Perfect Rice and Confessions of a Lid Lifter
Undaunted by two-page recipes for cassoulet, I remain apprehensive when it comes to preparing a pot of rice. After apologizing yet again for the sticky lumps, I wondered what went wrong?
One problem was obvious. Fluffy grains require abandoning my casual approach to cooking and adhering to the three simple rules of rice:
Bring the right amount of water to a boil and add rice; simmer without stirring or lifting the lid; and set the pot aside, still covered, to rest a few minutes before stirring to fluff.
Did you notice that no lid lifting thing? That’s the hard part. How do I know if the water is really simmering if I don’t look oh, maybe six times while my electric burner reduces temperature to the right simmer level? Maybe I need a different pot, or more rules.
Appliances for Perfect Rice
A rice cooker. If you make a lot of rice and if you love kitchen appliances, you should look into a rice cooker. They vary from simple and inexpensive to complex and pricy. Just add water and rice and let the cooker do the rest.
A pot and a lid. If you have a gas stove, you are in luck. Quickly achieving simmer level is simple because turning a knob reduces the flame, and thus the temperature, immediately. For an electric stove, use two burners—one to boil and one to simmer. This prevents an overflowing mess and, for me, quite a bit of lid lifting.
Helpful Rice Rules
1. Understand the needs of each type of rice.
2. Rinse the rice. Rinsing does wash away a small amount of nutrients, but more importantly, it removes some of the starch that causes stickiness. Rinse twice, in a colander, under cool water. Do not rinse parboiled rice.
3. If your rice is old, let it soak in water for 30 minutes.
4. Use the correct ratio of rice to water. There are two ways to go. One is to measure water and rice per package directions. Or you can use the knuckle method: put the rice in the pot and add enough water to just cover the rice. Shake the pan to level the rice, then place the tip of your middle finger on top of the rice and add more water until it reaches the first knuckle.
5. Bring water to a boil, stir once, reduce to a simmer, and cover. No lid lifting, except briefly at the end of cooking time, when you check to see if the water is absorbed.
6. When the water is absorbed, remove the pot from heat and set it aside, with the lid on, for five minutes.
7. After five minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice to release the steam that’s built up in the pot. If the steam is allowed to continue building unchecked for too long, the rice will coagulate into a remarkably sticky lump.
Specific Directions for Cooking the Most Popular Types of Rice:
Apparently, I made two rice rule mistakes. First there is my admitted lid lifting. Second, I treated the directions to “stir after five minutes” as a throw-away hint. Often my pot would sit with the lid on for 20 minutes as I waited for the rest of the meal to finish. Releasing the steam after five minutes is too important to skip.
For perfect rice, breathe, relax, and remember that lid lifting harms the grains—and that the best rice needs that fluff after five. Perfect rice can be yours every time, if you follow the rules.
What is your secret for cooking perfect rice? What simple cookery skill do you need the most help with? What topic would you like to see in the Healthy Eating blog? Share your suggestions here or send them to me in a pm.