Why Did My Rice Turn to Mush?


Whether you are serving up a stir-fry or pilaf, your rice's texture can make or break the recipe. Add too much water and the result is a pot of mush. Walk away and forget about rice while you cook it, and you may find the mush stuck to the bottom of the pot. Careful attention to detail during cooking yields perfect rice without a mushy grain in sight.


  • As rice boils, the starches inside each grain absorb water. The longer the rice cooks, the more water each grain takes on. Cook the rice too long and the grains absorb more water than necessary, causing them to lose their shape and stick together. With continued cooking, the oversaturated grains of rice create a starchy, mushy mess inside the pot. Instead of being firm, light and airy, the grains are heavier and lack texture and flavor.

Rinsing and Soaking

  • Some imported varieties of rice contain talc that affect the finished product. A cold water rinse removes the talc as well as excess starches that cause mushiness. Also, rice that has been stored away in a cabinet tends to be more brittle than a fresh box recently purchased from the supermarket. To help ensure that the grains do not break during cooking and produce a mushy result, soften them by soaking them for 30 minutes in cool water.


  • For every cup of white rice -- long or short grain -- add 1 3/4 cups of water. Brown rice requires a bit more water -- 2 1/2 cups of water for every cup of rice. Cook long grain white rice for 20 minutes and short grain white rice for 15 minutes. Brown rice requires 45 minutes of cooking time. Avoid stirring and rapid boiling, and add a few drops of oil to the water to reduce stickiness.

Frozen Rice

  • Rice is perishable once cooked. If you do not plan to eat it anytime in the near future, freezing keeps it safe to eat indefinitely. To avoid mushy rice upon thawing, place the cooked rice in a plastic freezer bag or container and pop it in the refrigerator until chilled, transferring it to the freezer immediately afterward. When you are ready to eat the rice, defrost beforehand in the refrigerator or microwave oven.

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