Rice

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How popular is rice? It's simply the most consumed food in the world. Asian dishes may come first when you think of rice, but don't forget Italian risotto, Spanish paella, and the rice and bean dishes popular throughout Mexico and Central and Southern America.

The Long and Short of It

How rice is classified, as well as how it's best cooked, depends mainly on the length of the grain.

Long-grain rice

Long and slender with a length that's four to five times its width. Because its grains stay separate, light and fluffy, it's perfect as a side dish.

Short-grain rice

Short and plump; only slightly longer than it is wide. Its moist grains stick together when cooked and stay tender even at room temperature — think sushi.

Medium-grain rice

Falls somewhere between long and short, with grains about twice as long as they are wide. Risotto is made with medium-grain rice, as is paella.

Most varieties are sold as either brown or white rice, depending upon how they are milled.

Brown rice is unmilled and retains the bran and germ that surrounds the kernel, giving it a chewy texture and a flavor often described as nutty. It takes longer to cook brown rice and it's more nutritious. Because of the oil in the bran and germ, it spoils more easily and so it should be kept refrigerated.

White rice has had its bran and germ milled away. It cooks up tender and delicate, but it is somewhat less nutritious than brown, which is why it is sometimes fortified.

Cooking Rice

Different varieties of rice are best when cooked using a particular method. Be sure to follow recipe instructions to get the best flavor and texture from your rice.

Absorption Method

This is the most popular method, using a set amount of rice and a set amount of water, for a set amount of time. By the time the water is absorbed, the rice should be tender.

Steaming Method

This is usually the preferred method for cooking sticky and clinging rices. Rice is soaked, drained and put in a steaming basket set over a pot or wok of boiling water and cooked by steam alone, without the rice ever touching the boiling liquid.

Boiling Method

In this method, the rice is cooked much like pasta. Though this may sound appealingly easy and foolproof, it actually requires almost as much attention as does the absorption method. The rice is sprinkled into a large pot of boiling salted water, then stirred often to prevent sticking. When tender, it is thoroughly drained, then rinsed quickly to halt cooking. Sticky and clinging rices do not do well with this method, but many other varieties do fine.

Rinsing

This step removes surface starch and should only be done when you want the grains to remain quite separate, as in Indian basmati rice. For most rice preparations, do not rinse.

Measuring

The general ratio is 1 cup rice to 1-1/2 or 2 cups water, plus 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Place rice, salt and water in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid.

Simmering

Bring water and salt to a boil in a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add rice, bring back to a boil, stir once, cover and simmer over low heat until the grains are tender.

Cooking and Serving Rice

Cooking Tips

  • Use a sturdy pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Add salt for flavor.
  • Substitute liquids for water for more flavorful rice: try half broth, some orange juice or a little wine.
  • Don't peek! Lifting the lid will interrupt cooking.
  • For rice at its best, let it rest. After cooking time is up, let the rice stand off the heat for at least 5 minutes before serving.
  • Use a fork or a chopstick to fluff rice. Gentle handling will keep grains separate, not mushy.
  • If you cook a lot of rice, consider an electric rice cooker.

Rice: Cooking Tips and Serving Suggestions

 

Characteristics

Grain to Liquid

Basic Cooking Method

Arborio Rice (white)

Soft and creamy. Best used in risotto recipes.

1 cup to 3/4 cups

After an initial toasting of the grains in butter or oil, liquid (usually broth) is added gradually as rice is stirred to create a rich almost saucelike result.

Basmati (white imported and brown)

A long-grain, highly aromatic, hulled rice from India. Usually aged for a year to develop its full flavor.

White: 1 cup to 1-1/2 cups
Brown: 1 cup to 2 cups

Soak and rinse rice for 30 minutes. Simmer white basmati 15 minutes. Simmer brown 45 minutes.

Brown Rice (long grain)

Tends to remain separate and fluffy when cooked. Great for pilafs, rice salads and paella.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.

Brown Rice (medium grain)

Similar to long grain, but stickier. Great with stir-fries and curries.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.

Brown Rice (short grain)

A sticky, chewy rice; very good in sushi and puddings.

1 cup to 2-1/4 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.

Brown Rice (sweet)

Very sticky. It is what mochi and amasake are made from.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 50 minutes.

Forbidden Rice

A nutty-tasting black rice, imported from China. Soft textured; purple when cooked.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 30 minutes.

Jasmine Rice (white or brown)

An aromatic, long-grain rice similar to basmati. The perfect accompaniment to Thai curries.

White: 1 cup to 1-3/4 cups
Brown: 1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer white rice for 15 minutes.
Simmer brown rice for 45 minutes.

Kalijira Rice (white)

A long-grain rice but on a miniature scale. Sometimes called baby basmati, these tiny grains are nutty and aromatic and cook up quickly.

1 cup to 1-1/2 cups

Rinse well. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Lundberg Countrywild

Long-grain brown rice, blended with Wehani and Black Japonica rices; delicious as a side dish.

1 cup to 2 cups

Rinse rice and simmer 45 minutes.

Purple Sticky Rice

Used as a sweet dessert rice.

1 cup to 2 cups Rinse well.

Bring to a boil (no salt), cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Red Rice

Imported from Bhutan; has a nutty taste and pink color when cooked.

1 cup to 1/2 cups

Bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Sushi Rice (white)

Medium grain, chewy and sticky

1 cup to 1 cup

Rinse and drain several times until water runs clear. Bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes.

Texmati Rice (brown)

A cross between basmati and long-grain American rice. Delightfully nutty, fragrant rice.

Great plain, with curried vegetables or seafood, or use in stuffings.

1 cup to 2 cups Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Texmati Rice (white)

A cross between basmati and long-grain American rice. Fluffier and milder in flavor and aroma than imported basmati.

1 cup to 1-3/4 cups

Simmer 15-18 minutes.

Wehani Rice (red rice)

A long-grain rice, but on a miniature scale. Sometimes called baby basmati, these tiny grains are nutty and aromatic and cook up quickly.

1 cup to 2 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.

Wild Rice

Technically an aquatic grass seed, but cooked and enjoyed as a rice. Delightfully chewy and full-flavored, it can be a little too intense on its own, so it's popular in grain mixes, soups and salads.

1 cup to 3 cups

Rinse well. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer strongly for 45 minutes.

Wild and Brown Rice

20% lake-harvested wild rice and 80% long-grain brown rice. A milder alternative to wild rice and a great side dish.

1 cup to 3 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.

Wild Rice Blend

Made from long-grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, Wehani, Japonica and wild rice. A beautiful blend for sides or soups

1 cup to 3 cups

Simmer 45 minutes.