Perfect rice on the stove
March 23, 2018 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Now that I have an Instant Pot, I've ditched my rice cooker to save cabinet real estate. I mostly make basmati rice, but after following this recipe which almost ended in disaster,* I'm wondering how you all do it. What's your tried-and-true method for cooking basic basmati rice on the stove?

* mushy, almost inedible, saved at the last minute by removing the foil, stirring, and letting the excess water evaporate. FWIW, I love this site, but this time it was a total fail.
posted by onecircleaday to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have good pots? My rice cookery got much better when I invested in quality pots with heavy bottoms and tight-fitting lids.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do what it says on the Kirkland bag. Works fine for me. But I have a nice pot that I use, with a well fitting lid.
posted by kerf at 9:26 PM on March 23, 2018

Pretty good... basically the Kirkland/Costco version of the All-Clad pots.
posted by onecircleaday at 9:26 PM on March 23, 2018

No soaking, rinse if you must but I don’t. 1 cup rice, sautéed in butter or not as desired, 1.5 cups water and salt to taste. Boil it, reduce heat to the minimum, lid it, wait 18-20 mins. Scale as needed. Variation: use 1/2 cup salsa in place of equal amount water, use a spoon of better than bouillon instead of salt, maybe toss in some cumin and chili powder when you sauté in oil = better than most rice at Mexican restaurants.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 9:41 PM on March 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

I use all chicken stock instead of water (I'm sure veggie stock or any compArable low salt liquid would work). Also it's apparently important that you keep it lid on and don't futz with the pot for the entirety of the cook time.

The Jew in me would suggest adding schmaltz instead of butter, either at the beginning of the end.
posted by softlord at 9:49 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
Add a dash of salt and a generous spoonful of oil or butter
Rinse 1 1/4, 1 1/3 or 1 1/2 cups of rice, depending on your prefered firmness, in cold water
Add to pot
Reduce heat to low/ or 2 setting
Stir for a minute so it doesn't stick to the bottom
Put the lid on
Leave it 15-20 mintues
It will be done when it starts to stick to the sides and bottom
Turn off heat and remove from burner
"Fluff" it with a fork
Put the lid back on and let rest for 5 minutes
posted by OnefortheLast at 9:50 PM on March 23, 2018

So I should preface this by noting that me and the Rice Demons mostly don't get along even though I'm a decent enough cook. But anyway, when it works, this is what works for me.

(1) Look at box or other relevant container to find THE DIRECTIONS for that rice.
(2) Follow THE DIRECTIONS like the were the word of a very angry God.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:07 PM on March 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

I use a rice cooker because it is so fool-proof. So, why aren't you using your instanpot to replace the rice cooker? Here are the instructions from the instapot site with a link to Cooks Illustrated (a very trustworthy source in my book.
posted by metahawk at 10:21 PM on March 23, 2018 [13 favorites]

If you're having problems with burning, you can boil the water, add the rice, return to a boil, put lid on and TURN OFF THE HEAT right then (instead of turning it to low for 15-20 minutes). As long as your kitchen isn't ice ice cold, it'll cook itself fine with an extra five or ten minutes. (I do this when a) it's too damn hot to keep the burner on or b) I have too damn many children running around the kitchen and I'd prefer to keep the open flames to a minimum.)

Also try a different burner on your stovetop. Rice can be tetchy and every pot and burner is different. (I have two pots that are THE SAME DAMN POT but one of them works for rice and one of them DOES NOT EVER, something in their years of use made one rice-friendly and one rice-unfriendly.) If you're having inexplicable problems with rice, even after following the directions and experimenting with the time a bit, trying a different pot and/or burner might help, you might have one burner that runs a bit hot or heats unevenly, or a pot that's just gone kinda funny and won't cooperate with rice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:22 PM on March 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've always cooked Basmati the wrong way but it almost always works perfectly.

1. Put I cup rice and 2 cups of water and a little salt in a small pot.
2. Put on the lid, bring to a boil, then turn down to the lowest setting of the burner.
3. Check at 10 minutes, but it should be done by 15. You'll see what some sources call "channels to heaven" when it's ready: tiny depressions will appear at the top of the rice, indicating a very narrow channel that goes down partway through the rice.

I use the same ratio of liquid and rice and the same timing when I make saffron rice.

