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Cooking Basmati Rice Question

Most recipes for cooking plain basmati rice suggest that you soak the rice for 30 minutes before cooking. I have cooked it both ways--with and without the soaking--and the soaking makes a huge difference! Why is that?

I am used to making Chinese short-grained rice, which does not involve soaking. Is the pre-soaking necessary for all long-grained rice or specific to Basmati rice?

Also, I tend to cook Basmati rice on the stovetop as I would for Chinese rice--1-1 water rice ratio, bring water to boil then reduce to very low heat for 20 minutes in order to steam rice. Are there beter ways to cook Basmati rice?


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  1. We cook both basmati and jasmine rice - white and brown. We always rinse the rice in a colander over a bowl, under running cool water till the water runs clear. Our ratio is 1 c rice - 1 1/2 c broth in a simmer.

    I have a recipe from Jacques Pepin for a brown rice risotto in which he says nothing about rinsing, but does start off by sautéing chopped onion in butter then adding the rice and proceeding as one would for a regular Italian risotto. It's in my folder of "to make recipes." Although I don't have the COTM, Flexitatian Table by Peter Berely, in front of me there is a similar recipe using brown rice and other ingredients.

    1. We usually use Jasmine rice but sometimes basmati. With either we don't soak, just use pressure cooker. Twice as much water as rice, up to pressure, 10 minutes at high pressure, then natural pressure release.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lgss

        I do my jasmine or basmati rice in the pressure cooker with 1 1/4 cups of water to 1 cup rice for only 3 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release and it comes out perfectly almost every time. (Each batch of grain is different so it varies.) If I want it softer or more cooked, I do rinse the rice or soak it for a while.

      2. I bought a rice cooker about three years ago and will never go back to using another method- for any kind of rice. It's simple and foolproof. I spent around $20 on a Salton model and love it. Don't spend any more than that....they are all the same.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cooknKate

          As far as "gadgets" go. My rice cooker easily my top used item behind my microwave. Yes, you can get excellent results on stovetop, but the rice cooker is so "set it and forget it." Simple and foolproof, and you just don't even have to THINK about the rice after you turn it on.

          1. re: cooknKate

            I have that 20$ Salton as well and never use it....it spews a watery/slurry mess all over the place with the cover on. Maybe I'll give it one more try and see if I'm doing something wrong.

            1. re: Gio

              I don't remember if it was a Salton, but my last inexpensive rice cooker too spewed out a starchy, watery mess. I used to drape a kitchen towel over & later the cover broke or it stopped working. Have been using stovetop since.

          2. Soaking lets the rice begin absorbing water, which means the grains cook more evenly and in less time. It can be done with other varieties -- I often presoak Chinese rice for 30 minutes, partly because it's great to have the rice prep done beforehand what with all the other mise-en-place that Chinese cooking often requires.

            Another way to cook basmati rice is like pasta, by dropping the grains into a large volume of salted boiling water. Cook until just al dente or even slightly less. Drain well. Transfer to a deep baking dish. Add butter, as generously as you dare, and optionally crushed or ground spices (cardamom, cinnamon, clove, etc.) and lightly toasted saffron threads. Cover and transfer to a medium oven and cook until the rice is done to your liking.

            4 Replies
            1. re: carswell

              Interesting. I have seen recipes that call for cooking basmati rice like pasta. I've been reluctant to cook it this way because it is just so different than the way I usually do it. Do you notice a difference in flavor--between the steaming method or cooking like pasta method?

              1. re: mielimato

                Haven't done side-by-side comparisons but I'd say there's little flavour difference in the rice per se. Maybe the boiled rice is slightly less fragrant, not that you'd notice with all the other added flavours. The big difference is textural, with each boiled grain maintaining its integrity and aldentetude (to coin a word).

                1. re: carswell

                  When I was in cooking school, the teacher (who had cooked in Chinatown NYC for a long time) cooked his rice that way. He cooked it, drained and then put the strainer back covered over the hot pot to steam a little more. He was also really big on rinsing the rice beforehand for a long time, to remove the starch and make it fluffy.But for some reason I rarely do it this way, even though it was easier.

