Everyone has varying techniques for cooking a batch of plain white rice and other rice-based recipes. Because of its wishy washy nature rice deserves its own blog post to yield an irresistibly light and fluffy batch regardless of which technique you use. After much trial and tragic error, I arrived at these tips that I swear by each and every time. Once you have the method down to an exact science, it makes buying a bulky rice cooker completely unnecessary. And, even though different types of rice cook differently and require different ratios of liquid, these tips applied to countless recipes including my Jollof Rice – Vegan Style and Rice with Pigeon Peas.
1. Use a pot that is wider than it is tall
This is an important factor because the width of the pot’s surface determines how evenly the heat gets distributed. If you’re pot is too tall and narrow you will end up with a batch of rice that is gummy at the bottom and dry towards the surface. For making one cup of dry rice, a 9.5 inch pot is sufficient, but if you double the amount of rice, simply use a slightly wider-bottomed pot. The low height of the sides just makes it easier to work with.
2. Rinse the rise
The instructions on a package of white rice says not to rinse the rice to preserve its nutrients but I pay that no attention. I prefer aesthetics over nutrition in this case. Bags of rice acquire a fair amount of starchy dust in the bag as they get handled. As this starchy rice flour cooks and can contribute to a gummy texture. Rinse the rice in a wire mesh strainer until the water comes out clear.
3. Use a little oil
The instructions on the package say that oil is optional but I feel it is essential. Using a little oil does not make it oily, rather it makes the grains a little less sticky after it cools. Stir the rice into heated oil in the beginning to evenly coat the rice. Only 2 tablespoons are needed for one cup of dry rice.
4. Do not use too much liquid
Different types of rice call for different liquid amounts, but for long grain white rice, the popular ratio for liquid levels in rice recipes is one part rice to parts liquid, but I typically have more success when I use slightly less liquid. For 1 cup of rice the exact amount of liquid would probably be 1 7/8 cup, although I usually just eye it as I’m familiar with my own measuring cups. I’ve used 1 3/4 cup and it was not enough and 2 cups usually results in some gummy textures.
5. Do not over-stir
Once you add the liquid, too much stirring will make it gummy. Not stirring it at all will result in a layer of burnt rice at the bottom. Just before you put the lid on, give it one thorough (but gentle) stir to release any rice from the surface. Sometimes instead of stirring I give the pot a thorough shake or two and the rice releases. After the rice is removed from heat, lift it gently from the surface just a few times with a spatula with an upwards motion. The rice is still technically cooking at this point, so still be gentle.
6. Be gentle
Agitating rice too much makes it gummy and risotto-like, be gentle and when in doubt, leave it alone.
7. Let rice rest
The main photo in this post is how the rice looks when taken out immediately after the lid comes off. At this stage in process you might be ready to just dig in like I have done, but resist this urge. Let it sit for another 20 minutes with the lid on. It is still technically cooking and absorbing any last moisture it can get.