Preparing fluffy white rice with perfectly tender individual grains is a task any cook can master. Start with natural, medium-grain white rice; other varieties, such as brown, basmati or jasmine rice, have different characteristics and require different cooking methods. Although individual cooks have their favorite approaches, once you learn the basics, you can adapt your rice-cooking technique to incorporate favorite seasonings and additional ingredients.
Rinsing rice before cooking it is not mandatory, but there are a couple of reasons to do so. If the rice has been hulled and cleaned at a mill outside the United States, talc often is added to improve grain flow through the machinery. If your rice is imported, thoroughly rinse it in a colander under running water to remove the talc. During milling processes, friction between the grains causes the surfaces to powder. This powder is starch, which acts as a thickener when you cook the rice and makes the grains stick together. Rinsing the rice before cooking to wash off the starchy powder helps improve fluffiness after cooking.
Do not rinse enriched rice as it has added topical vitamins and minerals, and rinsing washes them off.
Drain the rice well after rinsing it to remove as much water as possible. Wet rice can contain enough water to affect the rice-to-water cooking ratio.
Measure 2 cups of room temperature water into large saucepan. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to enhance the flavor and 1 tablespoon of butter if desired. Bring the water to a boil. Slowly stir in 1 cup of rice, measured in a cup for dry ingredients.
Stir the rice when you add it to the simmering water but avoid stirring as it cooks. The starch in white rice becomes sticky as it cooks, and stirring during cooking may cause clumps to form.
Reduce the heat to medium-low or the temperature required to maintain a simmer.
Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.
Simmer the rice for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
Allow the rice to rest off the heat with the lid on the pan for about five minutes. This helps distribute moisture evenly throughout the grains.
Fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains before serving. Depending on the agricultural variety of the rice grain, this cooking method yields 2 to 3 cups of cooked rice, or 4 to 6 servings, 1/2 cup each.
For best results, use a heavy saucepan. It’s easy to scorch rice in a thin-bottom pan. A glass-lidded pan is ideal because it allows you to view the water level without opening the lid and letting the steam escape -- rice actually cooks in the steam.
- A simple way to add flavor to plain white rice is to use broth for the cooking liquid. Season the broth and the flavors permeate the rice. Pungent herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary or savory are good choices. For clear broth, simmer the herbs in the broth and strain them out before cooking the rice.
- Instead of adding butter, pour in about 1 tablespoon of herb oil.
- Stir in dried, powdered herbs when you add the rice for saturated flavor throughout the finished rice. Bits of finely chopped parsley, celery leaf, cilantro, onion or pepper flakes add color as well as flavor to the cooked rice.
Additional Cooking Method
Independent studies indicate rice may be tainted with arsenic from agricultural chemicals. To reduce the amount of arsenic, use the traditional Asian cooking method. Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking. Boil 1 cup of rice in 6 cups of water, then drain the rice when it is tender.