Though one of the most basic dishes imaginable, rice sure is easy to mess up. If you’ve ever thought “I’ll just make a quick risotto” or “No problem, it’s just rice!” only to end up with a pot of unappetizing mush—you know what we mean.
This whole-grain staple can go from dry and unappetizing to goopy and overdone in the blink of an eye, and all of a sudden, your dreams of a simple dinner are dashed.
Don’t fall prey to the following all-too-common cooking mistakes. Just follow these six foolproof steps to cook the best, most fluffy rice ever—whether you choose brown or white, short- or long-grain.
Step One: Rinse the rice (or not).
Depending on what kind of rice you’re cooking, you may want to give it a quick rinse in cold water. Rinsing removes some of the starch on the outside of the grains, which yields a firmer texture and prevents the rice from becoming sticky. So, if you’re cooking long-grain rice like basmati and jasmine, rinsing is probably a good idea.
If you’re making a risotto or cooking a sticky, short-grain version, however, don’t need to worry about rinsing. The same goes for brown rice—rinsing won’t affect it one way or another because it’s sturdier than white varieties.
Step Two: Measure out enough water.
Here’s where most home cooks go wrong. Pouring just the right amount of water into the pot is crucial for cooking perfectly fluffy rice. Too little water, and it’ll remain too hard, and maybe even burn to the bottom of the pan. Too much water, and you’ll end up with a mushy, unappetizing batch.
Typically, 1 ¼ cups of water for each cup of rice is enough, but check the package instructions for specifics. Brown rice and other varieties may require more water. Adding extra H2O will also result in softer, stickier rice.
Step Three: Leave it alone.
Be careful not to stir rice while it cooks—this activates the starch and makes it get mushy and gooey.
Step Four: Cook until the water is absorbed.
Next, you’ll want to cook your rice until all of the water has been absorbed. Check the directions on the package, but also carefully monitor the pot to ensure the grains don’t become overcooked and mushy, or burn and adhere to the bottom.
You’ll know it's ready to remove from the heat once small tunnels form in the thick layer of rice. (There will still be a little bit of water in the pot.)
Step Five: Let it rest.
Remove the rice from the heat, and let it sit in the pot without disturbing it for at least 5 minutes. You can leave it even longer while you finish cooking the rest of your meal. Allowing the rice to rest before serving allows it to absorb any remaining moisture and firm up, resulting in a perfectly uniform texture.
Step Six: Fluff it up.
Last but not least, give the rice a good fluff with a fork. Serve it right away, or refrigerate it to use in salads or cold dishes.
And there you have it: Just six easy steps to flawless rice that’s plenty moist with just enough bite.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho