Six tips for making perfect rice every time.

Tips for making perfect fluffy rice

If you’re looking for the perfect recipe that will give you fluffy rice every time, this post is for you.

First, so I don’t offend anyone – it’s not that I don’t like sticky rice. It has its place. The Chinese dim sum dish Lotus Leaf Wraps (Lo Mai Gai) and Filipino Sticky Rice Logs (Suman sa Ibus) come to mind. But my preference, I confess, is for the drier pilafs that sift through my fingers with ease. The cardamom scented Biryani at my local Indian joint, a Persian rice dish studded with dried fruit, or the simple eponymous rice pilaf tossed with grilled vegetables that shows up regularly here at home. These are the rice dishes that call my name. 

For a long time, my rice was inconsistent. Sometimes it was spot on perfect, but any preening on my part was brief. More often I erred with too little liquid resulting in PRE-al dente rice. Edible, but also audible, with a slight crunch. My next batch, I invariably over-corrected with too MUCH liquid (it’s shocking how much difference a mere 2 tablespoons makes!), serving up rice that was gloppy. I’m talking starchy clumps that will never sift through anything.

I could have bought a rice cooker, but frankly I already have enough small kitchen appliances to open my own shop. So I turned this challenge into a project. I researched tips and then test-drove a bunch of them in my noncommercial grade “test kitchen” here at home between meals. It was all pretty scientific with a notebook I titled “FOOD”, to record my results. At the end of it all, I came up with Six Tips that will guarantee a perfect rice pilaf every time.

Note: I wanted to get the list down to Five Tips, since that’s a little more catchy, but that meant either omitting a tip that might make the difference for someone, or cheating by combining two tips into one when it was really two separate tips. Ultimately I decided my gyrations were ridiculous and made peace with myself over having six tips.

Six Tips For Perfect Fluffy Rice:

1. Use a heavy bottomed pot to prevent burning or scorching. It’s harder to control a heated surface that is thin.

2. Sauté the rice in a little olive oil until lightly toasted.

  • Here’s the science behind this tip: When rice simmers in a pot, the grains rub against each other, increasing the inherent starch that makes rice sticky, or in the case of risotto, creamy. The warm liquid helps to liberate that starch. But, if the little grains are encapsulated in a thin coating of oil, the oil acts as a buffer allowing the grains to slide past each other without developing the starch.
  • Some people recommend a 30-minute soak plus a thorough rinse of the rice before cooking to accomplish this, which releases and washes away a bunch of starch, and I can confirm that it works too. But I don’t always want to take another 30 minutes of prep time, and you miss out on the punched up flavor bonus using my method (see the next bullet).
  • Toasting the rice kicks up the flavor of the rice, but mostly the heat allows you to use as little oil as possible. The added flavor is a nice bonus.

3. Use a ratio of 2 cups water or broth to 1 cup  rice.

  • If you have too little liquid, the rice will stick to the pan and risk becoming a permanent appendage to the pan. Too much liquid, as we’ve already established, gives us gloppy rice.

4. Add salt to the broth or water while it’s coming to a simmer. Don’t wait until the end.

  • This ensures an even flavoring throughout the rice. I often add other spices like cardamom or cinnamon with the salt.

5. Cover the pot while it’s simmering and don’t be tempted to stir it. Be sure to keep the pot at a low simmer.

6. When the rice is done, remove from the heat and keep it covered for 10 minutes before tossing it with a fork.

  • This gives the rice time to more evenly distribute their moisture. Otherwise the rice on the top will be dry and almost flakey, the rice on the bottom wet.

Note: All tests were run using white basmati rice. Brown basmati rice requires an additional 1/4 cup liquid for every cup of rice and requires a longer cooking time.

Perfect Fluffy Rice

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: About 3 cups

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basmati white rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  1. Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the rice and toss with a wooden spoon to evenly coat the grains. Toast the grains for 10 - 15 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir the vegetable broth or water into the rice, and add the salt. This is a good time to add any other spices and herbs you're planning on for flavoring the rice.
  3. Bring to a boil, stir to mix in the grains, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes without stirring.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, but keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
There's always a little variability on cooking time, as it's at least partly dependent on how dry and old the rice is. It's fine to remove the lid at the end of cooking to check on the grains. I bite into one of the top grains to make sure the rice is done, and gently nudge the rice aside in the middle of the pot, using a rubber spatula, to make sure the liquid is cooked off. If it's done, I return the lid to the pot while the rice is resting and re-distributing its liquid.
For brown basmati rice, stir an additional ¼ liquid into the rice, and allow to simmer for an added 10 - 15 minutes.



