A recent discussion with a friend made it readily apparent to me that most of the Western world has no idea about how to handle and cook rice properly. Despite repeated rice education sessions, I often find my friends slacking when they cook rice, and then being surprised when the result is a mushy, burnt, foul mass. Thanks to years of training, I know how to cook rice properly so that it is fluffy, delicious, and flavorful every time…and so can you.
To begin with, let us have a discussion about different types of rice. Rice essentially breaks down into two categories: hulled varieties such as brown and Forbidden rice, and threshed varieties (otherwise known as white rice). Hulled varieties take longer to cook, because the hull makes it difficult for water to penetrate the rice. Threshed varieties often cook in a flash, especially if you treat them with tender loving care.
All rice should be stored in containers labeled with the type of rice and the date it was purchased. Threshed rice can be stored in a dark, cool, dry place for approximately six months before use. Hulled rice needs to be kept under refrigeration, or the oils in the hulls may go rancid and sour your rice. Hulled rice also does not last as long: plan on using it within at least three months.
So. Here you are with some rice to cook.
Start by washing it. Not just rinsing it, but washing it, and do not slack on this step. You will regret it. By washing rice, you release the starch, which can make rice turn into a glommy and unpleasant mass. You also get rid of contaminants that the rice may have been exposed to such as pesticides, herbicides, insects, and other pests. You want your rice nice and clean: wash it in a bowl, and keep pouring the water off until it turns clear.
Then your rice needs to be soaked. If the rice is a hulled variety, plan on soaking it overnight, along with sticky rice and other short grained white rice. Long and medium grain white rice can be soaked for as little as one hour, although around four is better. Do yourself a favor and soak the rice in the container you intend to cook it in, which is of course going to be a heavy pot.
When the rice is done soaking, drain it and pour in the water for cooking. Yes, my little American friends, the rice and the water are heated together. Do not, under any circumstances, heat water and then hurl rice into it. If you take nothing else away from this tutorial, retain this. You want to use a ratio of two scant cups of water to one cup rice. An exact two to one ratio will tend to result in overcooked, soft, mushy rice. No one wants that. You want beautiful fluffy rice.
Put the lid on your rice, and do not lift it until it is done cooking. Turn the heat up to high, and skulk around to listen to your rice. When the water sounds like it is about to boil, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. You will hear the rice gently simmering. Walk away.
Depending on the type of rice, come back in 12-30 minutes. White rice cooks quickly, at the short end of this scale, while hulled rice takes longer. You will know when the rice is done, and not by lifting the lid. It may take a few trial and error cooking sessions, but believe me, you will develop an unerring ability to precisely know when the rice is done. Partially, it is a function of cooking time. But you can also listen to the rice—when the simmering has started to sound less wet and more crackly, the rice is probably done. Train yourself to have an innate sense for doneness—do not lift the lid!
When the rice is done, you may lift the lid and fork it gently to fluff it. Do not stir the rice, do not mash it into the bottom of the pot, and for Pete’s sake, do not turn the heat back on. Allow the rice to sit, fluffed, for around five minutes, and then serve it.
I think you will find that preparing rice properly results in a much more delicious food. Rice is not merely a cheap staple to stretch meals with: it is a delightful, delicious, and spectacular food all in its own right. Savor the rice. Love the rice. Live the rice. While the above process may seem time consuming, it is worth every minute. Simply plan your life a bit more. If you know you are eating a hulled rice variety tomorrow, wash it and set it to soak tonight. If you are planning on having white rice with dinner, wash it and soak it before you go to work, so that it will cook quickly at dinner time.
There is no earthly reason to eat poorly made rice, so stop. All of you. This instant.