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Perfect Rice Every Time

We’ve all been there, especially as novice cooks. Our hopes of producing light, fluffy rice have been dashed by huge clumps of sticky rice that neither looks nor taste good and is certainly not fit to serve to our guests. Some people, frustrated by their inability to produce a good pot of rice, turn to the instant stuff, which only slightly resembles “real” rice. Others keep trying until they finally get it right.

But producing the perfect pot of rice isn’t all that difficult if you prepare properly and take the time to tend to this healthy grain while it’s cooking. With a few simple steps, you can produce a consistently good pot of white rice that will not only look great but will taste excellent every time.

Rinse the rice – Many people tend to skip this step but most experts will note that it is indeed important and tends to produce fluffy rather than sticky white rice because it removes loose starch. If you prefer something stickier – perhaps for a Chinese meal that can be eaten with chopsticks – dispense with the rinsing. Otherwise, you can simply rinse the rice in a colander by running it under COLD water. Some types of rice, like basmati, should also be soaked for about a half-hour so that it expands and reaches maximum fluffiness. Either way, it’s essential that you drain it thoroughly before cooking.

Measurements – The most common (and easiest) way to cook rice is in a pot on the stove using what is referred to by chefs as the “absorption” method. That is, the rice absorbs the water in which it is cooked. A good rule of thumb is to use about 50 percent more water than rice. For example, if you’re cooking one cup of long-grain white rice, fill the pot with about 1 ½ cups of water. Brown rice will require a 1:2 ratio – 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water, for example. Remember, the longer the grain, the more water needed. You also want to be sure to use a pot that has a heavy/thick base so that the rice does not scorch on the bottom. Also choose one that has a lid that fits very tightly. If your lid is loose, experts suggest putting a clean kitchen towel or a few paper towels between the lid and the pot so that the steam doesn’t escape.

Cooking – Place the rice and water in the pot and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Once it reaches a rapid or “rolling” boil, turn the heat down to medium and let it boil for about 10-12 minutes. The water will evaporate during this time. Once that occurs, turn the burner all the way down, cover the rice, and allow it to steam for about 20 minutes. Though the urge to look at it will be tempting, don’t lift the lid and don’t stir the rice while it is steaming. Some chefs advocate removing the pot from the heat after the boiling step rather than keeping it over low heat.

Serving – To serve the rice, simply remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and transfer it to a bowl or serving dish.

Most people tend to experiment with cooking times and methods to determine which end result is to their liking. If you cook rice often, you might want to consider purchasing a rice cooker which is convenient but will still demand some experimentation as far as amount of liquid vs. amount of rice used.