1. Put a few strands of saffron in a bowl of warm water.
2. Finely dice a small onion or half a medium onion, then use a combo of butter and neutral onion to quickly heat and coat the onion and 1 cup of rice. Adding a little turmeric at this point is an option.
3. Add one cup chicken stock or broth and one cup of water (including the saffron and the water it was soaking in).
4. Cook as described above: bring to boil, turn to lowest setting, cook 10-15 minutes until you see the channels.
posted by maudlin at 10:46 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I make basmati multiple times a week in a regular pot with a clear glass lid.

1: add 1 cup dry rice to pot
2: add cold water and stir and dump the excess about 3 times to rinse the starches enough.
3: add salt
4: add water (mine says 1.75 cups per cup of rice but I’m high elevation in Utah so I add a little less water. Experiment with your water level.)
5: bring to a rolling boil on high uncovered.
6: take down to a simmer and cover.
7: cook for 20 mins

Works every time. Some times may be more mushy if I don’t let out enough water from rinsing. Just tilt the pot slowly over the sink and the water will drain leaving the rice. Also why I add less water to the pot than is recommended.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:01 PM on March 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use an ancient 8" Revere Ware electric frying pan from which I've removed the plastic feet, handles, and knob, and replaced them with ceramic, because I could smell hot plastic when I heated it on high settings.

I use three cups of water to two cups of (Lundberg) Basmati rice. I bring the water to a boil, add the rice, stir to get an even layer of rice, put the lid on and let it come to a boil again, then turn the thermostat down to 200, and wait 15 min. Perfect every time.

The special virtue of the Revere Ware electric skillet is that the heating element is embedded in a thick layer of copper sandwiched between the upper and lower stainless surfaces and pursues a sinuous course below the cooking surface to make the heat consistent from edge to edge and almost perfectly even. The construction is much heavier and more durable than I've seen in any modern electric skillet.
posted by jamjam at 11:31 PM on March 23, 2018

My quick and easy basmati rice: rinse and soak for about 10-20 minutes. You can get away with not soaking, though it does suffer for it, but definitely rinse thoroughly.

Pick the right sized pot - the cooked rice should come at least halfway up or higher.

Put rice on stove in pot, add salt. Meanwhile, put a kettle of water on the boil. Once it's boiling, light the flame under the rice to high and pour the water in. The classic measurement is one finger width above the surface but this is obviously hard to gauge. However accuracy's not really an issue if you put too much water in my method, so just estimate by eye. Err on the side of more water rather than less.

Reduce the heat to medium high. Do not cover the pot. You might use a flattish implement like a fork to stir once, but this is mainly to make sure no grains are stuck at the bottom of the pan. Don't stir more than you must as that will break the grains.

As the water boils away, you will start seeing holes appear in the surface of the rice. Start keeping an eye on these. You might also reduce the heat a bit to prevent burning. When you can no longer see water and the rice doesn't move around when you tip the pot, put a tight lid on and reduce heat to the lowest possible. Steam for about 10 minutes. If you had too much water in the first stage, or soaked for a long time, you might steam on low heat for a few minutes and turn the heat off.

Once the rice is steamed, open up and carefully fluff with a fork. Close the lid and steam again (no heat) for a couple of minutes.

A lot of Pakistani cooks just simmer rice in loads of water, drain once it's cooked, then put it back in the pot to steam over low or no heat. That's fine too.

With basmati, quality of the rice is crucial. Typically, good quality rice is aged, which helps it keep its structure. Tilda is a good brand, but avoid anything parboiled etc. You really don't need it. I haven't given measurements because I don't think they should be followed slavishly; typically, by the second or third attempt with any new bag of basmati you should have a feel for how much water you need. The thing to aim for in cooked basmati rice is relatively dry grains that don't clump together and that stay long and unbroken.

My authority: Pakistan grows the best basmati rice in the world (ok, India too).
posted by tavegyl at 11:40 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

My mum swears by this
1. Big-ass pot as full as you can with boiling water.
2. Add rice, boil for 11 mins (no soaking or rinsing).
3. Take off stove, add cold water, drain immediately. No rinsing.

For smaller amounts, I use absorption of 1 part rice to 2 parts water.
posted by cholly at 11:41 PM on March 23, 2018

Please explain what is wrong with your results in the Instant Pot?

