How do you properly cook brown rice?
February 21, 2004 6:54 AM   Subscribe

How in the heck do you properly cook brown rice? I'm an ace at white rice, but last night I attempted to make the brown variety, and failed miserably [more inside...].

Here's what the package advised:

Boil 2.5 cups of water with salt and butter (if desired). Add rice when it comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until water is absorbed.

Following these directions, the rice, while fairly cooked, was still swimming in water at the end of the 40 minutes. With white rice you can boil 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, put on low for 15 minutes (covered), and it's perfect every time.

Thanks for any tips...
posted by jpburns to Food & Drink (21 answers total)
You might be using too much butter, which is creating too much liquid. Or you may not have had a good rolling boil before starting. Or it could just be one of those things. Rice is very difficult to cook, despite the easy instructions.

My main advice would be the purchase of a rice cooker. I purchased a good sized steamer/rice cooker which serves multi-purpose needs for about 20 dollars at Target. Depending on the amount of rice you are making, you could get one as low at 10-15 dollars at a local home store. Rice always comes out with a good consistency when directions from the cooker are use.

Brown rice takes about 45 minutes in my cooker. You set your ingredients, set your kitchen timer, and walk away. it makes it easy and fast prep.
posted by benjh at 8:02 AM on February 21, 2004

I've had the same difficulty, and have only achieved predictable results using a rice cooker or pressure cooker. The pressure cooker has the further advantage of cooking brown rice in about 20 minutes.
posted by stonerose at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2004

The pressure cooker has the further advantage
Are you located at a high elevation?
posted by thomcatspike at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2004

My (pretty predictable) method is as follows: take one part dry brown rice and two parts water, put it all in a pot, bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and forget about it for 35-40 minutes. Having the rice in the water when it's coming to a boil does make a difference, I've found.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2004

The pressure cooker has the further advantage
Are you located at a high elevation?

Nope. Why? (BTW, my pressure cooker cookbook just says to increase cooking time by 10% for every 2,000 ft above sea level.)
posted by stonerose at 8:49 AM on February 21, 2004

If you're doing on the stovetop: Bring the rice and the water to a boil together - ignore the package directions that say boil the water first. Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid. A flame tamer (like this) helps if your gas burner can't hold a low enough setting (or stack two burners to bring the pot farther from the flame). Don't stir. That's very important.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2004

One thing I've been noticing since it's winter where I am is that if the kitchen is cold, the brown rice takes longer, sometimes 15 minutes longer. I agree, not stirring is the key and I've had the burner up above a simmer just to keep the water lively. I mix everything at once as well. A rice cooker will definitely take the stress off, I've been amazed how simply and perfectly it can make brown rice.
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on February 21, 2004

Nope. Why? (BTW, my pressure cooker cookbook just says to increase cooking time by 10% for every 2,000 ft above sea level.)
I was actually talking about the "pressure" at a high altitude than the pressure cooker itself. Your suggestion sparked the idea.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:10 AM on February 21, 2004

One thing to keep in mind is that while white rice is suppose to be fluffy and somewhat sweet, brown rice is suppose to have the texture and taste of boiled wicker. Seriously. This is why people usually eat white rice even though brown rice is much much better for you.

I always try to combat the texture problem by boiling for 45-60 minutes. A rice cooker works better than a plain pot. And the taste problem is aided by using stock rather than plain water.

Wild rice works much better for me than brown rice.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2004

15 minutes for white rice sounds really fast to me. Are you using Uncle Bens or the like? 30-45 minutes is what I usually plan.
posted by scarabic at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2004

Response by poster: Nope. 15 minutes seems to work fine with plain white rice (it's what the package recommends. Yuk. Not Uncle Ben's ...

