How to Make Perfectly Fluffy Rice

By George Steckel
Sep 10, 2020
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You don't need a rice cooker to make rice at home. Grab your stock pot or sauce pan and get cooking.

The greatest inventions of mankind make life infinitely easier. The wheel, the telegraph, electricity, the Internet, and of course—lest we forget—the rice cooker.

You pour in your grains, add water, close the lid and watch as the chamber steams those little kernels into yummy cooked perfection. Yes, the rice cooker makes things easier, but it’s one dimensional and definitely not a necessity. Veteran chefs know you can produce the same effect with a few simple tips that are sure to optimize the at-home rice cooking experience.

Here’s your ultimate guide for whipping up delicious rice of every variety, whether it’s white, brown, wild, jasmine, sushi or quinoa. They’re all a little different, but master the basic techniques, and you’ll soon be a starch steaming pro.

Tip #1: Know the pitfalls

In order to produce a scrumptious pot of rice, it’s important to know what problems you’re bound to encounter:

  • For one, if you pick a pot that’s too small, water tends to boil over, making a major mess. Choose a medium to large saucepan or stock pot, and rice will cook faster and more evenly.
  • Ever find a layer of nasty brown grains burned to the bottom of your pan? That’s because the temperature of the pan is too high, causing liquid to prematurely evaporate. It may also mean you left it on the burner too long. Make sure to simmer your grains on a low temperature.
  • Another common complaint is that rice comes out sticky, gummy and clumped together; experts say this is due to over-stirring the rice while it’s cooking, so lay off the spoon!

Tip #2: Know what you need

The magic combination for perfect rice is surprisingly simple:

  • A Medium-to-large sized pot
  • A tight-fitting lid
  • Rice
  • Water

Tip #3: Up your pregame

Properly rinse the rice by submerging it in cold water for at least 20 minutes prior to cooking. This technique allows the rice to cook faster and yields that fluffy, tender, non-sticky finish you find in a restaurant. Some home chefs skip this step in favor of a quick rinse, but we find it essential—especially in the case of a Carolina, basmati, jasmine or other long-grain rice variety. When you’re ready to cook, drain the liquid, drop the rice into a sauce pan and pour in freshwater. Follow the instructions for the right cups of water water to cup of rice ratio.

Tip #4: Be generous if cooking brown rice

Due to its unique consistency and size, brown rice takes longer to cook. For uniformity, short-grain varieties require more water to ensure they won’t burn. This includes sushi rice and other wider, seed-like grains. In the case of quinoa, which is notoriously tiny (yet textured), we recommend a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio when cooking dry, and a 1:1 ratio when cooking pre-soaked. Bring the water to a boil with the rice in it, then lower your burner to a simmer and cover the pot.

Tip #5: Be patient before plating

If you’re using a quality stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, your rice should be finished anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for white and 20 to 25 minutes for brown rice. But don’t be so quick to serve.

You should take the pot off the burner, and let the rice rest undisturbed for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness. Don’t peek. Just let the hot air distribute itself and cook everything to a uniform finish.

If you want to take it a step further with prep (and speed up the finish), some people recommend taking the rice out of the pot and spreading it on a baking sheet, in a thin layer, as it cools.

Stick with these tips, and you’ll never eat sticky again. But don't worry, if you mess up a batch, rice is a great dog-friendly food! You can share your less than fluffy rice with Fido and he'll still enjoy it.