From properly measuring it out to steaming it with a towel.
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Rice is one of those things that’s super easy to make, but just as easy to mess up.
Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's mushy — it all comes down to technique.
Get to now your rice varieties — some are fluffy, some are sticky, and they can’t really be substituted for each other.
There are a ton of varieties of rice, and it's pretty difficult to memorize them all — but the one thing that will come in handy is knowing the difference between short grain and long grain rice. Short grain rice is plump and sticky. It's perfect for sushi, sticky rice bowls, and is usually the stuff you get with take out. Long grain rice is (obviously) longer, doesn't stick together, and is fluffy rather than dense — this is the kind of rice you want for pilafs and rice salads. Learn more about the differences here.
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Know that the most common cooking ratio — 2 parts water, 1 part rice — doesn’t work perfectly for every single variety of rice.
The cooking ratio isn't one-size-fits-all. For example: brown rice generally needs more water than white. For more detailed info, check out this handy chart that gives you the proper ratios for the most popular varieties.
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Always rinse your rice before cooking it — this will make it less sticky and prevent it from clumping together…
This is less important for long grain varieties, but important none the less. It removes the excess starch stuck to the outside of the rice that makes it gluey and prevents it from sticking together. You can do this by either rinsing it in a strainer or by placing it in a bowl of water and using your hands to wash it. A quick rinsing should be fine, but if you want a full rundown of the classic washing procedure check out this step-by-step.
And don’t even think about stirring it while it’s cooking.
Unless you're cooking risotto (which you want to be starchy), do NOT stir the rice as it cooks. This will cause the rice to become starchy, dense, and gluey — so resist the temptation!
If you’re cooking on the stove, use a heavy-bottomed pot to prevent it from burning.
The downside to not stirring rice as it cooks is that it can burn. To avoid this, make sure to use a heavy-bottomed pot like a dutch oven when making it. A thin metal pot will get too hot on the bottom and scorch it instead of evenly conducting the heat all around.
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Add a splash of oil to your rice to prevent the individual grains from sticking together…
For rice that you don't want to stick together, throw a splash of oil or a pat of butter into the cooking liquid (about a tablespoon). As the rice cooks, it'll prevent it from sticking together and give you beautiful defined grains perfect for tossing in salads.
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And feel free to quickly toast the rice (like a pilaf) to give it a subtle nutty flavor.
Simply heat a bit of oil in your pot, add the rice, and cook it until the grains of rice become golden and fragrant. Then just add your liquid and cook it like usual. The toasted flavor will be subtle, but it'll be just enough to liven it up a bit. See how to do it here.
Make sure you season it with salt (before cooking or after, it’s up to you).
Rice (in my opinion) is like pasta — it's starchy, perfect, and really needs salt. However, not everyone salts their rice, and the people who do season their rice have conflicting views of when it should be added. Some people strictly season their rice before cooking while others wait to season it at the end. Whatever your choose, just remember to salt it at one point or another. It'll make it taste way better and make everything you serve it with taste better as well.
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During the final stages of cooking, place a kitchen towel underneath the lid to absorb any condensation and prevent it from getting mushy…
The idea here is that the towel traps the condensation that would otherwise rain back down onto the rice and cause it to get soggy. Just place the towel underneath the lid during the last few minutes of cooking and make sure it doesn't get near the flame. See how to do it here.
And once your rice is cooked, let it rest for about 15 minutes before eating it.
As soon as your rice is done cooking, you'll want to eat it — but you should wait if you can! Instead, with the towel still placed under the lid, let the rice sit off the heat for about 15 minutes. This will redistribute the moisture throughout the rice and make it more consistent. Learn more about this crucial step here.
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For brown rice, try cooking it like pasta in boiling water to give it a softer texture…
Cooking brown rice is tricky — it always seems to turn out hard or overcooked. One way to get around that is to cook your brown rice like pasta. Just throw it in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender, then drain it and let it steam in a covered pot for about 10 minutes. The boiling will cook it through while the steaming makes sure it stays nice and soft. Get full step-by-step directions here.
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But if you’re in a hurry, you can always cook it in the microwave.
I know we just talked about every detail that goes into making the perfect pot of rice, but sometimes you need to eat something fast. In those moments, you can quickly cook a small bowl of rice in the microwave. To do this, add your (rinsed!) rice to a bowl, add some water, and secure a lid over top (do not seal it). Microwave for about nine minutes, then let it rest for about three minutes — that's it! See step-by-step directions here.
Let’s get cooking!