I'm an Instant Pot enthusiast! I am shite at most rice! I would never cook Basmati Rice in an IP! Nope.

1 cup Rice: 1.75 cups Water. In a pan, bring to boil. Cut the heat to a very low simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Let sit for a few minutes - DONE. Remove lid and serve.

I just thought it out 4 different ways, you'd have to babysit Instant Pot Basmati Rice so much more than stovetop Basmati. It's a delicate quick-cooking rice and the Instant Pot is too slow and burly. That process would be annoying to judge on an Instant Pot. At no point is a pressure cooker seal necessary.
posted by jbenben at 12:49 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I guess there's as many ways to cook basmati as there are to tie a head tie. Mine is this:
Don't rinse. For any quantity of rice, the right amount of water is just under an inch above the level of rice in the pot (traditionally, people say a finger joint above the rice.) Add salt. Bring to the boil then cover the pot and put on a low heat for 20 minutes. No need to seal the pot tightly, just need an averagely ok lid to the pot. Leave pot to stand for 10 minutes because it continues to cook in the steam. You can cook the rice in stock in exactly the same way.

You have flexibility in the amount of simmering time: for a rice grain you haven't cooked with before try simmering for 15 minutes, steaming for 10. If it's too nutty add a tablespoonful of water and put back on low heat for 10 minutes.

Pilau's cooked differently, soak the rice for half an hour, put heaped tablespoon butter or ghee in a pan, add your spices and fry, add drained soaked rice, fry and stir till it starts sticking, add stock or boiling water to >inch above rice, add salt, simmer as above.

You don't need to be precious about rice. If it looks as if it's not going right, add more water or take off the lid to evaporate more quickly as needed. After enough practice you get to the stage where you won't take off the lid until the end because you know what you're doing. No harm in experimenting before you get there.
posted by glasseyes at 1:33 AM on March 24, 2018

I differ from most people in thinking that reduction methods are usually more trouble than they're worth when it comes to basmati rice. After years of doing it that way, I now just add well rinsed rice to boiling water, cook on a fast simmer for 7-8 minutes (basically until al dente) and then draining. At that point, put the rice back in the pan, cover it with a tea-towel and leave it somewhere warm for 10 minutes. Stir at the end. You get fluffy separate rice grains with much less guesswork than any of the reduction methods, in my experience.
posted by howfar at 1:47 AM on March 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have pots with tempered glass lids which is super-handy for keeping an eye on the rice. The air inside clears up as it runs out of water/steam so you know it's almost done.

-add 1 cup rice, 2 (or a little less) cups water, 1 tablespoon butter
-bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer/steam for 10 mins or so
-you can check if it's done near the end by pushing some aside to see if there's still water at the bottom. The 'ideal' time to turn it off is when there's like 1mm of water left (to avoid sticking) and then let it sit for a few mins and it will absorb the rest.

As a side note, for pasta, to avoid stickiness DO NOT add butter or oil to the water. The boiling action makes the oil and (pasta surface) starch emulsify in the water to make...glue, basically. Instead, add a fair amount of salt (like 1-2 teaspoons per pot) to the water (it also speeds up boiling). I forget which ions (sodium or chloride) go into the water and which attach to the pasta, but it basically makes the pasta surfaces have the same charge and thus repel each other and not stick. Science!
posted by sexyrobot at 2:11 AM on March 24, 2018

Julie Sahni's Moghul Microwave has a no-soak basmati recipe that works like a charm (assuming you have a microwave). Conveniently, she also published the recipe in the New York Times.
posted by Morpeth at 3:18 AM on March 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

There’s an exhaustive discussion of it here, but here’s the conclusion:

Serves 4

450g basmati rice
Pinch of salt

1. Give the the rice a brief rinse under running water and then put it in a large pan and cover with cold water. Leave for at least half an hour.

2. Drain the rice and discard the soaking water. Put it in a large pan containing 585ml fresh water and a generous pinch of salt on a medium heat.

