Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica, Central America
Cooking Long Grain White Rice - a primer
Judging by the number of posts in other threads on this forum, it seems like a basic primer on rice cookery would be helpful to a lot of cooks. While I don't consider myself to be a rice expert, I'm a long time resident of Central America where rice is a basic staple in the diet. My family, and most others, cook rice daily and it is eaten with almost every meal breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There are a number of different varieties of rice long, short, and medium grained, both brown and white. The most commonly served variety is regular long grain white rice. That's what we normally eat in my family and that's what I'm going to discuss.
NOTE: Parboiled, instant and converted (such as regular Uncle Ben's) rice require different cooking techniques, times and quantities of liquid. These methods are only for regular enriched or unenriched long grain white rice.
Gereral Information: Rice is a cereal grain. The first step in processing is milling to remove the hard outer husk, or chaff. The resulting grain is known as brown rice. To produce white rice, the grain is then further milled to remove its brown outer layer (the bran).rice keeps longer, cooks faster, and has a milder flavor and softer texture than brown rice, which is probably why most people prefer it.
Unfortunately, a lot of the nutritional value is also removed in the milling process. In the US, most white rice is enriched to replace some of the nutrients lost during milling commonly with iron, niacin, thiamin and folic acid, which is usually applied as a powdered blend that will easily wash off. In the US, all rice which has been enriched in this manner is required to be labeled with instructions advising against washing before cooking. (See next paragraph.)
Washing: As noted above, if you are using enriched rice, most of the added nutrients will be removed by washing. To me, this isn't a big deal. They've been artificially added anyway and they aren't of very high quality. White rice will also have a lot of powdery excess starch from the milling process and may contain other impurities as well. If you want fluffy, separate grains of cooked rice, you should wash it. Unwashed rice is sticky, gummy and unappealing to me. I always wash my rice before cooking in a fine-mesh colander, shaking it gently under running water until the water runs clear. Alternatively, you can wash it in a pot or bowl, pouring the water over it and swirling it around with your hand, changing the water 2 or three times. After washing, allow it to drain and dry slightly in the colander.
Cooking method #1(Rice Cooker): I always cook rice in an automatic rice cooker, if available. Rice cookers are the single most common small appliance in Latin American and Asian kitchens- more common than even coffee makers or toasters. They are by far the easiest way to prepare good rice. Amazon.com has a great selection and a lot of user reviews. Regular rice cookers cost from $25 to $50 and do a great job on white rice. Fuzzy logic cookers are much more expensive, from $100 to $200, and supposedly do a better job cooking brown rice and other varieties. I've never used one so can't comment further. The inexpensive regular cookers come in 2 styles, either with a separate, removable lid or with an attached, hinged lid. I use the first style. Panasonic and Aroma are both good brands. I've had poor success with Black and Decker, Oster and several of the others.
To cook, add 2 tbsp oil or butter to the cooker along with a medium-sized slice or wedge of onion and a couple of small pieces of sweet pepper (I use the trimmings from the top and bottom of the pepper). Add the rice. Add 2 cups of water for each cup of rice. This ratio of rice/water will produce a moist rice, with the water fully absorbed. If you like dryer rice, reduce the water slightly. Salt is optional. I like a little salt to bring out the flavor. Don't oversalt. Add less than you think you need, stir and taste the water. It should be very slightly salty. If needed, add more. If it seems too salty, remove half the water and replace with fresh unsalted water. Plug in the rice cooker, set the switch to cook and leave it alone. When done, the cooker will automatically switch to warm. Leave it on warm for at least 5 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork or a rice paddle, and remove the onion and pepper. Don't ever scrap the bottom. Usually there will be a brown toasted crust which you don't want in your finished rice. My family likes the toasted crust, but we eat it separately. If you don't want to eat it, it may be discarded.
After fluffing, replace the lid and leave it on warm until ready to serve. You can add a little hot tap water at this point if the rice seems too dry. If it is too moist, leave it uncovered for a a minute or two until the steam escapes, then replace the cover and let it stand for a few minutes. All the water should be absorbed. You can leave the cooked rice in the cooker on the warm setting for a couple of hours, but may need to add a small amount of water a few minutes before serving to keep in from being too dry. Unplugged, the rice will keep in the cooker without refrigeration for several hours. For overnight storage, you should remove it and refrigerate. Refrigerated rice will keep for several days and can be reheated in the microwave.
Cooking method #2 (Stovetop): Use a heavy-bottomed pot. Measure 2 cups of water for each cup of rice. Bring to a full boil. Add oil or butter, onion and sweet pepper, and salt. Add pre-washed rice slowly, maintaining a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered at a slow boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for 14-17 minutes. Remove from heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and remove onion and pepper. Recover and let stand for another 5 minutes.
Cooking method #3 (Boiling): I don't think this produces quite as good a result as the above methods, but it's the easiest of all and does make good rice. Basically you boil it just like spaghetti. Bring a large pot of water to a boil no need to measure. Add oil, onion, sweet pepper and salt. Stir. Add pre-washed rice. Reduce heat slightly and cook uncovered at a slow boil for 15-17 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh colander. Put the drained rice back in the pot over very low heat, fluff, cover, and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Cooking method #4 (Oven): Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure 2 cups of water for each cup of rice. Put it in a pot, add oil, onion, sweet pepper and salt and bring to a full boil on the stove top. Combine the rice and seasoned water in a baking dish, stir, cover and place in oven. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, fluff, remove onion and pepper, replace lid and let stand for 5 minutes.
There are numerous other methods and techniques for cooking white rice, but these are the easiest and most common. I hope everyone finds the information useful.