I thought I’d start the New Year off with some rice.
My dad would have started off almost every meal with rice, if he could. He ate it almost every day unless we were having something that didn’t work with rice, like pasta or some other starch based dish.
He used to buy it in 50 pound bags at the Asian market and then put that giant bag in one of those huge plastic buckets with lids that you get at the hardware store.
There was a special little white cup that was forever used as the rice scoop, and that pretty much was the only measurement tool he used when making rice…Perfect White Rice.
Yep, you can make a beautiful pot of Perfect White Rice with no measuring. Well, almost no measuring. You don’t need any measuring cups or spoons like you do in baking.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the specificity of baking. It’s therapeutic for me to have to focus completely on measurements and ingredients and proportions.
Cooking is a different type of therapy…it’s more “in the moment,” full of freedom to make decisions along the way, tasting, adjusting, creating. So making rice without using any measuring cups feels a bit rebellious to my type “A” personality baking nature, but it’s always fun to color outside the lines, isn’t it?
Following the proportions listed on the back of a bag of rice often leaves me with rice that is too wet and sticky. The whole 2:1 water to rice ratio is too much for the rice I cook.
So I went back to my dad’s method for measuring, and it works for me every time. This method is for a long grain white rice that is neither a quick rice nor an instant rice.
It’s also for those of you who don’t own a rice cooker and must fend for yourself using your stove and a pot.
I use Carolina White Rice, as my everyday white rice, but use your favorite white rice. I also suggest that you make a nice big pot of rice regardless of whether you need that much for your meal or recipe.
(Cooked rice stores beautifully, for a short term in the refrigerator or for a longer term in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave with a splash of water to help create some steam, and you’ll have hot fluffy rice in a flash.)
Let’s get started. There’s just a few steps in the process, and all of them are easy.
First you need to rinse the rice. Place whatever quantity of rice you want to cook into a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water until it runs clear. This rinses off some of the surface starch and helps reduce stickiness. (I usually cook at least 2-3 cups of rice, so that I get a nice full pot of rice when I’m done.)
Pick the right sized pot for your rice. If you’re only making a cup or so of rice, use a smaller sauce pan…but, really, don’t make a small pot of rice.
Make more and store the rest. It takes the same amount of time and your leftovers will be ready to go when you are. I normally use my large sauce pan for about 3 cups of uncooked rice.
(I’m only giving you that measurement as a guide, I really never measure it. I pretty much just pour rice into my strainer until it fills it by half or more.)
Once you’ve rinsed the rice, place it in a sauce pan and cover it with about an inch of water. An inch is about the length of your middle finger tip to the first joint; some call this using the “The Knuckle Method.”
You simply level out your rice in the cooking pot since adding water can create hills and valleys. I usually just shake the pot a bit or use my hand to level it. Once it is level just place the tip of your finger on top of the rice to see how much water you’ve added.
Add more water, if necessary, or remove some if you’ve added too much. You don’t have to be exact, just get close to that line on your finger.
I’ve taken a picture to show you what this looks like while the rice is still in the strainer, and then again in the pot as I’m actually measuring the levels, since you can’t really see through the water. I have my thumb placed right at the line on my finger for reference.
Once you have the right level of water, bring your rice to a boil, uncovered, over medium to medium high heat. The picture above is at a full rolling boil over medium heat.
Use the medium levels of heat on your stove. You might be tempted to crank the heat up to it’s highest level, but let’s let the rice cook a bit more gently here. You want to boil it, not fry it.
This is especially important if you are cooking on an electric stove, since the heat does not change instantaneously as it does with gas burners (see notes section in recipe.) I’m also using a heavy pot here, which also makes a difference.
Heavy pots maintain temperature better, have more even heating and are less likely to scorch. Using a thin pot is almost like putting the food directly over the heat. Lesson? If you love to cook and you want the best results, invest in the best pots and pans you can afford.
Once the water has come down just below the level of the rice and you are seeing bubbles making holes in the surface of the rice, cover the pot tightly and reduce heat to simmer or the lowest setting you have.
Set your timer for 15 minutes. Don’t lift the lid. When the timer goes off, remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered for 5 minutes. Don’t lift the lid.
That’s 20 total minutes that we did not even peek at the rice. The lid stays on the entire time. You don’t want any of the steam to escape.
(I probably should have taken a picture of the lid on the pot so that it could be burned into your visual memory, but alas, I did not. Just remember that once you put the lid on, you will not see your rice again until it’s finished.)
Because you’ve let the water boil down to where it’s just bubbling up through the rice, you should not have any issues with boiling over as you might have, had you covered the pot earlier when the water level was higher.
Therefore, you should be safe to leave your lid alone. Of course, if by some reason your rice is boiling over, then by all means take the lid off and remove from the heat.
Adjust your heat to bring your water back to a boil and allow more water to evaporate through boiling before you go back to the step where you lower the heat and cover with the lid. This has never happened to me with this process, but take heed if it does.
I often leave the rice sitting, covered, for longer than the 5 minutes, usually until I’m done with the rest of meal preparation. It will stay nice and hot for quite a bit and since it’s not on any heat, you don’t have to worry about burning it.
Once you do lift the lid, you’ll be greeted by a nice hot pot full of perfectly steamed white rice. It should be fully cooked and tender. The grains will not be completely separate from each other as you might find with an instant rice. It will still stick together and yet not be sticky, if that makes sense.
Now just fluff your rice with a fork and serve.
Perfect White Rice…every time.