About a month ago, I wrote about six kitchen appliances that save us money. One of them was our rice cooker. We’ve been using it for years and love it! The reason we love it and rely on it so heavily is because neither of us can make rice turn out right.
Well, after that post, my good friend Catherine emailed me and told me that she makes perfect rice every time without a rice cooker. She was willing to share her secrets with all of you!
I’m excited to be writing a guest post for Stephanie. She and I have known each other for years. I always learn from Stephanie when we talk about finances and household frugality. Now, I get to help her and you out with a little knowledge of my own. My special skill: I can cook rice on the stovetop, perfectly. Every time. White rice or brown rice. Also, I’m going to include a simple recipe for Mexican rice that I use all the time. Oh, and give you my special tip for cleaning the rice pot.
A few years ago I realized that, despite cooking it frequently, I didn’t actually know how to cook rice. Sometimes it was great, and sometimes it was terrible. So, I decided to figure it out. As a side note, just a month ago I realized I didn’t know how to cook oatmeal how I like it (not mushy), and I’m pleased to say that I figured that one out too.
Before I get into the details I want to point out two key tips:
- Don’t let it boil over! That messes up the amount of water.
- Don’t stir! It just doesn’t need it.
1- Choose your pot, but it’s not that crucial
I have two pots that I use to cook rice. The one on the left is the best, because it is a thicker-bottomed pot. If you use a thinner-bottomed pot, like the one on the right, you can still cook rice, and it will turn out great, but it will have what I call a sacrificial layer. The sacrificial layer is the layer of rice that will stick to the entire bottom and some of the sides of the pot. Just don’t scrape that layer off when you are serving and the rest is fine. It’s like the rice needs a bit more insulation from the heat like it gets with a thicker pot, so it makes its own insulation by sacrificing a bit of itself for the good of the whole. And don’t worry, even with a sacrificial layer, cleanup is not bad.
2- Measure your rice and water into the pot
For our family of six, I usually put 1 cup rice and 2 cups of water into the pot. Sometimes I do 1 1/2 cups rice and 3 cups water. It’s the same for brown rice.
3- Turn your stove up high
Place your pot with your rice and water onto the stove and crank the heat. Oh, and you don’t want a lid on for this part. On my old gas stove I would go to the max, but on the electric stove I have now I back it off a little or I get a sacrificial layer of rice even in my thicker pot. Now here’s the important part…DONT. WALK. AWAY. Don’t get distracted by the kids, don’t try to finish up a few dishes in the sink, don’t read a magazine. Just stand there and stare at your rice pot. Can you tell I’ve gotten distracted, had my rice boil over and messed the whole water to rice ratio all up? Yeah, stare at the pot. And as soon as it starts to boil just a bit…
4- Turn your stove way down low
Put the lid on your pot and turn the heat all the way down. Again on my old gas stove I would go to the very lowest the flame would go, but on my electric stove now I keep it right in between 1 and 2 (the max is 9). Now you can set your timer for 15 minutes for white rice (40 minutes for brown), and walk away to go clean up all the toilet paper your 3 year old unrolled while you were staring at your rice pot. Brown rice takes a lot longer, and I find that more frequently I have to check and let it go 5 more minutes and check again. I think, since it absorbs the water more slowly it is also more sensitive to the heat. The other day it still wasn’t done after 50 minutes, and I realized it was because the stove was set closer to the 1 than right in between the 1 and 2. You just have to plan dinner accordingly.
5- Check if it’s done
After your timer goes off you can check if your rice is done. Most likely it will be or will be very close. To check it, don’t stir it. Just open the lid, take a spoon and stick it straight into the middle of the rice and just slightly move the rice to one side.
You are looking to see if there is still water under the rice. If you still see water bubbling down under there, scootch that rice back into its place and put your lid back on for 5 more minutes. Then check again after 5 minutes. The timing is really not that crucial, so you don’t have to be too worried about overcooking it. Worst case scenario, you get a sacrificial layer of rice. If there’s no water when you check, your rice is done.
After everyone has enjoyed your fluffy, perfectly cooked rice, just fill the pot with water and set it off to the side while you do your other dishes. By the time you get to the end all the rice will come off easily. If you have a sacrificial layer, just use a spoon to scrape around the pot. It actually comes off kind of in one layer, so it’s not like you’re scrubbing and scraping your entire pot for an hour. I just slide the spoon around under the rice and it all comes right off. Hopefully that’s not just my pot and works for you too. And as promised a recipe for Mexican Rice to shake things up a bit
Easy Mexican Rice
- 2 c. hot water
- 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 3 Tbsp. oil
- 1 cup white rice
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Dissolve the chicken bouillon cubes in the water to make a broth, set aside. Heat the oil in your rice pot over medium heat. Add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. Do not walk away from this step either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up burning the rice and having to start all over. Just stare at the pot and stir. (If you’re using brown rice, don’t bother cooking it in the oil. It never seems to get puffy like the white rice does. It still tastes good in this recipe though, even without cooking it in the oil.) Add in the chicken broth and tomato sauce. It will hiss and boil a lot at first. Add cumin and garlic powder.
Follow your new rice cooking steps: Turn your stove up high, and do. not. walk. away. Once it boils, turn the heat to low, put the lid on, and set your timer for 20 minutes. There’s more liquid in this recipe, so it takes a bit longer, and the rice ends up more swollen when it’s done, but you can still check it in the same way. Just look under the rice in the center for any liquid bubbling down there. Give it a few more minutes if it needs it.
Good luck! I hope it works for everyone. And I’d be happy to answer any questions and hear about your successes in the comments below.
Catherine is a stay-at-home mom of five (ages 6 and under) who also has a Master's degree in chemical engineering. She loves being creative in organizing and decorating her home. She blogs at The Engineer's Kids where she shares great educational toys and activities.