Choosing the perfect rice
There are many different varieties of rice. A good all-rounder is the familiar America long grain that when cooked has separate, light and fluffy grains. Another long-grain rice, Basmati has a delicate flavour and fluffy texture that’s perfect for pilafs and curries.
Brown rice has more fibre, minerals and vitamins, and takes longer to cook than white varieties. It has a nutty flavour and chewy texture.
Speciality rices such as black, Carmargue red and wild rice have a firm texture and great colour that makes them perfect in salads, while Arborio’s plump starchy grains makes it ideal for a creamy risotto.
Rice to water ratio
There are several ways to cook rice: from boiling it like pasta, steaming, microwaving, to baking it in the oven or using a rice cooker. One popular way is to cook rice in a measured amount of water.
You need to use the correct ratio of rice to water for this absorption method. Too much water results in sticky or mushy rice, while too little water means hard, chewy rice. Most type of rice need about 2 parts water to 1 part dried rice. If unsure, check the rice packaging for specific cooking instructions. Measuring your rice by volume rather than weight will make it easier to calculate the water needed. You can use the standard cup measures or simply pour the rice into a measuring jug.
Here’s how to cook the perfect rice every time.
- 1 cup / 200ml basmati rice
- 2 cups / 400ml water
- A pinch of salt
How to cook perfect rice
1. Measure your dry rice, then rinse it in cold water until the water runs almost clear. This helps remove loose starch so the rice will be less sticky. Drain the rice thoroughly.
2. Place the rice in a medium saucepan. Add the water and a generous pinch of salt.
3. Place the saucepan on high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to gently simmer, undisturbed for about 10-12 minutes.
4. After the cooking time has expired, quickly lift the lid and check the rice. The water should be absorbed and you should see small steam holes on the surface of the rice.
5. Turn off the heat completely and leave the rice to rest in the covered saucepan for at least 5-10 minutes. This allows the rice to absorb any remaining liquid so that the bottom layers are as fluffy as the top one.
6. Just before serving, fluff the rice using a fork to separate the cooked grains.
Some types of long grain rice benefit from soaking before cooking. If time allows, soak your Basmati rice for 30 minutes after rinsing. This helps the rice grains swell to their maximum length, resulting in perfect fluffy, non-sticky rice.
A rice cooker is useful if you cook rice frequently or need a large amount at any one time, say for a party. They’re easy to use: you simply add a measured amount of rice and water, switch it on and let the cooker do all the hard work. It will then keep the rice warm until you’re ready to serve it.
Adding flavour to rice
There are lots of ways you can make your rice more exciting. Replace some of the liquid with other liquids such as coconut milk or tinned tomatoes, for example, or add powdered coconut milk. A squeeze of lime juice after cooking works really well.
Can you reheat rice?
If you've got leftover Indian or Chinese takeaway rice you might be remembering hearing that you can't reheat it. This is due to a bacteria, B. cereus, which is found on rice. In his column in Saga Magazine Dr Mark Porter offered his opinion to a reader. "Rice should be reheated only if it has been prepared in way that reduces the odds of contamination with the bacterium B. cereus, a method known as ‘cook chill’ – flash freezing after cooking. It’s used for microwave meals (and can be done when cooking rice at home). Takeaways don’t use this technique and reheating the rice, or eating it cold the next day, could give you food poisoning."
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