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How to Cook Rice

Woman holding cooked jasmine rice bowls with spoon. Wearing a gray sweater.

Like hard-boiling eggs and basic knife tricks, knowing how to cook rice is one of the fundamental building blocks of successful home cooking. After all, satisfyingly starchy meals are never far away with this essential skill in your back pocket. But how do you make sure your rice is cooked to perfection every time?

Sure, you could use a handy digital rice cooker to help simplify the process. But the truth is that you definitely don’t need one to prepare this seminal grain to perfection. In fact, you probably already have all the necessary tools to make beautifully fluffy rice on your stovetop—all you really need is a lidded pot, salt, tap water, and, of course, a big bag of rice. Plus some rice-cooking know-how, of course—which we’ll get to in a minute.

The fact that you don’t need any special equipment to make great rice is just one of many reasons why people love this cornerstone grain, which features in a wide variety of cuisines around the world. (You probably can’t say the same for cauliflower rice, can you?) Along with being an inexpensive, shelf-stable pantry staple, rice is also extremely versatile in the kitchen, as well as ideal for meal prep. Whether you’re preparing a batch of rice in advance for grain bowls, making a simple side, or turning it into the main event (think stunning dishes like Persian tahdig or Spanish paella), there’s almost no way to go wrong with rice.

Though knowing how to make rice is a basic skill, that doesn’t mean that every technical aspect of cooking rice properly is so simple. That’s why we’ve got expert-approved tips and answers to common questions like “how long does rice take to cook?” that will make the process easy every time, no matter what variety of rice you’re using. Expect a bit of trial and error in the beginning as you become familiar with the sights and smells of a well-cooked pot of rice. But once you have a bit of experience under your belt, you’ll be able to make a delicious, freshly cooked pot of rice with your eyes closed.

What are the most common rice varieties?

Jasmine, basmati, and brown rice are among the most common varieties of rice at the store, but they’re by no means the only ones. There’s also wild, black, red, sushi, and arborio rice—along with countless sub-varieties of white rice from many regions around the globe.

There are three umbrella categories of rice, distinguished by the length of the grain: short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain rice. They’ve got different textures and, therefore, lend themselves well to different types of dishes. Shorter rice varieties, like Calrose and arborio, are used for sushi- and risotto-style dishes because they produce creamy, stickier, starchier final products. Long-grain rice varieties are dry and better at fluffing and crisping, so they’re more ideal for both crunchy fried rice dishes and delicate, steamed rice recipes. And medium-grain rice is somewhere in the middle.

Should you rinse rice?

Although rinsing rice isn’t an absolute must, it is highly recommended. Rinsing your rice before cooking is a good idea because it washes away grime and starch that may otherwise make your rice sticky or gloopy when it should be fluffy, Maxine Yeung, RD, trained chef, and owner of The Wellness Whisk, tells SELF. It’s also fast and easy to do.

How do you rinse rice?

There are a couple of simple methods to quickly rinse rice in your kitchen sink. You can fill a large pot with rice and water, swirl things around to loosen up the excess gunk, and then pour out the dirty water, or you can simply run water directly over a sieve full of rice.

Of course, anyone that’s ever tried to rinse rice knows that it can be tricky not to let all the individual grains go slipping down the drain. Mina Stone, chef, owner of Mina’s at MoMA PS1, and author of Lemon, Love, and Olive Oil, tells SELF that her preferred method requires just a little patience. She begins by placing grains directly in a pot, filling it with a small amount of water, and stirring the grains until the water becomes cloudy. “Then, I pour the water down the drain and if I see a grain of rice slipping towards the edge, that is when I stop and refill the pot with water,” Stone explains. She repeats this process three or four more times until the water is completely clear.

If you’re looking for a quicker way to rinse rice, a large, fine mesh sieve will come in handy—simply rinse for a minute or two under running water, using your hands to jostle the rice. (You can also use a sieve when dumping out the water during Stone’s rinsing method for extra security against losing stray grains, Stone says.)

Do you season rice before or after cooking?

Most rice recipes recommend seasoning your rice by adding salt to the pot with the uncooked rice, as this can infuse more flavor into the rice as it cooks.

