A perfect pot of rice is an excellent companion to hundreds of dishes and an essential skill for any home cook. Though the ingredients are simple (you only need rice, water, and salt), it still takes a bit of know-how to make sure your rice doesn’t come out gluey, clumpy, or unevenly cooked. Here are three simple rules to make sure your rice comes out perfect every time so you can feel like a pro and eat like one, too.
The first secret is to rinse your rice before you cook it. When rice is processed and shipped, it jostles around creating a chalky coating of starch. Per Cook’s Illustrated, “Rinsing flushes away excess starch that would otherwise absorb water and swell, causing grains to stick together.” Measure out the amount of rice you want to cook, and then put it in a bowl of clean, cold water. Stir the rice a bit and the water will turn milky; that’s all the starch. Drain the rice and repeat this process a few more times until the water is mostly clear, and you’re ready to start cooking. With all that starch now gone, your final product will be fluffy instead of clumpy.
More secrets to perfect, fluffy rice
Getting the ratio of rice to water can be tricky since it depends on the size of your pot, the fit of the lid, and even the brand of rice. While it may take a few tries to get the ideal amount, according to Bon Appetit: “Generally, the sweet spot for cooking white rice is 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water for short grain white rice or 1 1/4 cups water for long grain white rice.” For brown rice, Martha Stewart advises to stay away from the standard 2:1 water to rice ratio, and instead, “for long-grain brown rice, use 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup rice. For short-grain, use 1 1/2 cups water.”
Next, the secret for fluffy rice is to let it rest. Many home cooks have been caught in a rush and skipped this step, settling for a pot of rice that’s half gooey and half crunchy. Instead, once the cooking time is finished (18 minutes for white rice and 30 for brown) remove the pot from the heat (don’t just turn off the burner, you’ll want to move the pot to a cooler, heat-proof surface to rest) and place a clean folded towel over the pot of rice and put the lid back on over the towel (via Bon Appetit) The towel will absorb excess moisture while the lid keeps the heat in — and in 15 to 20 minutes, you’ll be ready to fluff your rice with a fork and serve. Top Chef here we come!
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