How To Cook Rice


Remember really gluggy rice? Yes, those were the days. Certainly in Australia, our parents mostly did not know how to cook rice. Well cooked rice makes a meal, and poorly cooked rice sure does spoil it. I took me a long time to be able to cook rice consistently well. I used to put it into buckets of boiling water, cook it rapidly, strain it when done and then hope for the best. Sound familiar?

These days, rice cookers take any guess work out of the process, and they are great. BUT I still like the art of the stovetop method when I have the time. It is not hard at all. At one time someone I worked with taught me the most amazing foolproof method – once you have mastered it you will never have gluggy rice again. I have forgotten the name of the person but not the method for cooking rice. Hmmm. I wonder where my priorities lie?

Notes on the recipe

The method is most commonly called the absorption method. Strangely named as all methods involve absorption of water. However, in this method, the precise amount of liquid is added to the rice – so no straining or having to add more water as the rice boils dry.

Once rice was full of nasties – stones, dirt, gravel, and chaff. These days it is (mostly) free of these additions. Although the other day I found a stone in some Indian Basmati.

However, it is still a good idea to wash your rice before you cook it. Rinsing washes off loose starch, making the rice less sticky. I don’t always do it, but it is a good idea to lose some of that starch and any dust still resident on the grains. Be sure to thoroughly strain rinsed or soaked rice. Excess water can make your rice mushy.

Whether you soak rice depends on time and tradition.

I don’t always do it, but it does give a better result. The reasons for soaking rice are to shorten the cooking time (although the soaking takes longer than the cooking) and to allow for maximum expansion of long-grain rice, particularly Basmati. If you want to soak, then 30 minutes is normal, but you can leave it for much longer if that is more convenient for you.

[Update: see a subsequent post on Steamy, Buttery Rice that does require soaking for 30 minutes. These days I do like to soak a little, I think it improves the end result.]


You do need a good sized sturdy pot with a tight fitting lid for this method. The method traps the steam inside the pot, and this completes the cooking of the rice. The size of the pot allows the steam to accumulate above the rice, so don’t use one that will cramp the rice. Give it plenty of space. If your lid fits loosely, put a clean kitchen cloth between the lid and the pot. (Be sure to fold it over onto the pot so it doesn’t burn.) The cloth also absorbs the water that would normally condense on the inside of the lid and fall back down into the rice – you get a drier, fluffier rice.

How Much Water?

Different rices absorb different amounts of water. You will have to experiment a bit to find the right ratio of rice and water for the particular rice that you use. My basmati rice takes 1.5 times the amount of rice in water. You may find that your rice takes a little more or a little less.

Don’t forget that cooking rice in a rice cooker requires less water than cooking rice in a pot on the stove. Follow your rice cooker’s instructions if using a rice cooker.

Short, Medium and Long Grain Rices

These images show you the difference between short, medium and long grain rice.

Short GrainMedium GrainLong Grain - Basmati


Cooking Rice

Source: A work colleague
Prep Time: 3 mins + optional soaking time of 30 mins
Cook Time: 17 mins
Serves: 2 people

Large, sturdy pan with tight fitting lid

1 cup rice
1 Tblspn oil or ghee
1.5 – 2 cups boiling water
Celtic sea salt

Different rices absorb different amounts of water. Play around with the amount of water until you find the right that you like best for the type of rice that you use.

For every cup of rice, use 1.5 to 2 cups of water (if the rice is washed first use 1 – 1.5 cups). In general, use the larger amount for long-grain rice, the lesser for medium and short. More water will give you softer, stickier rice—great for stir-fries. Less water will keep the grains more separate and result in firmer rice, a good style for rice salads and curries.

Put the water on to boil in your kettle.

Heat the oil or ghee in a saucepan that has a tight fitting lid. Add the rice and stir until it is glazed with the oil or ghee. It makes a nice cracking sound and takes about 1 minute. The oil helps to keep the grains separate.

Add the boiling water, quickly stir and add salt to taste.

Turn the heat to medium, place the lid on the pot and allow to cook for at least 5- 7 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE LID FROM THE SAUCEPAN.

Turn the heat off but leave the pot on the stove. Let it sit undisturbed for at least 12 and up to 20 minutes. It won’t overcook, and sometimes you need the extra time to prepare the remainder of the meal.

