In my adult life, I receive an unusual amount of compliments on my rice from other people. Glad to see my daily childhood chore has paid off! If you weren’t so lucky to have 10+ years of practicing this daily (and getting it thoroughly inspected and approved by your mother), read on to learn a few tips and tricks for getting the fluffy, perfect rice you desire.
Wash Your Rice
I think this is the single most important differentatior for getting great rice versus just good rice. I wash mine once, but some people and specific recipes will call for a double wash. Washing rice really refers to rinsing it. This removes some of the excess starch on the outside of the rice grains, allowing it to cook more evenly and preventing the starch from forming a gummy paste in your pot that makes the rice mushy.
To wash your rice, measure out the amount you need and place it in your rice cooker insert or cooking pot. Run cold water over it until your rice is covered, 1-2 inches above is fine and this doesn’t need to be exact. Swirl the whole pot around with your hand about 5-8 times. Carefully pour off the starchy, cloudy water. You don’t need perfection here either, since you’ll just be adding more water anyway to cook the rice.
Add the Right Amount of Water
I won’t lie here, adding water to rice without measuring may be my superhuman power that comes from decades of doing this by eye. For a standard size rice cooker (7-9 inches in diameter), my mom’s rule is your water should be a “knuckle” above the rice. Of course, my knuckles are an entirely different size than my mom’s, so this really averages out to about a 1-inch depth of water above the rice.
When in doubt, reference the back of the rice bag. Most of them use a 1.25 or 1.5:1 ratio of water to rice, depending on the type. Use a measuring cup or scoop to get the recommended proportions. Remember that it is easier to add more water and cook it longer than to undo watery or mushy rice.
Add some buffer time to the end of your rice cooking time (typically 25-35 minutes). This will let you extend the cook time if needed, but I also like to let it sit with the power or heat off for a few minutes to get cool enough to eat and redistribute the excess steam or condensation in the cooking pot. Kind of like resting your meats before you slice them. If you use a pot on the stove instead of a rice cooker, the resting steam will also help naturally release the rice from the sides of the pot.
Learn About Other Tyupes of Rice
The most common type of rice is long grain rice. The longer grains hold less moisture than other varieties and that “dryer” consistency makes it really versatile for multiple cuisines. This is the rice you will most often receive from an Asian restaurant. The problem with this is that it also dries out the fastest. As in, is terrible left over.
I typically buy medium grain or Calrose rice. The shorter grains absorb more moisture, so it is a bit stickier or chewier in texture than long grain, which I love (think more like sushi rice). I prefer the texture, but the rice will also retain that moisture longer when kept leftover. You can reheat medium grain rice (plain or with a little water sprinkled on) and it will keep for a few days. You can find this in most grocery stores, though it may be in the Asian section rather than the rice and pasta section (Kroger does offer store brand medium grain rice, Publix does not). In my opinion, leftover long grain rice can really only be repurposed into fried rice.
Final Note: Rice Cookers
If you eat rice regularly and can afford the expense and storage, consider investing in a rice cooker. Pretty much every household I know of that eats rice reguarly (daily in some cases) has one. There is a lot less risk of burning or drying out your rice. I’ve made rice on the stovetop less than 5 times my entire life and did not enjoy watching it boil, then simmer, then try to fluff it off the pot. Rice cookers are much easier to use and you can use a lot of the newer versions for other purposes such as steaming, or the functionality may be part of something very multi-purpose like an InstaPot. I’ve had this Aroma brand rice cooker for several years. We got it through a rewards program redemption but I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well it works. and it works pretty well. The Zojirushi rice cookers are also highly rated at a slightly higher price point.