Start with a pinch to half a teaspoon of salt per one cup of dried rice, depending on your palate. (Remember, you can always add more later.)

Seasoning doesn’t have to mean just salt, either. Try infusing rice with a little bit of fat, and some spices or herbs during the cooking process, like Stone does. “I also always add a knob of butter or ghee, a bay leaf, and a teaspoon of kosher salt,” she explains.

Another option is to give your rice some rich depth of flavor by cooking it in chicken, seafood, or veggie stock, Mike Le, co-creator of I Am a Food Blog, tells SELF. (If you’re using stock, skip the additional salt.) You could even use coconut milk for a creamy side dish. As long as you stick to the right ratio of liquid to rice—more on that in a minute—your grain can be cooked in almost any kind of liquid for extra oomph.

If you’re wondering how to cook rice that’s extra flavorful using a creative, salt-free seasoning option, try toasting the rice first, which Yeung sometimes does to give the grains a nice nutty note. Yeung says you can toast your rice (in a skillet, or right in the cooking pot if it’s wide enough) with a bit of oil and spices before adding water.

Or you could choose not to season your rice at all, and instead enjoy its wonderfully simple, starchy flavor on its own. Le prefers to keep it plain when it comes to high-end Japanese dishes, which are full of flavor and nuance just as they are. Yeung also likes to let the food she serves alongside the rice take care of the seasoning for her. “I typically don’t add salt to my rice because the other parts of the meal, such as the marinade or sauce, usually have enough seasoning,” Yeung says, “and I like the balance the unseasoned rice adds to the meal.”

What is the ratio of water to rice?

There’s no one magic number for the perfect water-to-rice ratio, and you’ll find a lot of variation here depending on the variety of rice and who you’re asking. Generally speaking, you’ll want to aim for a water-to-rice ratio of about one and a half to one and three quarter cups water to one cup rice.

Stone says a rice-to-water ratio of one to just short of two will work for almost all white rice varieties, from basmati to jasmine. She will use one and three quarter cups water for white rices to ensure that her rice doesn’t end up overcooked. Le’s general ratio is about one and a half cups of water to one cup white rice.

When in doubt, Stone says, err on the side of using less water because you can always add more later if necessary. Then, “If the rice is undercooked once the water is absorbed, I’ll add one or two tablespoons of hot water and steam it over low heat until it is cooked through,” she explains. Similarly, Yeung will add a splash of water and let the rice cook a few minutes longer (with the lid on) if the rice isn’t quite soft enough for her liking.

On the other hand, brown or other minimally processed whole grain rice varieties need to absorb a little bit more water than their refined carb counterparts to be fully cooked. (Outlier wild rice especially needs a lot of water.) In general, Stone recommends using two full cups of water for one cup of rice of this type. Le sticks with about one and a half cups, though.

As you can see, a lot of this comes down to personal preference and experience. Keep in mind that you can adjust a ratio based on how chewy or soft you usually like your rice too. If you prefer an al dente texture, use less water (so closer to one and a quarter cups water to one cup rice), and if you prefer it on the softer side, use more water (closer to about two cups water to one cup rice).

Here is a list of the recommended rice-to-water ratio ranges for different types of rice.

  • Basmati rice: 1 cup rice to 1 ¼–1 ¾ cup water
  • Jasmine rice: 1 cup rice to 1 ¼–1 ¾ cup water
  • Brown rice: 1 cup rice to 2 cups water
  • Wild rice: 1 cup rice to 3–4 cups of water
  • Sushi rice: 1 cup rice to 1 cup water
  • Brown rice: 1 cup rice to 2 cups water

How long does rice take to cook?

The cooking time for different types of rice varies a bit depending on a few factors. “Different varieties and the age of the rice can affect cooking time,” Stone says. It also depends on the exact brand of rice, the fit of your lid, and how much water you use, which is why you might need a couple practice rounds to get it perfect.

That said, you don’t need to get too fixated on exact cooking times. According to Le, you can use the same timing for the different kinds of white rices—about 15 to 20 minutes. In general, refined white rices generally take less time to cook because a lot of their tougher components are removed during the refining process, as Stone explains. (This doesn’t include arborio and sushi rices, two notable exceptions to the quick-cooking white rice rule.)