3. Bring to the boil, and give it a good stir. Cover tightly and turn the heat down very low. Cook for 25 minutes (28 for brown rice) then take off the heat – don't take the lid off! – and place on a wet tea towel. Leave for five minutes then fork through to fluff up.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 4:22 AM on March 24, 2018

I was wondering why more people haven't mentioned using a microwave. I cook basmati several times a week. Coincidentally, Tilda. It's hard for me to quantify the measurements as I've worked things out in my bowls and using a non-standard 'cup'. But loosely, as mentioned by someone earlier, it's a finger joint more water in the bowl than rice. In a normally rounded bowl, it looks slightly under 2/3's rice to an extra 1/3 water, if that makes sense.

For my microwave, it's 15 to 15 1/2 minutes on high in a bowl covered with cling film. The bowl needs to have ~twice the volume of the uncooked rice and liquid or it will boil over. I always salt the water before cooking. If the water is warm or hot, or I'm using a warm stock, I'll shorten the time by 30 seconds or so.

I've also learned that if I'm making coconut rice, I need a little more liquid and a slightly longer cooking time. I'll add butter precook if I'm making Indian or a western dish. I might throw coriander roots or sliced ginger in if it's accompanying an Asian meal. If I'm going Mexican or TexMex, I'll undercook the rice slightly so I can complete my dirty rice without completely overcooking it.

These days the only time I don't use Basmati is if I'm doing Sushi rice or making a Risotto. I still use the microwave for Sushi rice, but I'm much more careful with rinsing.

My stove is usually occupied with several pans on the go, only four hobs. So not much room to cook the rice there. Thus why I've worked to learn cooking rice in a microwave.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.
posted by michswiss at 4:25 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hey, I actually know how to do this!

1. Pick a rice grain variety that will give you the consistency you want. You can't make loose, fluffy rice from arborio, but basmati works well.

2. Boil the rice to about 90 % done in ample, salted water like you would cook pasta. No need to pre-rinse or soak the rice or measure the water exactly. Just make sure the water tastes seasoned.

3. When the rice is 90 % done, strain the rice in a sieve and return it to the empty, dry pot, off the heat.

4. Put a very tight lid on the pot (foil is great) and let the pot sit off heat for 15 minutes. As the temperature drops, excess moisture gets absorbed into the grains. This is the key step for fluffiness, so don't miss it.

5. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve immediately.

This method is great because it's not fussy. Cooks Illustrated has proven that the different water-to-rice ratios given in various recipes only work for specific cooking vessels and specific stoves. My method (cooking rice like you would cook pasta) sidesteps all of this.
posted by Orchestra at 4:53 AM on March 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

  1. Put rice in pot.
  2. Pour cold water into rice until surface of water is one finger-joint higher than surface of rice. (Test by touching the rice; water should come up to the first knuckle on your index finger.)
  3. Place on stove, bring to boil.
  4. Reduce to minimum heat, keep covered.
  5. Check occasionally to see how much water is left. If unsure, move rice aside with a fork to see if there is any standing water at the bottom.
  6. When water has been fully absorbed and only rice is left, you're done.
It's very easy but you do need to check it and you'll probably scorch the bottom of the pan a couple of times until you get it dialed in. A thick-bottomed pot that disperses heat well is best to avoid scorching. If you have one of those metal trivets that goes over your burner to help reduce and disperse heat, use it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:56 AM on March 24, 2018

I cook all rice the same way. Rice in pot, water in pot approximately equal to 2xRice. Bring to boil. As soon as it's boiling turn all the way down (ALL THE WAY DOWN), cover, leave it absolutely alone (no peeking) for at least 15 minutes. Then I usually turn the burner of competent, leave the lid on, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

I have a gas range, so when I turn the heat down, it turns down immediately. For electric, take it off the burner after 15 minutes and let it rest on a cool burner.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:09 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I learned the finger-joint thing from a Vietnamese-American lab partner a while back. Someone asked him how he cooks rice and he basically said, "I use a rice cooker, but this is what my grandma does." It works great and saves having to get a cup out and measure things and then wash the cups afterward and such. Rice is less fussy than a lot of people think it is.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:16 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

So simple. Rinse rice in strainer. Put same volume of water and rice in pot with solid bottom. 1 cup rice = 1 cup water. Bring to boil then reduce heat to medium low and allow to steam for 12-15 minutes. You can hear when it's done.

