How to cook rice on the stove or with a rice cooker

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how to cook rice

When you’re making rice on your stovetop, don’t forget to give it the occasional stir.

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  • Cooking perfectly fluffy rice can be challenging, but there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get it right every time. 
  • We break down how to cook rice on your stovetop or with a rice cooker in a few simple steps.
  • If you’re thinking of buying a rice cooker, make sure you check out our guide to the best ones on the market

Learning how to cook perfectly fluffy rice is like tying your shoes or riding a bike — it may seem like an insurmountable task at first, but once you’ve got it down you’ll never forget it. The stovetop and rice cooker methods below work for short, medium, and long-grain rice, and open up a world of possibilities for rice-based dishes. 

How to cook rice on the stovetop

You’ve learned how to boil water — surely, the first step toward an adult life — so now, it’s time to learn how to make the most important of grains. And while you may be intimidated by ratios, cooking times, or even cooking vessels, let us assure you that anyone can learn how to cook this versatile staple perfectly.

Before we go into more detail below, here are the basic steps:

  1. Measure out a quarter to a half cup of dry grains
  2. Rinse your rice to remove excess starch
  3. Add 1.5-to-1 ratio of liquid to dry grains to the pot (this can be water, broth, or even coconut milk)
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil
  5. Reduce to a simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. Remove the rice from the stove
  7. Fluff rice and serve

Here are the detailed steps:

1. Measure out your dry grains

A quarter cup of dry rice is generally considered one serving, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and assume that I’ll consume closer to a third of a cup (or even a half). Place those grains in a pot that 1) has a cover and 2) is deep enough to hold both the dry rice and about 1.5 times as much water. I would also recommend using a nonstick pot for easier cleanup.

2. Rinse your rice

Not everyone will tell you to do this, but my mother insisted on it throughout my childhood, so I’m passing along her wisdom. You’re not really cleaning the rice — rather, you’re getting rid of some of the excess starch, which can help with the final texture. Give the rice a couple of rinses and then pour out the excess water.

3. Add liquid to the pot

The general rule of thumb is a 1.5-to-1 ratio of liquid to dry grains, but different types of rice may have different instructions. Generally speaking, bags of rice will have recommended ratios — if you’d prefer your rice on the drier side, with more separate grains, you can always go under the recommendation. If you prefer wetter, more porridge-like rice, add more water than instructed. Note that if you start with too little water, it’s always easy to add a bit more throughout the cooking process. It’s harder to go the other direction.

While water is the standard liquid for cooking rice, you could always use various broths, should you want your rice to be a bit more flavorful. Be careful when dealing with thicker liquids like coconut milk, as ratios will be different.

4. Bring the mixture to a boil

Turn the heat on high for a faster boil, and allow the rice and water mixture to come to a rolling boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer for 10 to 20 minutes and stir occasionally

Once the grains have boiled, it’s time to slow things down a bit. Reduce the heat significantly until you’re dealing with a slow and easy simmer. At this point, you’ll want to cover your rice, placing a lid on your pot. This is where you’ll be for the next 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how much rice you made), so be patient.

One of the most important things to do at this point is to ensure that your rice doesn’t boil over. While that won’t ruin the rice itself, it will create a sticky mess that will be a pain to clean up. You’ll also want to stir your rice every once in a while to ensure that the bottom doesn’t burn and that you’re getting a nice, even cook.

After about 10 minutes have passed, it’s safe to start checking on your rice. Remove the lid from your pot, and periodically fluff the rice to see how it’s absorbing the liquid. If there is no liquid left and the grains are still too al dente, add just a splash of water at a time.

6. Remove the rice from the stove

Like pasta, rice is done when you think it’s done. Once the rice has reached your preferred texture, it’s ready to be removed from the heat.

7. Fluff the rice and serve

If you don’t want to end up with a congealed pot-shaped mound of rice, be sure to give your rice a good final stir to break up the grains a bit before serving.

How to cook rice using a rice cooker

how to cook rice using a rice cooker

Don’t worry if your rice maker gives off a lot of steam — that’s part of the process.

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If you don’t have the time or the patience to babysit a pot of rice, you could always turn to a rice cooker like this one from Zojirushi. But how do you actually operate that shiny new contraption? As it turns out, there are a few easy tips and tricks that will result in excellent rice every time.

Before we go into more detail below, here are the basic steps: 

  1. Measure out a quarter to a half cup of dry rice
  2. Rinse the rice to remove excess starch
  3. Add about three-quarters of an inch of water to the rice cooker 
  4. Select the rice setting 
  5. Wait for the beep
  6. Fluff and serve

Here are the detailed steps:

1. Measure out your dry grains

Again, a quarter cup of dry rice is generally considered one serving, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and assume that I’ll consume closer to a third or even half of a cup. 

2. Rinse your rice

As I mentioned above, this step removes some of the excess starch, which can help with the final texture. Give the rice a couple of rinses and then pour out the excess water. Then, add those grains to your rice cooker.

3. Add liquid  

This is where things start to deviate a bit from the stovetop method. Different pots require different rice to liquid ratios, but as a child, I was always taught a separate method that still seems to work quite well. You’ll want to cover your rice (once it’s evenly distributed across the pot) with about three-quarters of an inch of water. As it turns out, that’s about the distance from the tip of your middle finger to the first joint. Just dip your finger into the pot, and use it as a makeshift ruler.

4. Select the right setting

Most rice cookers have several different settings for how you’d like to cook your rice, but the “steam rice” option is the one you want. When the machine is working at its peak, you’ll likely see a lot of steam emanating from the rice cooker. That’s perfectly normal, and in fact necessary for the steaming of your rice. 

5. Wait for the beep

Generally speaking, many rice cookers will chime or beep once it’s done cooking. Then just fluff and serve.

For a more affordable pick, we also recommend Oster’s 6-Cup Rice Cooker, which we highlight in our guide to the best rice cookers you can buy

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