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May 12, 2008 03:20 AM

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 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.