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Help with my cooking nemesis - rice!

My mother gave me a huge container of basmati rice, which I love, but cannot seem to cook correctly to save my life. It always ends up gooey instead of fluffy.

What I did last time:
Rinse 1 cup rice
Bring 1.5 cups of water to boil
Stir in rice
Simmer about 20 minutes

What am I doing wrong?

Thank you!

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  1. You should lightly saute the rice in oil before adding the liquid next time (you can even add spices at this point)- enough to coat each grain of rice so that they separate once cooked. 1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups water is about right. It also helps to let it sit with the lid on, heat off, for 5-10 minutes before serving.

    2 Replies
    1. re: TongoRad

      I would not saute the rice in oil before cooking in liquid if I was serving the rice in a Japanese or Chinese type meal. Love your avatar, btw.

      1. re: KTinNYC

        Thanks :)
        Yeah- I was thinking Indian all the way, should've made that more clear.

        wrt the peas- I have found that I prefer when they are added late in the process. I know that you shouldn't open the lid to peek at that point, but if you're really quick about it (make sure the peas are defrosted and ready to go)- pop the lid, chuck them in there, and put it back on, don't stir- there aren't real adverse effects on the rice and the peas retain their green peaness.

    2. I make Basmatic rice all the time in the microwave and it comes out perfect: one cup of rice (I don't rinse) to slightly less than 3 cups of water. Cook 5 minutes high, 10 minutes medium. (May have to adjust depending on microwave -- I think mine is 700 watts.)

      1. What are you doing wrong? Trying to cook it yourself...I finally gave up and went to Walmart and bought a Rice Cooker, and I simply do not have these problems anymore!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jinet12

          I totally agree. I bought my first rice cooker years ago at Costco finally killed it and now am on my second. I love that you can set it early and it will keep the rice warm for five hours. I think I spent about $25.00 on it.

        2. I learned the following procedure from a Thai cookbook, but I use it with basmati and all types of rice. Rinse rice. combine with about 1.75 water to 1 rice ratio. Bring to a boil uncovered. After 10 to 15 minutes, the water level should be below the level of the rice, and you will steam holes throughout the top. Then reduce to the lowest heat, cover, and let sit about 10 minutes. Then turn off heat and put a towel under the lid, and let sit 10 minutes. It can sit much longer.

          I also often saute the rice and do more of a pilaf or pulao.

          1. First of all, I would not bring water to boil before stirring in the rice. Put the rice and water in the pot all at one. Turn the heat up to high. Once the water comes to a boil give the rice a good stir, turn the heat down to the lowest setting on your range and leave it alone for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave alone for a few more minute. Fluff and serve.

            One question, where are you buying your rice? "Fresh" rice has more moisture and takes less water to cook.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KTinNYC

              It is from a big bag that my mother bought at Costco. Sure mom - 4 people (not Asian) absolutely need to buy rice 25 lbs at a time!

              It is probably not too fresh(a few weeks old), but now that I know how to cook it, I'll go through it much faster.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                KT's method is the easiest method, and foolproof, with one caveat: use a heavy pot for best results. A thin pot may scorch your rice. And if after 20 minutes the rice is not dry enough, leave it for a few more minutes.

                This is how I learned to cook rice before I purchased a rice cooker, and it works!

              2. You need more water! I use a 2.5-3:1 ratio.

                2 Replies
                1. re: irishnyc

                  How is more water going to keep the rice from being gooey? If anything she would need less water. What do the Irish know about cooking rice anyway ; )

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    I went out with someone who was Irish and she always put in a lot more water with the rice. Then when it was done she would drain the excess water. It seemed strange to me at first but it actually works well. In reality, you can't specify an exact amount of water because depending on the texture of the rice and your altitude, you'll need slightly different amounts of water anyway.

                2. 1.75 to 1 is a better ratio. Bring water to a boil with rice in the water. When it begins to boil, stir well and simmer covered until water cooks off (20-30 minutes should do). Don't touch it after this except to check that the water is gone. Then let it sit covered for about 10 minutes after it is cooked.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chezfredo

                    It seems like you're getting lots of conflicting advice, but I'll throw in my technique anyway (learned from my Indian mom): Rinse rice (let's say 1 cup), add 1 3/4 cups water, bring to a boil over med-high heat. When it boils, cover the pot and turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the hot burner. In about 15 minutes, perfect rice. Do not pick up the lid before it's ready, though. If it's too liquidy, turn the heat on low and cook uncovered, stirring once in a while, until it's drier.

                    You can add a little oil, butter, and/or salt to the water if you want, or saute the rice in it a little bit before adding the water. You can also add frozen peas, small potato pieces, or spices before adding the water.

