I've made rice roughly a billion times in my life, and I have never used a rice cooker to do it. I understand why the appliance is so popular—it's efficient and you can use it to make a lot more than just rice—but I also know that you definitely don't need expensive machinery to cook rice. As a matter of fact, all you really need is a stovetop, a pot with a lid, and a bit of water, which are likely things you already have in your kitchen anyway.
The fact that you don't need any special equipment to make great rice is part of why budget bloggers love it so much. It will always be a great way to substantiate any meal, whether that's soup, or roasted veggies, or a curry, and even the fancier varieties of rice never cost very much. Plus, the ingredient lends itself well to meal prep because it can stay good in the refrigerator for a few days, and you can make it taste like it's fresh off the stovetop with a super simple trick (more on that in a minute).
Start making perfect rice with this little guide I've put together, based on what experts have told me and what I've learned from doing it myself over and over again.
There are several common varieties of rice, but you can use the same techniques to cook all of them.
Jasmine, basmati, and brown rice are the best varieties to cook on the stove, and they're the most common ones you'll see at the grocery store, too. In general, you can use approximately the same method for all of them to achieve a perfect final product.
For the different kinds of white rices, Mike Le, cocreator of I Am a Food Blog, tells SELF that you can use the same timing and ratio no matter which one you're using, and I can personally vouch for that. You can also use the same measurements for brown rice, but it will need about twice as long on the stove because it still has an outer bran layer (which is removed from white rice during processing).
Before you start cooking, gather your tools and rinse your rice.
To make rice on the stove, all you'll need is a small pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, a fork, and a cup to measure the rice with. Before you begin cooking the rice, you should rinse it first, Maxine Yeung, R.D., trained pastry chef and owner of The Wellness Whisk, tells SELF. This helps wash away any grime and extra starch in order to prevent the rice from becoming too sticky, she explains.
In general, you should use a ratio of about 1 1/2 cups water to 1 cup rice.
This ratio will work no matter what type of rice you're cooking, and you can adjust it based on how chewy or soft you usually like your rice. If you prefer an al dente texture, use less water or a ratio of 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup rice, and if you prefer it on the softer side, use more, about 2 cups water to 1 cup rice. The nice thing is that you can always fix it up with a bit of water, says Yeung: If you notice the rice isn't soft enough for your preference, you can add however much water it seems like it needs (which is usually not very much), put the lid back on, and let it cook for a few minutes longer.
If you want to add a bit of flavor to the rice as it cooks, consider more than just salt.
I've always added a small pinch of salt to my pots of rice, because I've found that it emphasizes and enhances the rice's natural flavor without making it salty. However, the experts I spoke with told me you definitely don't need to use salt to make rice that tastes great. Le loves the pure flavor of rice, especially when it comes to the high-end Japanese options, he explains. And Yeung prefers to let the food she serves alongside the rice take care of the seasoning for her. "I typically don't add salt to my rice because the other parts of the meal, such as the marinade or sauce, usually have enough seasoning," Yeung says, "and I like the balance the unseasoned rice adds to the meal."
There are also other ways to add flavor to your rice during the cooking process that don't involve any salt. Yeung likes to toast her grains in a bit of oil and spices before she adds water, which gives the rice earthy and nutty notes. Le likes to cook rice in a liquid other than water, like chicken or seafood stock—you could even cook it in coconut milk if you want. As long as you stick to a simple ratio of rice to liquid, feel free to get as creative as you want.
Bring the water and rice to a boil at the same time, then lower the heat and cover. Set a timer and resist the urge to take a peek while it's cooking.
To cook rice, Le always follows the same process: He brings the rice and water to a rolling boil, then puts on the lid, drops the heat as low it can go, and sets a timer for 17 minutes. (For brown rice, let it cook for 30 to 40 minutes). Once the timer goes off, he moves the pot off the heat and waits another 10 minutes before opening the lid.
He says he does this because it's the steam that cooks the rice, not the boiling water. So if you lift the lid, even just for a second, that steam will escape and your rice may not cook properly. So whatever you do, don't lift the lid until the timer's up. At that point, if you notice it hasn't reached your desired texture, you can make adjustments from there, such as adding water and cooking it longer.
Refrigerate your leftover rice in a sealed container and use this trick to quickly refresh it.
According to the USA Rice Federation, cooked rice will stay good to eat for up to five days in the refrigerator. The longer it stays in the fridge, though, the more it dries out. Dried out rice is actually ideal for dishes like fried rice, which should have texture and shouldn't be mushy.
But if you want leftover rice to taste like it's fresh off the stovetop, there's one little thing you can do. Add about a tablespoon or two of water in a bowl with your rice, cover it, and microwave it for about a minute. The steam will give it the same fluffy texture it had when it was fresh.