How To Cook Rice | The Absorption Method

How to perfect this common method of cooking rice.

Absorption Method Rice

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. Be sure to thoroughly strain rinsed or soaked rice. Excess water can make your rice mushy.

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.

Cooking 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.

Fluff the rice gently with a fork or chopstick. Handle gently, you don’t want to break the rice grains. Place the lid back on and leave the rice to sit for another 2 minutes.

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.



10 thoughts on “How To Cook Rice | The Absorption Method”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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….

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

Welcome! I hope you are enjoying what you see here. Thank you so much for your comment and your thoughts.

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