                  2. I've had better luck with basmati rice since I started soaking it before cooking. According to Deborah Madison: "Rinsing and soaking the grains before cooking allows the rice to lengthen, yielding exceptionally fine long grains."

                    Her method for 1 cup raw rice: wash rice with several changes of water; cover with a few cups of water and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1.75 cups of water. Combine reserved water and rice in a pot, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

                    1. I agree with the others who say buy a rice cooker. Set it and forget it! Unless I'm making rissoto, all my rice is cooked in the rice cooker. Pluse it's just great for steaming vegetables and dumplings.

                      1. I've been cooking rice as our main starch since living on the Gulf Coast where potatoes have a really short shelf life.
                        With Basmati, I use 2:1 water to rice ratio.
                        I've cooked rice on five different stoves. Each one takes a re-learning of temperatures and cooking time.
                        On my propane stove, a quality pot with a tight fitting top, on below low heat, about 15 minutes of heat, after adding the rice to boiling water.

                        And in summer, I cook it in three cups to six cups water and then freeze the rice I'm not going to use for the next two meals. For me, rice microwaves really well.

                        1. Different types of rice require different amounts of water. For long grain a 2:1 ratio is a good starting point. Japanese style short grain may even be lower. European medium and short, such as arborio, can go up to 3:1, since it's 'designed' to absorb a lot of flavor from the liquid.

                          You should take into account the water that has been added via rinsing and soaking. A rice cooker that uses a 'fill marks' takes this into account. In fact an experienced cook can judge the right amount of water based on depth over the rice.

                          The shape of the pan matters. A shallow layer of rice and water will loose more water to evaportation than a deeper one. Same goes for the lid.

                          With basmati you have another cooking option - boil in a large amount of water like pasta, and drain. Then you can add seasonings, butter, meat, etc , and let it steam for a bit.

                          1. I used to be terrible at cooking rice, until I finally took my husband's advice. We use basmati rice. I put the rice, and the amount of water called for on the bag in a small sauce pan, and bring it to a boil on high heat. I let it boil until the water has pretty much disappeared, and you see small holes on the surface of the rice. At this point, I put the lid on, turn the burner down as low as possible, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Turns out perfectly every time. Sometimes I add a little oil as well.

                            1. jfood uses the method that the Galloping Gourmet taught him in the 70's. Assume the rice knows what to do. Add more water than needed. bring to boil, add rice, turn down heat all the way and set the timer. When timer goes off dump in a strainer to get excess water out and throw back in hot pot to steam the last minute.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                For how much time do you set the timer?

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    The actual Galloping Gourmet's method, and which I have used for years with Jasmine rice but, addmittedly, have not tried with Basmati, is to boil the rice in a lot of water for exactly 10 mins. Then dump it into a collander to drain in and place the collander over another pot of water that has about 1/2" of water boiling in it, cover, and steam for exactly 8 mins. Comes out done and fluffy.

                                    1. re: ThaiNut

                                      r u sure/

                                      This was the way he did it in the 70's on TV. Is yours from the book or memory of the TV version?

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        From his second (1966) book. When I purchased the book I was a young single guy just out of the service and trying to learn how to cook. I latched onto his method of cooking rice and swear by it. Here's a direct quote from the pages describing it:


                                        Comment on Method: When my first book came out it created a good deal of favorable comment from people who wanted to cook rice dishes and succeed. The traditionalists, however, reacted against some of my techniques, saying "He has taken too many short cuts. People who like cooking are prepared to spend all day doing so." Unfortunately, these people are few and far between and the number is getting fewer every day. This method of boiling rice was criticized, but I have yet to find a better method. Even my Chinese greengrocer uses it now!

                                        Step 1 - The best rice for boiling is long grain - the short grain being the finest in the world for rice puddings. You need 5/8 cup for 4 reasonable portions. Wash the rice under cold running water until not a trace of white is left in the water.

                                        Step 2 - For 5/8 cup rice you need 3 pints of water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a vigorous boil and rain in the rice. Boil for exactly 10 minutes.

                                        Step 3 - Pour the rice into a colander and set it on top of a saucepan in which a small amount of ((boiling)) water has been added. Put a lid on top of the rice and steam for 8 minutes.

                                        Step 4 - The resulting rice is separate and fluffy. It will also keep well without going into clods of sticky Turkish delight.


                                        1. re: ThaiNut

                                          Thanks TN. Since the book predates when jfood used to watch it is an interesting twist.

                                          jfood will have to give this method a shot next time.


                              2. I cook my Basmati in a pot with 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water for every cup (dry measure) of rice. I add more water if I want it fluffier, and I never rinse it. But -- I also add salt, which you seem not to have in your recipe.

                                I bring it to a boil, simmer on low for about fifteen minutes, and then turn off the heat and leave if covered while I cook the rest of my dinner. Comes out great all the time, very fluffly.