In a related question to my original inquiry:

What's a good brand of rice cooker? I think I oughta get one...
posted by jpburns at 12:23 PM on February 21, 2004

Salton makes a decent inexpensive rice cooker. Black & Decker steamers aren't too bad. You don't need one of the high end 75 dollar devices to cook rice, the range of 15-30 should get you what you want.
posted by benjh at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2004

15 minutes sounds very, very wrong. It takes 35 in my lightning-fast fuzzy logic rice cooker with buttons in Japanese, and that's when it's set to "Quick" mode where it burns a crust. Real rice cooking takes closer to an hour, brown or wild rice a bit longer because it's denser and absorbs water more slowly; nearly an hour fifteen.

If you're cooking much faster than that, you're cooking the rice too hot, and it's probably going to be too crunchy on the inside and way too mooshy on the outside.
posted by majick at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2004

I like to heat -- toast, I guess you could say -- brown rice in some oil (olive or canola) in the sauce pan before adding the water. I add the water when the rice is heated through (your nose will tell you when; the heating rice smells really good until it begins to get a little too toasted). Then cover and simmer, of course. I also cook it with a little salt. And it definitely helps to use enough water; when the rice is fully cooked, the grains are more open and have a much softer texture.

(But note that the pre-frying/toasting/whatever isn't advantageous if you want the rice to be sticky.)
posted by mattpfeff at 1:53 PM on February 21, 2004

I cook white rice for 20 minutes and it comes out fine. If I let it go much longer than that it would get all mushy. (Haven't cooked brown rice in ages, since my first wife went on a health-food kick [shudder], so I can't help with the actual question, but I felt I needed to support the shorter-time contingent on the white-rice issue.)
posted by languagehat at 3:21 PM on February 21, 2004

I and my family have always cooked white rice for 15 minutes. Depending on the variety, this either makes perfect fluffy individual grains (basmati) or sticky goopy rice (short grain).
posted by some chick at 3:23 PM on February 21, 2004

I cook mine exactly the way Johnny Assay does, 1 c. brown rice, 2 c. cold water, dash salt in a pot with a lid. Never, ever stir it! Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to the 2nd lowest increment on the burner dial, which on my stove is 2. Cover and let simmer for 50 min. It always works perfectly that way. Two things to note, however: I use an electric stove, my daughter has not had the same luck using gas and we've been experimenting, trying to figure out how to adjust. 2nd: brown rice, while I wouldn't agree tastes like wicker ;) is much "chewier," with a dense nutty taste. You will never get it to taste like or have the same "mouth feel" of white rice.
posted by Lynsey at 3:29 PM on February 21, 2004

Even the poorest families here in Korea use a rice cooker. Perfect rice, of any type, every time, although it makes it hard to enjoy noo-roong-ji, which is a thin gruel made with the burned bits from the bottom of the ricepot (which don't exist with ricecookers, of course) and some water. Legacy, as so many modern Korean comfort-food dishes are, of recent poverty.

Grows on you, though, noo-roong-ji does.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:00 PM on February 21, 2004

Tangentially, I've never seen it outside of Korea, but here you can buy rice graded by how much of the wholegrain husk bit remains on each grain - 80/20, 70/30, 50/50 and so on. Mix some 80% whole rice with some black rice (which turns the resultant ricecooker-potfull purple), mix in some good green stuff and gochu-jang (red pepper paste), fling a fried egg on top, and mmm-mmm good. Healthier'n all get out too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:24 PM on February 21, 2004

Heh, when I was younger and moved on to college, I was fabbergasted to find that people needed to learn how to cook rice. I really took growing up in Hawaii for granted, as I always knew how to cook rice by simply watching mom do it every night for 18 years.

The second most common question about cooking rice is usually: How do I get it off of the rice cooker?

Soak in warm water for half an hour first, then scrub. I tell because I have been asked many a time.
posted by Hackworth at 8:44 PM on February 22, 2004

mattpfeff has the right idea - sauteeing the brown rice in a bit of oil or butter first helps the grains stay seperate during cooking, preventing the rice from coming out like a big ball of mush.
posted by skwm at 7:27 AM on February 23, 2004

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