Perfect Rice Every Time (White and Brown) – and Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge

How to cook perfect rice (without a rice cooker)
How to Cook Rice Perfectly, without a rice cooker – instructions in post

It’s 2013, and I don’t know about you but I’m excited! I’ll be making a few changes to the blog, and with the start of the new year I’m finally ready to share those changes and bring them into fruition.

Looking around, I’ve noticed a trend of 2012 recaps, and reflections on the past year… but while everyone else is looking back, I’ve been narrowing my gaze on the year ahead. I’ve been so focused on what the future will hold, I’ve hardly slowed down to remember all the good’s and bad’s of the last twelve months!

Last year I…

Discovered how much I enjoy baking, not just cooking. I made big changes to my home, repairing the walls, installing new flooring, and making the house more livable. I recovered from being sick for a very long time. I injured my knee, and haven’t been able to run like I used to. The Boyfriend became The Fiancé, and our dog passed away, leaving us a little empty-hearted. I got another year older, and a little bit wiser, and a whole lot stronger… and it’s only the beginning.

Brown rice
Brown Rice

I’m not a huge fan of making New Year’s Resolutions… they’re always so well-intentioned, but tend to be impractical and disappointing. Instead, I like to map out the things that went well (or not so well) in the previous year, and where I would like to see myself going in the  months ahead. It helps me get a better idea of where I should focus my energy, and allows me to see where my interests really lie. For instance, I can look back at last year‘s goals and see if I met them or let them slip away, and why. Do I still care about the same things I did then? Did my focus change because I got distracted, or did I decide something else was more important? Better yet, what do I think is most important to work on this year, where do I want to go, and what do I hope to achieve?

I find questions like these help me to see myself a little more clearly.

I bring this up because what I’d like to gain from this year has a lot to do with what you’re reading right now – my blog! One of my goals for 2013 is to focus more on my education. That means learning as much as I can about cooking, baking, candy-making, nutrition, photography, blogging, entertaining, life, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Books on food and cooking 

When I found out that the baking/pastry classes I was interested in were completely filled, including waiting lists, I went out and bought some of the required reading instead. I grew up being homeschooled, and have always been in charge of my own education, so teaching myself is nothing new. I have books on baking, cooking, and other more specialized culinary techniques, as well as the library and the internet at my disposal… the only thing I’m lacking is someone standing over my shoulder to demonstrate, correct, and evaluate me. I think I’m okay with that, at least for now.

So how does that affect Will Cook For Friends? Well, first off, you’ll probably be seeing a little more baking than before… but don’t worry, there will still be plenty of recipes, of all kinds, like always. In addition to that, once a week you’ll be treated to something a little more informative. I plan to make an “educational” post every Friday. It may be a how-to or photo-tutorial, a recipe designed to demonstrate a particular technique, a tip or trick I find useful, or even just a discussion of something I’m learning about at the time. It may be new knowledge to me, or something I’ve known for a long time… whatever I feel like exploring!

And since today is the first Friday of the year, that brings us to this rice…

Perfect Rice Every Time, Without A Rice Cooker
Perfect rice
This is a tip I’ve known forever, and I cannot begin to tell you how easy it is. I grew up cooking rice this way, and have always been a little baffled when people try to tell me how difficult it is to make good rice.
The technique comes courtesy of The Mom, who taught it to me the moment I was tall enough to reach the top of the stove (while standing on a chair). She first learned it decades ago, watching a show called Wok with Yan. Anyone else remember Stephen Yan? The show was on in the early 80′s, and then again in the 90′s. Yan was just as much an entertainer as he was a chef, and is probably most remembered for his spontaneous sense of humor… and of course, for making silly puns. In each episode he wore a different apron sporting a phrase like “Stuck Between a Wok and a Hard Place”, or “Danger, Men at Wok”. He was definitely a bit of a character, but when it came to making rice Yan had a trick up his sleeve that I have yet to see anyone else use.
This method is incredibly easy, and works well for white or brown rice. You can use short or long grain, but I cannot speak to how well it would work for something like wild, forbidden, or mixed grain rice. Extra-short grain varieties, such as Arborio (used for risotto) or Japanese Rice (used for sushi, or sometimes called ‘sticky rice’) require different cooking methods due to their high starch content, and probably would not fare too well in this instance.
White rice
Formula for White Rice
For white rice: 1 part rice / 2 parts water (1 cup of rice / 2 cups of water)
For brown rice: increase the water by about 1/2 cup per cup of rice (1 cup of rice / 2 1/2 cups water)

Notes: Depending on how long or short your grain is, the amount of water necessary may vary slightly. This is the basic guideline I’ve always used, and has worked for me every time. If you aren’t sure, always err on the side of caution and add a splash more water – you don’t want the rice to dry out or burn!

Some people like to rinse their rice thoroughly, until the water runs clear, prior to cooking. This can remove unsavory things like dirt or debris from the outside of the rice, but can also rinse away some of the nutrients and starches. Rinsing, for the most part, is optional, and entirely up to you. For some types of rice, rinsing is important to remove the dirt and starches, but for most varieties I don’t find it necessary. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and rinse the rice.

1 cup of dry rice makes approximately 3 cups cooked. Cooked rice can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or so, and is great for adding to any meal.

Update: As a reader mentioned in the comments, the amount of water necessary will vary depending on the amount of rice you’re making. For 1 cup of white rice I use 2 cups of water, but if I were to cook 3 or 4 cups of white rice all in one batch, the amount of the water necessary is actually less than double that of the rice. I haven’t experimented with cooking anything more than a couple of cups at a time, so if you need a lot of rice use your judgement, or split them into smaller batches.