                                You can even add things like Goya Sazon for a Spanish-style rice, or use chicken stock. Very easy.

                                I've been tempted to buy a rice cooker, but only for things like Jasmine or Thai sweet rice, which are harder to nail in a pot the old fashioned way.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: RGC1982

                                  If by Thai sweet rice you mean long grain glutinous or sticky rice from Thailand, are you steaming it over water, or are you putting it in a pot of water? I love it soaked and then steamed over a pot of water. Have you tried it from a rice cooker? I find it hard to imagine it would be as yummy.

                                  1. re: saltwater

                                    Yes, it is the long grain glutinous sticky rice. I tried cooking it in a pot of water using the absorption method, which is how I cook Basmati, and it was just impossibly gluey. I am going to try soaking next time before cooking. I have not purchased a rice cooker, but considering my penchant for gadgets, it would not be hard to justify. Do you think a rice cooker is the solution here? Do I need to soak it first? Also, there was a thread posted recently in which someone was using a bamboo steamer supposedly designed for this rice, but the steamer was imparting a bad smell and taste, so I want to avoid bamboo steamers to make sure I don't have this problem.

                                    1. re: RGC1982

                                      I've cooked black Thai rice by first soaking, then steaming it in a metal steamer basket lined with cheese cloth. I believe the idea is to use a container with a fine enough mesh to hold the rice, but still allow steam pass through the rice.

                                      I'm tempted, though, to try cooking this rice in a metal bowl set in a pressure cooker.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        According to this link
                                        black Thai rice can be cooked in the pressure cooker without steamer basket. About 35minutes with a 3:1 water ratio.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I just tried the black glutinous rice in the pressure cooker.

                                          I rinsed the rice (pretty clean, not cloudy), put it in the cooker with a 3:1 water ratio. Cooked at pressure for 18 minutes. Checked it - the rice was tender (well, chewy), and a bit soupy. I then seasoned it with a pinch of salt, some palm sugar, and some powdered coconut milk. The result was just a bit soupier than if I'd added canned coconut milk to the drier steamed rice.

                                          18 minutes sure beats overnight soaking, and a hour steaming.

                                      2. re: RGC1982

                                        I was taught to cook sticky rice in a different way from Jasmine and Basmati. I soak it in water to cover overnight. It won't expand much. Then when I want to cook it, I drain it well and put it in a steamer over boiling water for 15 minutes or more. The rice has a completely different texture from standard rice. It has a hint of translucence, it is shiny, and it sticks together. It does not stick like short grain rice. It is not that kind of sticky. The grains are slick and smooth, and hold together in clumps, so that you can tear off a nice ball in your hands and dip it in something (or just pop it in your mouth, like me). They have a bit of real chew when you eat them. I have been unable to achieve this same effect by cooking it in water. That is why I think the rice steamer might be an unsatisfactory solution.

                                        Yes, a conical bamboo woven basket is the traditional tool, but you can line that with cloth so that you can turn the rice over sort of by rearranging the cloth a bit part way through. My aunt owns one. I use a metal steamer. This is problematic, though, because the edges of the steamer get hot, so where the rice touches them, some of the grains can get slightly toasty or crunchy. Maybe this is because my steamer inset doesn't have holes near the edges? I avoid this by bunching the rice in the center so it doesn't touch the sides. It might work to use a cloth, though, like my aunt does in the bamboo gizmo, but I've never tried it. Keep in mind that the rice does not like having water on it as it steams. It will be mushy where it touches water.

                                        I get the imported stuff in 25 lb bags, though, not the supermarket stuff. I am very lucky to be able to get the real deal. Perhaps the supermarket variety takes longer to cook. I've seen directions for as long as 45 minutes of steaming. I love the stuff, so I yank it out as soon as it is soft and chewy and translucent. Note that the longer you soak it, the less time it needs to steam. I often dump it in the evening before and don't steam it until dinner. I have succeeded in soaking it only 6 hours. At 4 hours, you may not like the result as well.

                                        Oh, I cook about one and a half cups at a time. If you want to cook large amounts, I do recommend the standard bamboo thing. That holds more rice well. If you can find a place that sells Laotian or Thai groceries, they will have a sticky rice steamer to buy.

                                  2. I always use twice as much water as rice. Put it all in the pot, and bring it to a boil. Once you have circles appearing on the top of the rice, slap a lid on it and turn it down to a simmer, then cook 10-15 minutes.

                                    Not so difficult. :)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: tzurriz

                                      That sounds like what we do - the "circles appearing on top of the rice". My husband is Dominican, and this is his way of cooking rice as well.

