Expert Tips on How to Make the Best Rice Ever

Closeup on white rice

Rice is a hearty staple in many cultures, and especially across the Asian diaspora. Whether you’re using it it as the base of flavourful fried rice, soothing congee, or to soak up all of the sauces of a tangy stir fry, it’s endlessly versatile and so comforting. But that perfectly starchy carb can be a difficult ingredient to master, so we caught up with Chef Nick Liu — Executive Chef & Partner at the critically-acclaimed DaiLo in Toronto, New Asian cuisine expert and Wall of Chefs chef — to find out his tips and tricks for making the best rice ever, including his secret fail-safe method. Read on for rice 101.


Related: 7 Delectable Rice Recipes to Enjoy

Chef Nick Liu

Chef Nick Liu

What is the secret to making good rice?

I start with the finger method. It is an ancient Chinese secret. Start by washing your rice. Then, when you fill your rice into the pot, you stick your finger into it, and as the top of your finger is touching the rice, you fill the water up to the first knuckle. That is, for me, the trick to making perfect rice.

I bring my water to a boil with my rice in it. By the time it comes to a boil, the rice and water level is usually about even and then I cover it up, put it on the lowest heat possible on the stove, and cook it for exactly 22 minutes. That makes perfect rice every single time. If you are not using a rice cooker and you are cooking on the stove, practice, because there is a definite feel to making rice.

What is the ratio of water to rice for perfect rice?

Again, it’s the finger method. I don’t understand how it works scientifically because it doesn’t matter how much rice you have; the finger method works every single time.

Tuna onigiri on a plate

Get the recipe: Tuna Onigiri

Does all rice need to be soaked before cooking?

Ideally, it should be, but it depends on what you are doing with the rice. For the most part, if you are steaming your rice, you want to rinse it a few times to clean it and allow it to slightly rehydrate. Parboiled rice, like boxed rice that can cook in minutes, does not need to be rinsed.

What are your favourite ways to season rice?

I usually like to add star anise, a half stick of cinnamon and a little pinch of salt.

Do you recommend seasoning rice before or after cooking?

I actually like seasoning my water just before cooking so I’ll add a pinch of salt.

Vegetable pulao, ready to serve

Get the recipe: Spiced Vegetable Pulao

What less common rice varieties should our readers be trying?

Some of the other less common varieties to try are Riceberry Rice and Thai sticky rice which is also called glutinous or sweet rice. Riceberry rice is a long-grain rice, well-known for its deep purple hue, getting its distinctive colour from naturally occurring flavonoid pigments known to have antioxidant properties.

Do you recommend cooking rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop?

I always cook rice on a stovetop, but if you do have a very good rice cooker, it can be quite amazing. Kate [my wife] definitely swears by the Tiger Rice Cooker, but when I make rice and want it to come out absolutely perfect every single time, I do it on top of the stove using the finger method.


Read more: Leftover Rice Recipes That Make Meal Prep So Much Easier