Brown rice needs twice as much water as rice, by volume, and takes at least twice as long, sometimes longer if it's a particularly chewy variety.
posted by zadcat at 6:20 AM on March 24, 2018

Kind of blown away by how complicated people make this. I cook basmati about three times a week. Unlike jasmine it doesn't really need rinsing if you have a good brand, but one rinse doesn't hurt. Then, just put it together with water at a volume ratio of 1 rice : 1.5 water; 1/2 cup of rice to 3/4 cup of water is enough for two people usually. Boil, then move to a hob set to the lowest heat, should be done within 10 minutes. Err on the side of more water cos it just cooks out, but too much more and you can overcook the rice.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:37 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I didn't read any other answers.

I only cook basmati rice and I am lazy but also fussy. I refuse to rinse rice. Makes no difference in this method (and people are always asking for the recipe which makes me wonder what they're doing??)

I take a good, heavy pot or pan with a lid. I heat a little oil in it over fairly high heat. I dump in one cup of rice and saute it in the oil until it smells good and the grains are opaque. Then add 1.5 cups water, usually with some bouillon in it to make it tasty. Cover and simmer 17 minutes. Turn off heat and leave it there, covered, another 10-15 minutes. Fluff with wooden spoon.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2018

Came in to suggest using the Instant Pot for this, too. I ditched my rice cooker and got a second insert for the Instant Pot so that I can use it for both the rice and the curry in the same meal. Worth the investment.
posted by rpfields at 12:39 PM on March 24, 2018

I know you've replaced your rice cooker with an instant pot, and my answer involves acquiring another pot. But I've had difficulty cooking basmati rice for years, following every instruction to the letter, trying different 'foolproof' methods that have all resulted in mushy rice, until ... well, I've never once had a failure with this microwave rice cooker.
posted by essexjan at 1:41 PM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rinse rice.
Use 1 and 1/2 cups of boiling water per 1 cup of rinsed rice (boil in a kettle and pour into pot containing rice plus a pinch of salt).
Cook on low/med in a covered pot for about 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low.
Done after about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

Perfect stovetop basmati rice every time; I promise!

If you want it to be fancy, sautee dry rice in ghee (or oil, but ghee is better) with a few aromatic spices - cumin seed, mehti leaf, what have you - on med/high for about 5-10 minutes or so. Add about 1 and 3/4 cups of boiling water per 1 cup of rice (but be careful, cause the rice retains a tonne of heat so you'll get quite a sizzle when you add the water). Stir and leave on high for about 20 seconds and add a pinch of salt, then cover and reduce to low. Done in 15-20 minutes.
posted by Go Banana at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2018

I put 1 c rice in a strainer and rinse it well, until the water runs clear. Then put the rice in a 3 qt saucepan and add 2 c cold water and 1 t kosher salt. Sometimes I add 1 T butter and/or a pinch of saffron but it’s fine without too. I bring it to a boil on high heat, stir w/a fork and cover w/a lid. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and leave it for 17 minutes. Then I peek at it, if the rice looks done, ie, has little tunnels or holes all over, it comes off heat and sits w/the lid on till we eat. If it looks like it needs a few more minutes it stays on the hot burner thats been turned off, w/the lid on. Then I fluff it w/a fork and serve.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 7:26 PM on March 24, 2018

I cook it like pasta because of the arsenic. Rinse well, cook in lots of water (at least 6:1). For basmati, I include a couple of tablespoons of butter/oil and a fair bit of salt. Taste regularly, drain when it's a little firmer than you like, then put the colander in the pot and put the lid on top. Let it rest/steam for a few minutes.
posted by Frenchy67 at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2018

I love this recipe, even though she focuses on Japanese rice - I adjust the water for different kinds of rice based on what the amounts indicated are on the bag of rice I get. It's basically my go-to for when I need to make rice fast at someone else's house.
posted by thirteenthletter at 12:30 PM on March 26, 2018

Following up for anyone who comes across this post in the future.

Since posting this, I've used the ">finger-on-the-rice technique described above about half a dozen times, and the rice has been perfect every time. I have a gas stove and it gets pretty hot, so I cook the rice covered for about 8 minutes on low, then turn the heat off, leaving the lid on, and for another 8. I look for the steam pockets described by some upthread, and it's a good indicator that the rice is done. I don't even bother soaking it.

So glad folks described that well; I've tried this a few times before and stuck my finger down to the bottom of the pot. No wonder it didn't work in the past.
posted by onecircleaday at 3:35 PM on April 23, 2018

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