When it comes to rice, there are two kinds of households: one in which there’s always a pot of hot rice around, and one where rice is around, well, sometimes.
If you are reading this, I’m guessing your household is the latter. And we’re here to help! There no magic when it comes to cooking white rice. Just a few helpful hints.
This recipe gives you the total scoop on how to cook long-grain white rice, that lovely pantry staple. Seriously, all you’d ever want to know is contained in this post, like a rice-making kit wherein you provide the rice and water.
Ready? Let’s cook rice together!
WHAT IS WHITE RICE?
This is a practical question, not an existential one. According to the UK-based Rice Association, there are possibly 40,000 types of cultivated rice. “White rice” is a generic term.
To make it simple, white rice has had its brown hull removed, exposing the white kernel.
There are three basic categories of white rice:
- Long-grain: fluffier, with a long kernel, commonly cooked plain to serve as a side dish.
- Medium-grain: starchy and apt to cling together. Arborio rice, used in risotto, is an example.
- Short-grain: plump and often sticky; sushi rice is an example
DO YOU NEED TO RINSE RICE?
Rinsing the dry rice before cooking can lead to fluffier cooked rice with more distinct grains. This is because it rinses off some of the excess starch that makes the rice kernels want to stick to each other.
I’ve cooked regular long-grain white rice with and without rinsing it, and I can’t tell too much of a difference. It only takes an extra minute to rinse it, but truth be told, sometimes I am too lazy to exert myself for those extra sixty seconds.
BUT! Pay attention here—if you rinse the rice before cooking it, it’s good to reduce the liquid you’re adding. Long-grain white rice has a classic cooking ratio of one-part dry rice to two parts water. But if you rinse it first, you should decrease the liquid to 1-3/4 cups. This keeps your cooked rice from being too gluey.
START YOUR RICE FIRST
Fully cooked white rice, set over low heat or off with the lid on the pot, can hang out on the stove for a good while without losing any quality (in fact, prolonged steaming only makes it better), so it’s smart to get it going before you start prepping other parts of your meal.
Monitor your rice as you go about other cooking tasks, and by the time the rest of your food is ready, your rice will be, too.
PICK THE RIGHT POT
For cooking 1 to 2 cups of dry rice, a 2-quart saucepan is just the right size. Too big and the rice may not steam right. Too small and it will boil over and make a sticky mess. And you want a lid that fits well and does not let tons of steam escape.
This lid thing is no small deal. I had issues with rice for years—it burned; it was too hard; it wasn’t fluffy. Turns out the problem was my saucepan! It was from a thrift store, and the lid didn’t match the pot, so it didn’t keep the steam in. Once I got a new saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, my rice woes were over.
KEEP A LID ON IT
Try not to open the lid a million times as the rice cooks. Once again, it’s a prevention-of-steam-escaping thing. You can take a few peeks, but once you get the hang of it, peeking won’t even be necessary.
WHAT’S THE RIGHT TEMP FOR COOKING RICE?
Start the rice at a hard boil over medium-high heat with the lid on. When you hear your pot hissing or the lid jittering, immediately turn the heat down to medium-low, or as low as you can get it yet still have the liquid simmering. Why? Rice likes it nice and easy.
Lower heat ensures tender, evenly cooked grains. And it discourages the liquid from boiling over and making a mess.
Every stove is different, and it might take a little fiddling to get to the ideal nice-and-gentle burner heat on yours.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN RICE IS COOKED?
Right after the rice reaches that initial hard boil, lower the heat and set your timer for 10 minutes.
When the timer goes off, lift the lid and check for doneness. Steam holes scattered through the surface of the cooked rice indicate it’s fully cooked. Look for the holes!
RICE IS BEST AFTER A REST
Patience makes rice fluffy. Just like you, it does not like to be rushed!
The difference between okay rice and perfectly cooked rice is letting it sit 10 minutes and passively steam after it’s done simmering. This is something 95% of package instructions neglect to tell you, but it’s really important.
Think of these 10 minutes as part of the cooking time. Now you know the big secret!
- Watery Rice: There’s too much liquid. Strain out the excess liquid, return the rice to the pot, and let it sit on the lowest heat for 10 minutes with the lid on (if the rice is still hard) or the lid off (if it’s on the mushy side).
- Mushy Rice: The rice was cooked with too much liquid added or it cooked for too long. Probably both. You can’t un-mush rice. Just pretend it’s supposed to be that way and see if anyone notices.
- Crunchy or Dry Rice: There was not enough liquid, or it didn’t cook long enough. Did you let it passively steam for 10 minutes after turning off the heat? Oftentimes, that final rest will fix everything. If it’s still too crunchy, add a little more liquid and cook it 10 minutes on low, then steam 5 minutes.
- Burned Rice: The heat was too high, or there wasn’t enough liquid, or both. Presumably, only the rice on the bottom of the pot is burned. If the remaining rice is edible, remove it without disturbing the burned rice. Then fill the pot with water and let it soak for a while so you can scrub out and discard the burned rice.
IDEAS FOR SEASONING RICE
I don’t add salt to my rice because usually I’m serving it with something saucy, like a curry or stir-fry, and that’s what will season my rice. But if you serve your rice plain you may want to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every cup of dry rice.
If white rice is too blah for you, up the flavor with one of these techniques:
- Toast the rice in a teaspoon of flavorful fat—butter, olive oil, or sesame oil—before adding the liquid.
- Before cooking, add a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or a dried bay leaf.
- Use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water.
- Use coconut milk for half of the amount of liquid.
- For an Indian flair, add two green cardamom pods and a small cinnamon stick before cooking.
WHITE RICE QUICK FACTS
Is rice gluten free?
Yes, it is!
Can dry (uncooked) white rice go bad?
Dry white rice has a long shelf life, but it can get stale, depending on the storage conditions (humidity and heat, for instance, will lessen its shelf life). According to USA Rice Federation, dry white rice can be stored “almost indefinitely”; a survey of disaster preparedness websites gave ranges of 4 to 7 years.
Our take? Smell it. If the rice has a stale smell, pitch it.
What about brown rice? Is cooking that any different?
Brown rice takes longer to cook and requires more liquid. For the full scoop, plus a recipe, look here.
Can I pressure cook rice?
You bet! The process is easy, but a little different. We tell you how here.
How long will leftover cooked rice stay good in the refrigerator?
A week or less. Once again, use your nose—if it smells off, pitch it. To keep the cooked rice grains from turning to hard pellets, keep it in an airtight container.
Can I freeze cooked white rice?
Yes, you can! Make sure your rice is completely cooled before bagging it up in zip-top freezer storage bags. Press out any extra air, label and date it, and freeze it for up to 6 months. It’s best to thaw it overnight in the fridge. Need more details? Read here.
If you’re at a total loss and scared of cooking rice, because you’ve had so many disasters:
It’s okay. It’s just rice. You’re still a good person. Our method below is imminently doable, but if you are really unsure of yourself, you can try this boil-like-it’s-pasta method.
MORE GREAT RICE RECIPES
- Rice Pudding
- Spanish Rice
- Indian Style Rice
- Mexican Green Rice
- Coconut Rice and Beans
- Arroz con Tocino