Six tips for making perfect rice every time.
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.
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup basmati white rice
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove the pot from the heat, but keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
For brown basmati rice, stir an additional ¼ liquid into the rice, and allow to simmer for an added 10 - 15 minutes.