On the flip side, whole grain varieties like brown and wild rice take longer to cook—generally about twice as long, per Le. That’s because they still have their firm, fibrous exteriors on. In general, these grains will need at least 30 to 45 minutes over heat.

The recommended time on the bag is a good place to start. Or use these times for a rough reference frame when you’re not sure how long to cook rice in a pot.

  • Basmati rice: 15 to 20 minutes
  • Jasmine rice: 15 to 20 minutes
  • Wild rice: 40 to 45 minutes
  • Sushi rice: 25 to 35 minutes
  • Brown rice: 30 to 40 minutes

What is the correct way to cook rice?

While the proper rice-to-water ratio and cook time changes depending on the variety of rice, the basic method for how to cook rice in a pot on the stovetop is always the same: bring the rice to a boil, lower the heat, put on the lid, and wait.

Le always follows the same process when cooking rice: He brings the rice and water to a rolling boil, then puts on the lid, drops the heat as low as it can go, and sets a timer for 17 minutes while it simmers. (For whole grain rice, let it cook for at least 30 minutes before peeking.)

Once the timer goes off, Le moves the pot off the heat and waits another 10 minutes before opening the lid. That’s because it’s really the steam that cooks the rice, not the boiling water. (Letting the rice rest also helps create the best texture.) Whatever you do, don’t lift the lid until the timer’s up—that will let steam escape and mess with the cooking process, Le says.

After that initial cook time, if you notice it hasn’t reached your desired texture, you can make adjustments, such as adding additional water (if your rice isn’t yet tender but all the liquid has absorbed) and/or cooking it for a couple more minutes.

Why is my rice so mushy?

If your rice is consistently turning out mushy, odds are that you’re using way too much water.

Next time, use considerably less than you normally would, and remember that undercooked rice is easy to save. A couple extra tablespoons of water and a few more minutes of heat will almost always produce the desired fluffy texture you’re looking for.

What can I add to plain white rice?

Now that you know all the basics of how to make rice, let’s talk about how to jazz it up. There are almost countless ways to spice up your rice after it’s been cooked—the plain taste and absorbent texture of rice is extremely amenable to a wide variety of flavorings.

Feel free to experiment with your favorite homemade or store-bought sauces, condiments, seasonings, and spice blends. (Think chili paste, sriracha, salsa, zhoug, pesto, Romesco, nutritional yeast, or Parmesan cheese.) One stellar, umami-packed option is topping your rice with furikake, a Japanese seasoning mix made with ingredients like seaweed and sesame seeds that pumps up the grain’s flavor with little effort on your part.

For a quick side dish, make a rice salad by mixing in fresh herbs, citrus zest, and olive oil. And an easy way to turn your plain rice into a balanced meal is to make a delicious stir fry recipe with veggies and meat or tofu.

How long will my rice be good to eat?

According to the USA Rice Federation (a trade association), cooked rice will stay good to eat for up to five days in the refrigerator (or six months in the freezer). This lines up with guidance from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to consume store-bought cooked rice kept in the fridge within four to six days (or within six months if kept in the freezer). Just make sure to store your leftover rice in a sealed container within two hours of cooking and keep your fridge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (and your freezer at zero) or below to prevent bacterial growth and reduce the risk of foodborne illness, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises.

Keep in mind that the longer the rice stays in the fridge, the more it dries out and hardens (though dried out rice is actually ideal for dishes like fried rice). If you want your meal-prepped or leftover rice to taste more like freshly steamed rice hot off the stovetop, here’s a tip from The Kitchn: Add a splash of water to your bowl of rice, use a fork to break up any big clumps, cover, and microwave until heated through. (As always when reheating leftovers, use a food thermometer to make sure it reaches a safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, per the USDA.) You can use the same re-steaming method on a stovetop, using a covered pan over low heat (and a splash of oil if you like). The steam from the water will give your reheated rice a fluffy texture reminiscent of just-cooked rice, hot off the stovetop.

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