A better pot of rice is within reach with these 5 tips


It sounds so easy, but sometimes it's not: A pot of rice.

I admit to struggling with this, often bouncing between batches with grains burned on the bottom (and not in the good way a la bibimbap or crispy Persian rice) and others with a gummy, unappealing texture - more often the latter than the former.

Now, I know some people swear by a rice cooker. And if you do, great! But I don't make rice often enough to justify owning one, nor do I have room for yet another appliance. So the pot it is.

Of course, your ideal rice may be different from my ideal rice - individual grains, aromatic, not soggy and at home under a variety of meals, especially curries and stir-fries. You may like to use a different type of rice, or use it in a different type of dish. It's all good. I just won't be able to get into every single possibility here.

If you're like me, however, and in search of a better all-purpose pot of rice, here are some tips to consider:

- Understand what you're looking at in the grocery store. Rice typically is categorized according to shape and size as long-, medium- or short-grain. The sizes refer to how long the grains are in relation to their width, from long and tender to short and rounded. Examples of long-grain rice are basmati, jasmine and Carolina Gold; they are less starchy and cook up better into individual grains. This is what I turn to most, and basmati is my favorite variety for its aromatic but not overpowering flavor.

Medium- and short-grain, which cook up stickier, tend to run into each other in terms of how they're categorized, but varieties include arborio (used in risotto), bomba (used in paella) and sushi rice. Brown rice is to white rice what whole-wheat flour is to white flour, in that brown rice has not had the outer (brown) bran and germ removed. Other items you'll see on the shelf: Trendy black rice (an unprocessed version of Japanese sticky rice) and wild rice (not actually rice, but a grass).

- Play with the ratios of rice to water. Tradition says 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. I almost always find this results in rice that is too wet for my taste. I'm more in the camp of 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cup of water to 1 cup of rice. Your ideal ratio may also depend on the size of your pot and how much rice you're cooking, especially when it comes to scaling up. As Cook's Illustrated explains, rice can only absorb so much water, and only so much water will evaporate in cooking. If you try to proportionally scale up the water your rice cooks in, you will likely end up with some mushy rice. (For example, in doubling their rice pilaf recipe, which calls for 1 1/2 cups rice and 2 1/4 cups of water, they ended up using only 3 3/4 cup water rather than 4 1/2 cups.)

- Rinse your rice. This is an important step. According to "Seductions of Rice: A Cookbook," by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 1998), rinsing rice "means that there is no more loose starch or other powder or coating left on the rice that might gum it up or change the texture of the cooked rice." Use cold water to rinse the rice until the water runs clear. I do this by putting the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and holding it under the faucet. As soon as the water filtering through is no longer milky-looking, you're good to go. Set the strainer over a bowl for a few minutes to let any excess water drain.

Some people make a case against rinsing enriched rices, which have been coated with a powder to provide extra nutrients. Alford and Duguid write that "we feel that since in North America we have access to a wide range of vegetables and other foods, the loss is not critical." They recommend doing whatever you're comfortable with, but they fall on the side of rinsing to achieve better texture.

- Consider toasting the rice. The benefits are twofold. You'll get fluffy and light rice, plus the addition of some wonderful nutty flavor. Try it with a little butter or olive oil over medium-low to medium heat in the pot before you add the water. If you want to get fancy, you can add some aromatics (garlic, onion) or spices for additional flavor.

- Pay attention and be patient. Like pasta, you may want to check the doneness of the rice a few minutes before the end of the cook time recommended on the package. Ideally you'll see little craters on the surface from where the steam has cooked out. You don't want to vigorously stir, but push a little rice aside and take a look underneath. Is there wet, mushy rice lower down? Then try a piece. The rice may feel done, or it may need a bit more time. Once you're satisfied, Alford and Duguid recommend letting the rice rest for a bit after it finishes cooking, about 10 to 15 minutes, after briefly lifting the lid to let steam escape. Last step: Fluff with a fork and enjoy.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360 Eats

This week’s music picks: Perfume Genius, Haim, Marcia Ball, Wine Down and more
This week’s music picks: Perfume Genius, Haim, Marcia Ball, Wine Down and more

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-XQkDyEwQo&w=492&h=307] Monday: Perfume Genius at Emo’s. “No Shape,” the 2017 release from Perfume Genius, is a lush and lovely collection of ebullient synth jams and heart-tugging ballads. In his early work, openly gay frontman Mike Hadreas explored his struggles with addiction...
Will calorie counts on menu items do more harm than good?

Starting in May, you can expect to see calorie information labels on more restaurant menus, as the Food and Drug Administration starts enforcing the national menu labeling law that was passed in 2010 as part of health-care restructuring. All chain restaurants and other food establishments with 20 or more locations will need to post calorie information...
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events. But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know: >> Read more trending news  The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought...
Webb Report: Turtle pond sunk? Fake news, UT says
Webb Report: Turtle pond sunk? Fake news, UT says

Example No. 2,347 why you shouldn’t trust any old stranger on the internet for your information: The University of Texas at Austin actually had to respond to false rumors that the beloved turtle pond on campus was not long for this world. According to school newspaper the Daily Texan, two separate posts Tuesday in a Facebook meme group...
‘Handmaid’s Tale’ makes you work but pays off as few shows ever could
‘Handmaid’s Tale’ makes you work but pays off as few shows ever could

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is not easy to watch. And it’s certainly not fun to watch, either. It is unrelentingly oppressive and dark, even more so in its second season, whose first two episodes premiere Wednesday on Hulu. Chances are that if you gave the series a shot last year and couldn’t take it, you probably aren&rsquo...
More Stories