Remember really gluggy rice? Yes, those were the days. Certainly in Australia, our parents and grandparents mostly did not know how to cook rice. Well-cooked rice makes a meal, and poorly cooked rice spoils it. It took me a long time to be able to cook rice consistently well. Like my mother, I would put rice 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 meditative 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 this foolproof method – once you have mastered it you will never have gluggy rice again.
The method is most commonly called the absorption method. In this method, the precise amount of liquid is added to the rice – as a result there is no straining or having to add more water as the rice absorbs all of the water.
It is still a good idea to wash your rice before you cook it. Rinsing washes off loose starch, making the rice less sticky and removing any dust still resident on the grains.
Soaking your rice before cooking does give a better result. The reasons for soaking rice are to shorten the cooking time and to allow for maximum expansion of long-grain rice, particularly Basmati. If you want to soak, then 20 – 30 minutes is standard.
There are other methods for cooking rice. For example see Steamed Buttery Rice, and Simple Oven Finished Rice. You might also like to try Pepper Rice, South Indian Coconut Rice, Balinese Coconut Rice, Masala Lemon or Lime Rice, Tamarind Rice, or Urad Dal Garlic Rice. There are rice recipes here, and Winter recipes here.
For some reading, explore different kinds of rice.
Equipment and Water
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.
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 1.75-2 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.
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. The rice packet will give you a guide. 1.5 cups is usually a good place to start, and 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, add 1.5 to 2 cups of water (if the rice is washed and soaked first use 1.25 – 1.75 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.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add 0.5 tspn turmeric powder to the rice before adding the water, to give a nicely flavoured, yellow rice.
After cooking stir through up to half a cup of lemon juice and some black mustard seeds that have been cracked (fried and allowed to pop) in some hot ghee. YUM.
Add some curry leaves while frying the rice for added flavour.
Add several strands of saffron to water for the rice as it comes to the boil.