                                      1. re: tzurriz

                                        That's pretty close to my method: 2:1 ratio of water to rice. Do not rinse the rice; instead, put it in the cold water, start the rice to boil. When it has boiled, add one pat of butter, stir it and turn down the heat -- way down, almost until you can't see a gas flame, or else the lowest setting on a electric stove. I open the pot just once, to make sure it isn't sticking and to stir it, before I close it back up.

                                        Another option is Trader Joe's frozen rice. I used to turn my nose up at frozen rice, and then I read an interview with Morimoto, and he said he uses it. If it's good enough for an Iron Chef, it's good enough for me.

                                      2. I used a simple $20 Rival rice cooker for a couple of years until it failed. I really missed it, until I learned how to do rice in a pressure cooker: 2 parts water to 1 part rice, let the p.c. come up to pressure, then turn off the heat and let it cool slowly, about 15 minutes. This works well without scorching.

                                        1. I would go to your nearest asian market and buy a rice cooker; takes the bother/guess work out of cooking rice.

                                          1. Given all the recs for rice cookers, I will weigh in and say that I've never liked using them. Maybe I've only used crappy ones, but the rice always sticks to the bottom. I also don't like having another kitchen gadget taking up counter space.

                                            1. Well, I used KTinNYC's method, and the rice came out great. I think I could have cooked it a smidgen less, but I was very happy with the results. I actually had leftovers for lunch, and it microwaved very well. I printed out all the tips, and I'll be doing some experimenting in the future.

                                              I used to have a rice cooker, but it never cooked the rice correctly, no matter what proportions/ cook time I tried. Maybe it's time to try again.

                                              Thank you, everyone!

                                              Thank you everyone!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: stephiehun

                                                Glad your rice came out better this time. The more you cook rice the more you'll get the hang of it. I didn't cook a pot for a few weeks and the result was not very good, too dry so I just made fried rice. Next time it comes out too wet for you just add more water and make jook!

                                                1. re: stephiehun

                                                  I think the method you use is about right. For basmati, soaking and then draining thoroughly and sauteeing in a little butter or oil really helps get the right (white) color and grain shape. You can also add some whole spices, cumin seeds or onion to the sauteeing. After the rice becomes a bit opaque, add water. when cooking on the stovetop (whatever kind of rice) I add until the water reaches up one knuckle from the rice with the finger tip touching the rice. Cook until starts to form the circles/bubbles on the rice surface then turn down to very low and cover til done. dont forget some salt.

                                                  We use a ricecooker for chinese rice, but every time my husband puts basmati in it the result is miserably dry and the color is not right. Whatever vessel or heat source you use, you have to respect the different natures of your rices, add a little extra water where needed, etc.

                                                  I always wash my rice in several rinses except when making a risotto, where you want that starch.

                                                2. I make mine in the oven, it's foolproof, and you don't need any special equipment.
                                                  Ratio of 2 to 1 water to rice. Preheat oven to 350, put rice in an ovenproof casserole large enough to hold the finished amount, rice usually triples in volume. Add twice as much BOILING water to rice, cover, place in oven, check after 25 - 30 min. If all the water has been absorbed, it's done. Fluff. You can add seasonings to the mixture before cooking, I add veggies such as peas and sauteed mushrooms when I take it out of the oven and then put the cover back on so they'll get hot.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                                    Yes, oven is a good method as long as you don't forget it's in there! I've done that a few times. I generally use this method when I'm using the oven for cooking the rest of the meal.

                                                  2. I have made perfect rise for years. Never rinsed it, 2 to 1 ratio. Bring water to a boil add the rice, boil for about 5 minutes, turn on low, then eventually off. I never had a problem. Then someone said "oh you should ALWAY rinse the rice til the water runs clear." Hmmm. Ok. Now everytime I get gummy horrible rice that is barely edible, and I toss what's leftover. Something I would NEVER do, because I always make fried rice.
                                                    So that's my two cents. Don't rinse it, 2-1 boil water, add the rice, heavy boil for 5 minutes, turn on low with a lid for 15, and then off.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                                      When you tried rinsing, did you adjust the water ratio to take into account the water retained after rinsing?

                                                      What type of rice are you using?

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        No I didn't. Didn't know that I should of. I just went by what someone said about rinsing it until the water was clear. What is the purpose of rinsing the rice anyway?

                                                        I'm back to my old tried and true way.

                                                        This happened wtih Jasmine and Long Grain.

                                                    2. Rice used to be my nemesis, but I've figured out basmati thanks to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffray. I always pre-soak the basmati in cool water for half an hour, rinse, then add to the pot I'm going to cook it in. Then, I add 1 1/4 cups of cold water (you need less water since you are pre-soaking), bring to a boil, cover, and cook on the lowest heat for 20-25 minutes until the water is absorbed. Then I let the rice sit covered for another 5 minutes before fluffing and serving. Perfect every time!