Rice may seem like one of the easiest foods to make at home, but it can go wrong quickly.
If you’ve ever ended up with a pot of rice that clumps together or is crunchy in spots, you’re not alone.
But once you learn how to cook rice properly, you’ll be able to get a perfectly fluffy bowl of it whenever you like — ready to toss with grilled meats, roasted vegetables or stir fry for an easy and delicious meal.
Tips for Cooking Rice
Wondering what is the best way to cook rice? Two chefs share pointers for mastering your technique.
Get a rice cooker
Even chefs admit that rice isn’t the easiest thing to cook until you really get the hang of it.
“The safest and best way to cook rice is in a rice cooker,” he explains. “The settings are always on point, and you can cook [a wide] variety of rice in them — everything from sushi rice to jasmine to brown.”
If you’re using a rice cooker, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Rinse your rice
Regardless of which method you decide to choose on how to cook your rice, always first rinse your rice before cooking. It’s the step that so many people forget but can make a big difference.
Tossing your uncooked rice into a fine-mesh strainer and rinsing under the tap until the water runs clear will remove extra starches on the rice that can impact its texture once cooked.
Nail the water ratio
If you decide to forgo the rice cooker, the most common way to cook rice is in a stovetop pan, where the water ratio is more important.
Generally speaking, you should use a ratio of 1:2 rice to water, says Executive Chef Jacqueline Saio of W Aspen & The Sky Residences at W Aspen.
The tricky part here is that water amounts can vary depending on the grain size. All rice falls into one of three categories relating to the size of the grain: long, medium or short grain.
“It’s easy to see the difference between a long-grain such as wild rice and a short grain such as sushi rice,” she says.
The chewier the rice is as an end product (i.e., wild rice), the more water it will require.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover
First, get your pot of water boiling, then stir in your rice. You can use chicken or vegetable broth instead to add more flavor.
Once you’ve added the rice, the temperature of the water will drop.
Allow the liquid to come back to a slow simmer, then cover the pot and reduce heat to low.
This allows the rice to steam inside the pot, which is crucial for the perfect rice—so resist the urge to peek inside.
Go low and slow
Expect your rice to take between 20 minutes (for white varieties) and 30-45 minutes (for brown rice), says Santos.
The key here is to not rush things.
“Rice does not like too much heat, and this is why some rice tragedies happen,” says Saio.
When you’re using a rice cooker, the heat source is indirect. It produces a round heat like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, she explains.
When cooking on the stovetop, however, the heat source is direct, which isn’t as forgiving.
“This is important because it marks the reason to turning down the heat to create that warm, blanket-like environment [that] rice loves to be cooked in,” Saio adds.
How Rice Cooking Methods Vary
While a rice cooker is the best way to cook any type of rice, there are slightly different methods you should employ when cooking various types of rice on the stovetop.
How to Cook White Rice
Since this is the most refined rice, it will take the least amount of cook time.
Follow the process outlined above and let the rice simmer for about 20 minutes.
Then, let the rice continue to steam in the covered pot for about 5 additional minutes after removing from heat.
How to Cook Brown Rice
Follow the same method, but expect to cook for 30-45 minutes, depending on how much rice you’re making.
Santos recommends using a rice cooker for brown rice if you have one.
You can also try this method, which uses a process similar to pasta that involves draining excess water for extra fluffiness.
How to Cook Basmati Rice
Follow the same instructions for white rice. You can add a pinch of salt and a pat of butter if you wish.
How to Cook Jasmine Rice
Follow the same instructions for white rice.
How to Cook Wild Rice
You’ll need more liquid for wild rice, which has a long grain. Use three cups of water for every cup of rice, then plan to simmer for 45 minutes and let stand (still covered) for 10 minutes before serving.
How to Cook Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice might be the easiest “rice” to make since you don’t necessarily have to cook it. It’s just a matter of chopping and dicing your cauliflower to rice-sized pieces or you can use a food processor, blender, or even a grater to create cauliflower “rice.”
Santos recommends sautéing cauliflower rice in a saucepan with a little butter, salt, and pepper.
You can use cauliflower rice in pretty much any recipe that calls for rice. It’s delicious in a high-protein, low-carb meal like this Jamaican Coconut Shrimp and Cauliflower Rice.