwan, but his tips will work just as well with any long-grained rice variety.
Before you get started
- Choose your rice type: There are many different types of rice, ranging from short to long-grain, including Arborio, basmati, black rice, red rice, sticky rice, jasmine, and many more. Here, we focus on cooking basic long-grain white rice, including Texas long grain and jasmine, which are most commonly used in the United States.
- Rinse your rice: In Chinese culture, Chen says that three rinses is standard practice. He rinses three times so that the water is clean and clear. This removes excess starch from the outside of the grains helping to prevent gummy or sticky rice.
- Know the rice to water ratio: Lay your palm flat on top of the rice and the water should just barely cover the top of your hand. More generally, there should be about an inch of water over top of the rice. Chen says that shorter grain rice requires more water than long grain rice. The exact ratio depends on the rice type and cooking vessel. For long-grain white rice, aim for a 2:1 water to rice ratio.
- Portion properly: 1 cup of raw rice becomes 4 cups of cooked rice. Aim for 1 cup of raw rice for every two people, which will equate to two bowls each. Any leftover rice is perfect for making congee or fried rice the following day.
Quick tip: Rice cookers are the most consistent way to cook rice because they automatically shut off once the water has been absorbed. You can also use rice cookers to cook other grains, so they’re a worthwhile, versatile investment.
How to cook rice on the stove
Always rinse rice before cooking it to remove excess starch.
- Wash the rice until the water is clear. Two to three rinses should do the trick. This removes excess starch and prevents the rice from being gummy.
- Combine room-temperature water and rice. Measure the needed amount of water in a small Dutch oven or heavy pot with a solid, heavy lid to keep the steam in. Long-grain white rice usually requires around a 2:1 water to rice ratio, so if you’re boiling 1 cup of raw rice, use 2 cups of water.
- Bring water and rice to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, immediately cover and turn the heat to a low simmer. Chen says that Texas long grain rice typically takes a little longer than jasmine rice to cook.
- Let the rice cook undisturbed. Don’t stir the rice and try not to peek. Letting the steam escape will cause the rice to dry out and result in undercooked rice.
- Look for visual cues that the rice is done. Throughout the cooking process, you’ll see lots of steam escaping from under the pot lid. When the steam is almost gone you know it’s ready. This usually takes 16 to 20 minutes. You can taste now to make sure the rice is cooked through.
- Let it steam. Turn the heat off and let it steam in the residual moisture for 10 minutes for a soft, fluffy texture.
- Fluff with a fork. This separates the grains and prevents clumping, making your rice light and airy. Your rice is now ready to serve.
How to cook rice in a microwave
Microwaving rice might save time, but Chen is a traditionalist and does not recommend it. If done incorrectly your rice could easily end up harder and less fluffy. That said, if you follow these instructions, your rice will still turn out pretty well, and you may not even be able to tell the difference. If saving time is your priority, give microwaving a shot.
- Wash the rice. Rinse rice until the water runs clear, just like cooking it on the stove.
- Add rice and water to a microwave-safe bowl. Use enough water to cover the rice by about half an inch. A fairly wide, shallow container works best and ceramic is better than plastic.
- Season gently. Add a little olive oil and a pinch of salt to taste, then stir lightly with a spoon to mix oil and salt.
- Microwave in stages. Microwave on full power for five minutes with a lid on top of the container, but not sealed tight, allowing steam to escape. A lot of the water should be boiled off by this point, but it shouldn’t have dried out. If the water is all gone, add a little more. Then, microwave at half power for another 15 minutes.
- Let it steam. Let rice rest in the microwave for another five minutes. Don’t open the door or all the steam will escape.
- Fluff with a fork to break up any clumps. Now your rice should taste, look, and smell just like it would off the stove.
Quick tip: Cooked white rice is good for four to five days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Troubleshooting tricky rice
Rice is stuck to the bottom of the pan: Rice can stick if the starch wasn’t properly rinsed off before cooking, you used too little water, or your lid was not tight-fitting enough. If you find the rice is stubbornly stuck, close the lid tightly and let it continue to steam. Add a tiny bit more water if necessary. The steam will help loosen the rice.
Rice is gummy: Chen says this happens when you peek too often to check on the rice and let steam escape. Or if you don’t add enough water to begin with. This can also happen if you don’t wash your rice thoroughly.
The bottom is burnt: This can happen if you cook the rice too long on the stovetop, if the heat is too high or if you didn’t add enough water. Burnt rice can be especially difficult to clean off a pot.
Rice is too wet: You added too much water, or you didn’t cook it long enough.
Rice is clumpy: “Rice should not be clumpy unless you are throwing in old used rice with fresh uncooked rice,” Chen says. Rice should cook evenly unless the heat is applied unevenly.
Long-grain white rice is the most popular rice in the United States and it can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave if you don’t have a rice cooker. Cooking rice on the stove takes more careful monitoring, while the microwave method is more prescriptive.
Depending on the type of rice used, the cooking vessel and the method used, you’ll need to make slight adjustments in cooking time and ratio of water to rice. It may take a little trial and error, but after you’ve successfully cooked rice, use the same vessel to cook your rice each time for consistent results.
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