Cooking rice on the stove seems simple. I mean, all you need is water, a pot, a fork, and a little heat, right? Rice is famously finicky, though, and even experienced cooks have botched a batch or two. (No, it’s not just you.)
Cook rice too fast with too much water and you get mush; keep it on the heat too long and you get burnt edges; let too much steam escape and you miss out on that wonderful fluff. Who knew carbs required so much finesse?
“I grew up using a rice cooker and only learned how to cook rice on the stove when I went to culinary school,” says nutritionist Tessa Nguyen, RD. “It’s such a fickle way to cook rice!” (See? If you can’t seem to get stovetop rice right, you’re in good company.)
Still, not everyone has the budget—or the counter space—for yet another cooking gadget.
The stovetop is certainly the least expensive way to cook this inexpensive grain—and there’s no nutritional difference between stovetop rice versus rice cooker or Instant Pot rice, says nutritionist Keri Gans, RD, who personally prefers cooking rice on the stove.
If you want to avoid mushy or burned burrito bowls, though, you’d better follow these exact steps when you fire up the burner.
1. Pick the right pan.
Believe it or not, so many rice-cooking adventures go wrong from the moment you pick your pan. If you’re making an average amount of rice—one or two cups, dry—use a medium-sized saucepan.
If your pan is too small, the liquid will boil over and you’ll end up with crispy, crunchy grains. Trust me, I’ve personally learned this one the hard way (multiple times).
2. Choose your rice.
White or brown? The choice is up to you, but the cooking process will differ slightly.
“The main difference between white rice and brown rice is that brown rice is considered a whole grain,” Nguyen explains. “It still has the bran and germ intact, resulting in a higher fiber and protein content than white rice.” (It’s also slightly higher in vitamins and minerals.)
The result of this still-intact structure: Brown rice requires more water and a longer cooking time. Keep this in mind for later!
3. Remember: A little rice goes a long way.
Though you might be tempted to make a heaping pile of rice when you’re super hungry, remember that one cup of dried rice yields somewhere between three to three-and-a-half cups of cooked rice, per The Joy of Cooking.
If you’re making dinner for two, one cup of dried rice is plenty.
Feeling confident? Here’s how to make an easy fried rice:
4. Rinse your rice.
Almost everyone skips this step, but both Gans and Nguyen say it’s important. Rinsing your rice before cooking it separates the grains, resulting in fluffier rice that doesn’t harden and clump up when you take it off the stove.
5. Add and boil your water (but don’t add the rice yet).
Generally, you’ll want to use a 1:2 ratio of rice-to-water when cooking rice on the stove. However, the exact amount of water you’ll need varies depending on whether you’re making white or brown rice.
For one cup of generic white rice, use 1 ¾ cups of water, suggests Gans. For one cup of brown rice, use 2 ½ cups of water.
Since short-, medium-, and long-grain rice may require slightly different amounts of water, always check package instructions, too.
Once you’ve added your water to the pot, bring it to a boil.
6. Add your rice and simmer.
Okay, guys, now you can add your rice. Once it’s all in, give it a quick stir to separate the grains, then reduce the temperature until the water reaches a simmer, Gans says.
7. Cover the saucepan and set a timer.
Once you get to a simmer, tightly cover your pan with a lid. Steam is what gives rice its fluffiness, so tempted as you may be to peek and see how your rice is doing, don’t. (You’ll ruin the magic!)
That cup of white rice will take about 18 minutes to cook, while brown requires about 45, says Gans. Once you’ve got your rice covered, set a timer accordingly.
8. Check your rice.
When your timer goes off, you can finally lift the lid and check your rice. The water should be mostly evaporated and your rice should be nice and fluffy, Gans says.
9. Turn off the heat, cover your rice (again), and wait.
Though you might be tempted to take a forkful of rice immediately, be patient. The process isn’t finished yet.
Now, shut off the heat and cover your rice so the steam can work its magic while the rice cools. White rice should be ready after just five minutes, and brown will be good-to-go after 10, Gans says.
10. Fluff and serve your rice.
You’re almost ready to load up that burrito bowl. Finally, you can remove your lid, use a fork to fluff up your rice, and let the remaining steam escape the pan.
From here, scoop your perfectly-cooked masterpiece into bowls or plates and serve. (If you made too much, here’s the right way to reheat rice.)
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