              2. I asked the board a similar question recently and the consensus was don't soak it. IWhen I did it came out mushy. I have had best luck sauteing it in some butter first and keeping the rice/water ratio down to 1 to 1. I just got a second hand fuzzy logic rice cooker and will see how that goes tonight. I still have several pounds left.

                1. I always cook basmati in the microwave. It's easy, and leaves the stove for other cooking. Rinse rice several times, soak in cold water 15 mins, drain well. One part rice/two parts water (by WEIGHT). Cover. Use "rice" cycle on MW.

                  1. I just purchased a quantity of basmati and was amazed at how perfectly it cooked in my microwave rice cooker.
                    Due to recos here I rinsed then soaked the rice for over 30 minutes, but I'm sure how critical that was. I cooked the rice on High for 12 minutes in 1.5x water by volume.
                    After cooking the grains are noticeably skinnier than regular US long grain rice - no sticking whatsoever.

                    1. I've never soaked my Basmati. What is different in your experience?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kkak97

                        My non-soaked rice was more mushy and less evenly cooked. But to be honest, I also used a different brand of rice so maybe that was the key difference. And maybe I changed the water-rice ratio somewhat...So I am not really sure what was the difference.

                        1. re: mielimato

                          I don't soak it, but I use more water. For 1 cup of cooked rice, I would use 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/4 cups of water. The boiling it like pasta method doesn't work for me, I think the rice turns out too mushy.

                      2. I find no need to soak. I use 2x water to rice, put the rice into boiling water, stir once, reduce heat to simmer and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

                        1. I cook and eat basmati rice almost everyday. Soaking time depends on the brand and the cooking method.

                          For high quality aged brands, you must rinse and soak for about 30 minutes. For pre-parboiled varieties, ten minutes is fine. Then add to boiling water, cover, lower heat, and cook for 17-20 minutes. Soaking will ensure that the basmati grains become long and fluffy and beautiful. My daily rice is Tilda brand, which requires 10 minute soaking, then I do it in the rice cooker. Either way, for basmati, double the water amount to the rice amount. A trick is that when it is finished, allow the rice to "rest" for 10 minutes before fluffing it. This will prevent the grains from breaking apart and result in a fluffier pot of rice. I also might add butter/ghee at this point. I feel the ghee perfume comes stronger if you add it at the end rather than boiling it with the rice.

                          For birianis or "party" rice dishes, I do the par-boiling method mentioned above as being "like cooking pasta." This is actually the most refined way to do it because you will get beautiful, long, separated grains of rice. I am just lazy to do this everyday and I save the technique for weekend birianis or parties. For this method, you MUST soak the rice, for Tilda, it would be 30 minutes, for a well-aged premium brand it could be up to an hour. While the rice is soaking, put a huge pot of water to boil. Add whole garam masala ingredients such as a couple of bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, some black pepper corns, some cloves, some black and green cardamomm, whatever takes your fancy. Allow this to come to a rolling boil. Also, heavily salt this water, about double the salt you would use in a plain boiled method, because the rice will not absorb enough salt and will come out bland if you don't. Anyway, add in the pre-soaked rice. When the water reaches a boil again, set your timer for 3-4 minutes, and allow it to boil. Have a colander set aside in your sink. When your timer goes off, strain the rice, allow the water to go down the drain. In the meanwhile, you will have painted a stove top pot or a baking casserole with butter or ghee. (If you want a tah-daig crust at the bottom, use lots of ghee or butter) Quickly put the rice in either the pot or casserole. If you are doing stove top, (you would add your biriani gravy or whatever at this point) you cover with a slim kitchen towel under the lid, put the flame on high for 1 minute to get things going, then lower the heat and leave covered for 20 minutes. Turn off heat allow to rest for 10 minutes, then fluff or transfer to the serving dish. For the casserole, add in rice, cover well, then cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked. This method results in a firmer grain, but it shouldn't be so firm as to seem undercooked.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: luckyfatima

                            Thank you for a terrific post on cooking rice. I always soak imported basmati for the same reason as yours. It allow the rice to puff and become long. That is one of the great characteristic of this type of rice.

                            1. re: luckyfatima


                              Thank you so much for this post. It really is very helpful.
                              We love basmati, and now I think my DH will love it even more.