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16 Responses to “6 Tips for Making Perfect Rice” Subscribe

  1. Norma Chang August 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Great rice cooking tips. Tip #5, don’t stir is very important.
    The Chinese dim sum dish Lotus Leaf Wraps (Lo Mai Gai) is made with white glutinous rice also known as sticky rice so no matter how you cook it, it will be sticky.
    Norma Chang recently posted..Harvest Monday, August 4, 2014 – A Few First Harvests + Sugar Pod Peas TransplantMy Profile

  2. Choc Chip Uru August 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    I eat too much rice as it, this looks so delicious 😀
    Yet another excuse to stock up on rice!

    Choc Chip Uru
    Choc Chip Uru recently posted..An Ideal MorningMy Profile

  3. Rita August 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Great info Susan! My hubby (an engineer) is the rice maker in our kitchen. We’ve pretty much switched to brown rice (Tsuru Mai brand) even for a Chinese stir-fry side. He’s got the cooking method “down”! Love the chewy texture.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian August 8, 2014 at 10:30 am #

      Me too, I really like that chewy texture. I’ve been doing a lot more brown rice, but I’ve been working on a mango-pineapple rice dish and it just doesn’t photograph as well with brown rice. Ah, the sacrifices we make for art LOL.
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..6 Tips for Perfect Fluffy Rice Every TimeMy Profile

  4. ChefJohn August 7, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    Susan, Here’s a couple of notes about cooking rice that I was given back in the 50s. I guess things have changed a lot since then, but for fluffy rice, this still works for me.
    I start with about 4 times as much water as the amount of rice I’m going to cook, and bring it to the boil. I then add about 1/2 Tablespoon of butter (you could use oil) and salt, The rice is then poured gently into the water, slowly enough to keep a “rolling boil”. Cook the rice at a very high simmer, so that the water motion keeps the grains circulating in the pot.
    Taste a few grains every 30 seconds after about 8 minutes, until it’s done to your liking/requirements. When cooked, drain immediately under Cold running water, then, while still in the strainer, run hot water over it to heat it again. Repeat this 2 more times, then place in a warmed bowl. Fluff with a fork before serving.
    I know this has little to do with the ‘absorption method’ you mention above, but it has always worked for me.
    My English Grandfather, who was a French-trained Chef/Pastrycook called it “Rice of the seven waters”, never used the absorption method, saying that there was too much variation in rice grain size, starch content and change due to storage time before sale for the absorption method to be dependable.
    As I said before, a lot has changed in the last hundred years or so, but this method has always worked for me.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian August 8, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      This is fascinating! I’ve not seen this method but I really want to try it. Between the large amount of water giving the grains plenty of room, the butter/oil that’s coating the grains a little, that’s preventing excess starch, I’m thinking. And the 4 rinses (2 with cold water, 2 with hot water) is removing a lot of what does build up. All this supports a fluffy outcome. What interests me is that this is a good solution for the variation we naturally get in our rice. I’m going to try this method next! Thanks so much for sharing.
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..6 Tips for Perfect Fluffy Rice Every TimeMy Profile

  5. mjskit August 7, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I’m with you – I don’t need another appliance! :) I’m pretty inconsistent with my rice so this post has been very helpful. I will be trying some of your tips. Thanks!!!
    mjskit recently posted..Grilled Portabello Tacos with Red Chile-Yogurt SauceMy Profile

  6. cheri August 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Great tips Susan, as always great post!
    cheri recently posted..Summer Squash Soup with Red Thai CurryMy Profile

  7. Oui, Chef August 13, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Great tips, Susan, I’ll use them all the next time I make a batch of rice.
    Oui, Chef recently posted..Peach and Blueberry CobblerMy Profile

  8. Ali September 2, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    I LOVE these tips. My means didn’t too often consist of rice growing up, and when they did, it was usually minute rice or boxed Rice-a-roni. So when I got married, I added a rice cooker to our gift registry. I don’t know if it’s me or the rice cooker, but it almost always ends up pretty mushy… Needless to say, I will be using these 6 tips next time I make rice! Thank you!

    • Ali September 2, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Oh goodness. I didn’t proofread. Means=meals. 😉

    • Rachel December 19, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

      If you are using a rice cooker then use the same amount of water as you are using rice and add some olive oil and salt. it shouldn’t come out mushy

      • Ali December 19, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

        My rice cooker’s instructions said to use a 2:1 ratio of water to rice. Or maybe I read it on a bag of rice… Well, I don’t remember where it was, but I know I read to use a 2:1 ratio, and I eventually realized that was wrong. I’ve stopped doing that though, and my rice is much better! :)

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