Fluff the rice gently with a fork or chopstick. Handle gently, you don’t want to break the rice grains.

Add 0.5 tspn turmeric powder to the rice before adding the water, to give a nicely flavoured, yellow rice.

OR after cooking stir through up to half a cup of lemon juice and some black poppy seeds that have been cracked (fried and allowed to pop) in some hot ghee. YUM.

OR add some curry leaves while frying the rice (curry leaves need oil to release their flavour) for an added Indian note to the rice.

OR boil the water for the rice in a saucepan with several strands of saffron.

Play. Enjoy. Yum.


From The Rice Series



About Ganga108

Heat in the Kitchen, Cooking with Spirit. Temple junkie, temple builder, temple cleaner. Lover of life, people, cultures, travel. Champion of growth, change and awareness. Taker of photos. Passionate about family. Happy.
This entry was posted in 10 Mid Spring, Asian, Indian, Lentils - Grains - Rice - Nuts, Tips and Techniques, VEGETARIAN and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to How To Cook Rice

  1. amberjee says:

    I remember a lovely Cambodian friend showing me how to add the right amout of rice and water. It was something like rice up to the first joint from the fingertip and water up to the knuckle. Or some such, don’t quote me on it, but she did always make a perfect rice!


  2. paperseed says:

    I was interested to read that first comment above, because that is exactly how my asian mother also taught me to make rice. I also wash and drain the rice as well. It was my “job” as a kid. Here’s my method: add rice to the pot about 1/2 – 1/3 full. Then add water until it covers the rice and, when you insert your middle finger until the very tip barely touches the rice, continue to add water until it reaches the first knuckle line. I boil the water down until the water line is below the top of the rice, then stir well and cover. Now I’ll let it simmer on low for about 15 minutes. I don’t know why but it really does work every time.


  3. amberjee says:

    paperseed, i’m so glad you’ve confirmed the method for me. i always thought it was such a beautiful and genius way of measuring. but now my Hong Kong partner would not live without our rice cooker!


  4. TBC says:

    Just discovered your blog . You have a beautiful space here. Will be back soon.


  5. VegeYum says:

    Hi TBC, great that you could join us. I am so pleased that you enjoyed my site. Hope to see you again soon.

    I love that your blog has a lot of Indian food – my most favourite dish is any home cooked Indian food.

    See you again soon. Eat, be thankful, and enjoy.


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  9. coolienne says:

    Hello there. Great post. Am a ricecooker user as well. Once, esp. since I used to live alone and only cook for one, the pot was the tool. The knuckle story applies, by my end, too. Didn’t know whether the soaking was scientifically accurate but on Sundays, when I have time, it is not rare that I soak our rice for 1 hour. Interesting blog. Seems I was your first visitor from Madagascar. Enjoy your w-e!

    Hi coolienne, yes as far as I know you are my first visitor from Madagascar. Lovely that you came to visit. I also have tried the soaking method, it does make a difference when you have the time. did you see my post on steaming rice?


  10. coolienne says:

    Hello there… Sorry, I lost track of your blog (should allow rss, i know) and only replying now. Haven’t seen the other post yet. Going to check

    Hey, great you made it back here again….


  11. Very informational post…I’ll have to check out the other rice recipes now.

    Thanks, Mango Power Gal, hope you find the Butter Rice post too. I love that you are crawling around my blog. Enjoy.


  12. Hmm… How to cook rice? At malaysia, everyday we eat rice. I think malaysian people become expert to cook rice. Ha ha.


    I guess anyone who cooks rice every day would be a wonderful expert at it. I love Malaysian food. Wonderful.


  13. Joe Savoie says:

    I learned to cook rice from my mother as a child. She always washed the rice. Two or more times. Add water to one Knockle over the rice. A little salt then boil water to- as Justin Wilson says” When you can hear the water boil but you can’t see it” Turn to low, low and cover 15-20 minutes, turn fire off. Then let it sit for 10 min. Serve! It all takes about 35 min.


  14. bg says:

    Rather nice site you’ve got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

    Joan Simpson


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  16. Hi, I check your blogs like every week. Your
    writing style is awesome, keep up the good work!


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