Method for white rice:
1.    Add 1 cup white rice and 2 cups cold tap water to a medium pot, with a well-fitted lid.
2.    Place the pot over medium-high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Do not stir the rice! Let the rice cook, uncovered, until small craters form on the surface – it will look like someone took a pencil and stabbed the rice all over. Watch for the water to boil off enough that it goes just below the level of rice in the pot. You will still see small bubbles around the edges, but the surface of the rice should not be covered. Again, do not stir or you’ll miss these signs!
3.    Once you see lots of holes in the rice, cover the pot and turn off the heat. This is an important step, and allows the rice to finish steaming under a small amount of pressure created by the sealed pot. Let the rice steam, without removing the lid, for 20-25 minutes. I usually take this time to wander off, pay some bills, or get started cooking the rest of my meal. When the time is up, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork – it is ready to serve!

Method for brown rice:
1.    Add 1 cup of brown rice and 2 1/2 cups cold water to a medium pot, with a well-fitted lid.
2.    Place the pot over medium-high heat, and bring the water to a boil, just like with the white rice. Do not stir! Let the rice cook, uncovered, until small craters form on the surface. Watch for the water to boil off enough that it goes just below the level of rice in the pot. Again, do not stir or you’ll miss these signs!
3.    Once you see lots of holes in the rice, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Let the rice cook for 5-7 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it rest, still covered, for another 20-25 minutes. Do not remove the lid until the time is up! Leave the kitchen, read book, or move on to making the rest of your meal. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork – it is ready to serve!

Photo tutorial:

Combine the rice and cool water in a pot, and place over medium-high heat. I’m using white rice here. Bring the water to a boil, and let the rice cook without stirring until most of the water has evaporated and you see small holes or craters appear on the surface of the rice.
Once the water has disappeared just below the level of the rice and you can clearly see little holes (like in the upper-left photo) cover the pot and turn off the heat. (If you’re cooking brown rice, cover the pot and turn the heat to low for 5-7 minutes, then turn the heat all the way off). 
Once rice is covered and the heat is off, set a timer for 20-25 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this time! The rice is still cooking under pressure created by the sealed pot, and you don’t want to let any of the heat or steam out.
Once the time is up, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork (or stir with a wooden spoon – owners of non-stick cookware, I’m talkin’ to you!). The rice is ready to serve, and leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or two.

As Yan would say – easy and delicious, and I hope you like it!

22 thoughts on “Perfect Rice Every Time (White and Brown) – and Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge

    1. Willow

      Don’t worry, I’m not offended. The main reason I don’t is because I’m lazy, and because every time I think ‘oh yeah, I should rinse this’ it’s usually in the pan already. There are some varieties I always do rinse, though! Either way, the cooking technique is the same.

      I look forward to seeing your rice recipe… I happen to have a lot of rice on hand at the moment (maybe went a little overboard, whoops!) and am looking for ways to use it all up. :)

    2. Willow Arlen

      That’s really interesting, I hadn’t heard about the artificial starches. I’ll have to look into that. As for the leftover rice causing food poisoning… all foods can make you sick if you let them sit at room temperature long enough. Be sure to put it in a sealed container in the fridge and you should be fine! :)

  1. Kelly Blackwell

    Looks yummy! I’m afraid that when it was time for my mom to teach me to cook rice she taught me the Minute-rice method (though she knocked it out of the park with teaching me how to perfect gravy). I am dreadful at cooking rice. Well, not brown and I don’t know why. I will definitely be trying your way out! I love rice! Thanks for the photos, that will definitely be a help. I am dropping by from Our Everyday Harvest’s blog hop. I hope you can drop by too. Happy New Year!

  2. Sparks

    Works grand for one cup of rice. Try it with three (say, for an xmas dinner) and you find you have very wet, soggy rice at best. The ideal ratio of water to rice isn’t a simple 1:2 but varies according to how much rice you’re cooking.

    From Alton Brown’s Good Eats:

    1 Cup Rice – 1 1/2 Cup Water

    2 Cups Rice – 2 3/4 Cups Water

    3 Cups Rice – 3 1/2 Cups Water

    1. Willow

      Thanks for the comment! I completely forgot about this, so I’m so glad you brought it to my attention. I don’t usually make more than a cup or two of rice at a time. I’ve made a note about the ratios in the post. :)

  3. Jen @JuanitasCocina

    What a fabulous post! I have to admit, I rely too heavily on my rice cooker. But, I have a fascination with the science of cooking, and I love posts like this. I can’t wait to see what you have coming up this year!

    1. Willow

      When I moved in with The Fiance, he had a rice cooker, and I have to say I use it a fair amount… it’s nice to throw some rice in there and just let it go, especially if I’m busy preparing other things. I love knowing how to cook rice, though! :)

  4. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes

    Was he the one who would say “If Yan can cook so can you!”? If it is then I remember him :)

    This is the exact way I cook my rice except I add a tad bit more water – the steaming is key though – perfect rice every time!

    Looking forward to all the Friday’s yet to come!

  5. Courtney J

    Love, love, love your new focus/resolution on education about baking and cooking. I’ve loved your posts on rice, sushi making and leavening. I learned so much. Thank you Willow! Looking forward to learning lots more from you this year.

    1. Willow

      Thanks, Courtney! I’m so happy the stuff I’m learning about is actually interesting to read. Plus, it challenges me not to fall into a rut, so hopefully it will continue to be fun and useful. :)


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