Cooktop Cove: 5+ tips for cooking rice
Rice is one of those things that seems like it should be very simple to make, but a lot of people get hung up on it. Either it turns out way too hard or way too soft, or it's burnt to the bottom of the pan. It's for these reasons that rice cookers have become so popular, bu these appliances are expensive and take up counter space that could be put to much better use. And, they're completely unnecessary.
Rice can be very easy to make and all you really need is a pot and a lid. And a clean kitchen towel and the tips below also help. So before you head out to buy that rice cooker, try your hand at least one more time at cooking it on your own. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised by the results!
1. Rinse your rice
This is a hotly debated tip when it comes to make rice - to rinse or not to rinse? Some swear against it while others are all for it, and we are in that latter group. Rice is one of the starchiest foods there is, and that starch doesn't always get absorbed into the grains while it's cooking. And when it's left to sit in the pot, it can turn rice gluey and mushy.
To prevent this from happening, rice needs to be thoroughly rinsed. Place it in a fine mesh colander and let cool water run over it. Stir the rice by hand while the water is running over it and rinse it for at least three minutes. This is an absolutely necessary step to make sure you get individual grains of rice instead of just a big sticky mound on your plate.
2. Use the right ratios
1 cup rice + 2 cups liquid = 4 servings (25 mins)
If you're not using the right ratios, you're not going to get good rice. You'll either end up with rice that hasn't been cooked nearly long enough, or you'll end up with that big gluey, mushy mess again. Most white rice needs a ratio of one part rice and two parts liquid, which is typically water. If you're cooking brown rice, you'll need to increase the liquid content because brown rice takes longer to cook and so, needs more liquid to make sure it doesn't burn. The ratio for brown rice is usually 1 part rice to 2.5 parts of liquid.
3. Think beyond water
There are a lot of ways to get flavorful rice. Some people mix other ingredients like onions or peas into it, while some douse it in soy sauce or let it swim in butter on their plate. But you can change the flavor profile of rice before you even start cooking it just by changing the liquid you use. While most people use water and you definitely can too, you can also try switching it up with stock, tomato juice, coconut milk, or even tea. This will bring a ton of flavor to the rice and can really complement the dish you're serving it with.
4. Keep the heat to medium
Many people bring their rice to a rolling boil during the first stage of cooking rice. And in fact, even many rice packages call for the rice to be boiled before anything else. But don't turn that heat to high and wait for the liquid to come to a full boil before turning it down.
Keep the burner at medium and don't ever raise it higher than that while it's cooking. Not only will it likely boil over, making you lose some of that liquid that's necessary to get perfectly-cooked rice, but you'll also run the risk of burning it to the bottom of the pot.
Instead place the rice into the pot, cover it with a lid and place it on the burner. Turn the burner to medium heat and wait for it to boil. It will take a bit longer, but it's the only way to cook perfect rice.
5. Use a kitchen towel
After the rice has come to a boil, remove the lid and quickly place a clean kitchen towel over the top of the pot before placing the lid back on and making sure there is a tight seal between the lid, the towel, and the pot. This will absorb any condensation that would otherwise form on the lid of the pot. When that condensation does form and there's no towel in place that moisture will fall back down onto the rice and quickly turn it to mush.
Make sure that you also bring the ends of the towel that hang over the pot up on top of the lid and that they never touch the burner. This will prevent a kitchen fire. Then turn the burner off, keeping the pot on it. This will allow enough heat for the rice to finish cooking but as the burner cools, it won't overcook the rice or burn it to the bottom of the pot.
6. Fluff it with a fork
Ever notice how nearly all rice recipes call for it to be fluffed with a fork as soon as it's done cooking? This isn't just to separate the grains and make it easier to serve, although it does that too. But the most important reason to fluff the rice with a fork is to let the steam escape. Without fluffing it, that steam will get trapped within the rice, causing it to overcook and once again, become mushy.
To fluff the rice with a fork, simply drag a fork through the rice breaking it up as you do. Work your way through the entire pot of rice until it is all fluffy and ready to serve!
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