Confession time: Years ago, I received a rice cooker as a gift that I’ve used guiltily only when the gift-giver in question comes for dinner. The rest of the time — whether I’m cooking rice to accompany a hurried weekday dinner or as the base for a leisurely simmered-all-day weekend cooking project — I turn to a trusty pot and a stovetop burner. Cooking rice on the stove is a no-fuss, no-mess method that will turn out a pot of fluffy, perfect rice every time.
The Right Equipment to Cook Rice
I find up to two cups of uncooked rice will be just fine in a medium-sized saucepan, while anything more is best prepared in a larger pot. Similar to pasta, you’ll be using a boiling liquid as a cooking medium, so make sure you have enough room for bubbles to rise without boiling over. A lid with an adjustable steam vent is nice, but not crucial — you can always prop the lid open with a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks. The flat wooden paddle found in Chinese or Japanese supermarkets is made specifically for this purpose (and the ones with a straight edge are perfect for stirring the bottom of the pot).
How to Cook Jasmine Rice: A Basic Method
There are as many methods of cooking rice as there are cultures that use it, so keep in mind this is the way that works for me, but it’s not the only one by far: pilafs and pilaus, risottos and biryanis all use different techniques for speciality dishes.
1. Pour your rice into a pot. (Up to one and a half to two small coffee mugs will adequately feed two people). Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain the excess water, then repeat this twice or until the water in the pot is clear when you agitate the rice.
2. Add enough liquid to cover the rice by about an inch. Use a ratio of 2:1.
3. Cover the pot, place it on a burner set to medium-high and bring the water to a boil.
4. Once the liquid boils, lift the lid and give the rice a thorough stir, making sure you get the areas at the bottom. Turn the heat down to low (just above minimum). Keep cooking the rice on low for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender, and has lost that wet look.
5. Fluff the rice with the paddle.
This method creates light grains of rice across the top of the pot and a crisped rice crust along the bottom and sides. You can stir those crunchy bits — prized among some cultures — into the rest of the rice for textural variation, or toast and enjoy it later for a snack.
You can vary this basic method to a wide range of rice options:
How to Cook Sushi Rice
I prefer the pleasant fluffiness and slightly sticky texture of short-grain sushi rice, pairing it with everything from spicy stir-fries to a silken stew. Use the above method, reducing the water to a 1:1 ratio. When the rice is cooked, add a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar (add two tablespoons if you will be using the rice to make sushi) and a sprinkle of furikaki flakes (a Japanese rice seasoning mix that can consist of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried egg or bonito and other crunchy goodness) to taste.
How to Cook Basmati Rice
For those looking for a little more structure in their grains, long-grain varieties such as basmati, are delicate and slightly perfumed options that retain their slender shape when cooking. Using the method above, reduce the water to a 1:1.5 rice/liquid ratio. Some basmati rice recipes will benefit from a short soaking period for softer rice — a purely optional step.
How to Cook Brown Rice
Brown rice, which can be either short or long grain, adds fibre and whole grain goodness to your diet. Although brown rice generally takes longer than white rice to cook (typically, an additional 15 minutes or more), the simmering time can be minimized with a brief toasting in butter first, which emphasizes the grain’s natural nuttiness. Before beginning the method above, melt four tablespoons of butter or margarine in a pot on medium-high heat, then stir in the brown rice. Toast for a couple of minutes while stirring, then add the liquid and proceed with the method above.
Rice Flavour Variations
If you’re pairing rice with other dishes, using water is fine. Add creaminess with some coconut milk, use chicken broth to give it a little pep (the concept behind recently trendy Hainanese chicken rice) or use some mushroom stock if you’d like a little umami heartiness.
There it is; simple rice in about 30 minutes, without needing to pull out specialized equipment and without too much fuss. For more ideas on how to cook rice, check out our 16 Best Rice Recipes for Dinner and Dessert.