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Perfect Rice and Confessions of a Lid Lifter

By +Janice D'Agostino on Jun 14, 2014 09:00 AM in Recipes

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:

White rice

Brown rice

Jasmine rice

Basmati rice

Wild Rice

Mindfully Considered

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.

Share your thoughts below or tweet at us and the author.

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 pmThis article may be reprinted (including bio) with prior permission from the author.



I learned to cook rice 40 years ago with one general-purpose approach. Twice as much water as rice plus a little bit of butter (or olive oil) and a teeny tiny bit of salt. Bring water to boil, add rice, stir, cover, turn flame down to super low (on electric, move to a different burner set on super low), cover 20 minutes (40 for brown rice).  Remove from heat, uncover, fluff with fork.

One can add a few drops of lemon juice to get  a fluffy rice every time with 2X water

I splurged on an Aroma rice cooker and am so glad I did.  Great for rice, and a few variations I make, adding salsa or corn or peas.  Before that, I cooked rice in the oven, rice and boiling water in a covered casserole, 35 minutes for white rice, 1 hour for brown.  Perfect every time.

I use a rice cooker for large amounts of rice and for smaller amount use small pots or even cast iron frying pans (think basmati rice lightly browned and use chicken stock instead of water).

An excellent, well written article with easy to follow instructions and hints. It will be archived to send to others.

Use a glass lid?

to me, if your rice is "fluffy" then it isn't done right. Fluffy rice is tasteless and just yuck. I lived on Okinawa for 6 years and never once had "fluffy" rice. I much prefer my rice to be sticky and clump together... that is how you pick it up with  chopsticks...

Original Post by: melizabeth

to me, if your rice is "fluffy" then it isn't done right. Fluffy rice is tasteless and just yuck. I lived on Okinawa for 6 years and never once had "fluffy" rice. I much prefer my rice to be sticky and clump together... that is how you pick it up with  chopsticks...

That's called sticky rice, depends on ones taste, and the meal you are trying to compliment.

I cook my rice (not sticky rice) similar to Pasta, 1 teaspoon salt per liter of water, 4x water to rice, olive oil or real butter, boil for 12-18 min. Depending on Type of Rice, checking it after 10 min. Drain and rinse with cold water (rinse with hot water if one is not going to reheat or wants just plain white).

Works perfect for any fried rice, beef, chicken, pork, veggy, shrimp/seafood etc.

Learned this from a Moroccan family, after trying 14 years in a restaurant doing it the traditional way.

Rice cookers work good as well. They will give an out come consistency between traditional and the recipe above.

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