Rice is the staple food of half the world’s population. In India, China, Thailand and all over Asia rice makes up a large part of every meal. But what is the best way to cook rice?
What Is Rice?
Rice is a grain, harvested from the cultivated rice plant oryza sativa, a type of grass which is grown in watery beds known as ‘paddy fields.’
There are many different types of rice plants but the majority of rice is grown in Asia, particularly in China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Rice has been grown for thousands of years; the earliest evidence of rice being cultivated dates back to 7000 – 5000 BC.
Most of the rice we eat in the Western world is of the long grain variety, both white and brown. Brown rice has more fibre than white rice but takes twice as long to cook. Basmati rice is one that I use a lot, I love the delicate fragrance and the flavour. This type of rice is used extensively in Indian cooking, it’s the base for the very popular pilau rice. Rice is essential to some of our most popular international dishes; curry, jambalaya, risotto, and pilaf. They couldn’t exist without it.
There are many different types of rice, all with a unique flavour and texture. Particular types of rice are used in specific dishes but they are all easy to cook – once you know how to cook rice.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the different kinds of rice available.
This rice is commonly used to make risotto. It’s recognisable by its short, rounded grains. Arborio rice contains a lot of starch which releases during cooking to give a creamy texture, making it perfect for a comforting risotto. When cooked, arborio rice should still have a firm texture. It absorbs lots of liquid during cooking but it won’t ever get really soft. So don’t try to cook it for too long, you will be wasting your time!
This lovely, fragrant rice is used a lot in Indian cooking. It has a long, thin grain and cooks quite quickly. White basmati rice is the most commonly found but brown basmati is also available. If you want to make pilau rice, this is the one you need. Its unique flavour is not found with regular long grain rice.
This has a similar flavour and aroma to basmati rice, but the grains are shorter and rounder. It’s used mainly in Thai cooking but it can also be used instead of basmati rice. Jasmine rice doesn’t actually taste like jasmine, it’s quite subtle. I sometimes use it to make Chinese fried rice, the texture is ideal for this.
Brown rice can be used in place of white rice in any recipe. It has the benefit of more fibre, plus it contains magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. It does take longer to cook (about 25 minutes) than white rice but it has a pleasantly nutty flavour which goes well with most dishes.
As the name suggests, this sticks together in clumps when cooked. The reason for this is that the grains contain less amylose (starch) than other kinds of rice. It can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and is a good alternative to arborio rice when making risotto.
Long Grain White Rice
This is, as the name suggests, a long grained rice, very versatile and it cooks quickly. It is fluffy when cooked as the longer the grain of rice, the less it sticks together. This is sometimes known as Patna rice, although technically Patna rice is from a specific region of India.
Wild rice is a bit misleading as it’s not actually rice; it’s the seeds from a kind of marsh grass. It looks like rice and cooks in the same way so can be used instead of brown or long grain rice in recipes. It has an earthy, nutty taste and aroma and contains more antioxidants than regular rice.
*If you’re mixing wild rice with another type bear in mind that wild rice takes longer to cook.
Sushi rice is short grain rice and its grains are very sticky when cooked. This makes it easy to work with and roll into sushi. Long grain rice would never work as it wouldn’t stick together and the sushi would fall apart as you were trying to roll it.
So now that you know more about rice, its origins and the different types available, I want to share with you my method for cooking rice that gives me perfect results every time.
I tried for many years to cook rice by the absorption method (using twice the amount of water to rice and cooking until all the water was absorbed) but I always ended up with a sort of messy clump, some grains still hard inside, others overcooked. I started to think that cooking rice was something I couldn’t do.
Then one day I just filled a pan with water, added salt and tipped in the rice once the water was boiling. I gave it a stir now and then and tested the rice after 8 minutes to see if it was done. When I drained off the water I was amazed to see all the grains of rice were separated. No clumps. And it was all evenly cooked.
I have used this method ever since and have had no more problems with my rice. Try it yourself and see how easy it is.
Perfect Results Every Time
So, this is the method I use to cook rice and it works for me every time.
First of all, fill a large pan with water, add a teaspoon of salt and put a lid on the pan. (The salt is necessary as rice is very bland without it.) Allow about 50 – 60g of rice per person (depending on how hungry you are) and when the water is boiling, tip in the rice and stir.
Allow the water to come back to the boil then lower the heat slightly and cook for about 8 minutes for white or basmati rice and 20 – 25 minutes for brown or wild rice. Test a few grains by tasting them. If they’re still a bit firm in the centre allow a few minutes longer. But keep an eye on it – rice can become overcooked in a matter of minutes.
Drain the rice in a sieve or colander and boil the kettle. Rinse the rice thoroughly with boiling water to get rid of the starch that has come out during cooking. Allow all of the water to drain off, fluff the rice up with a fork and serve.
I hope that you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
If you’re wondering what to serve with your perfectly-cooked rice, see this post for some authentic Indian recipes.
Thai food is good with rice too. See this post for some authentic Thai curry recipes
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