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Dec 29, 2011 09:55 PM

Risotto help? Always too long!

Lately I've started trying my hand at risottos, and while I love them, I have found I ALWAYS cook way past the given time. I do like my rice a little more tender than it's usually served in restaurants, which may account for some of it, but at the recommended 20 or so minutes, my rice is always sticks-in-your-teeth consistency. I recently tried cooking my rice in the butter or oil longer at the beginning (I used to be terrified of scorching it), but it didn't cut my time down by much. I've been wondering if it's a heat thing - I have an electric stove and HATE it because of its inconsistency in heating, and it gets so hot and the liquid evaporates within a minute or two. Then I have to turn it down, and it just gets all wonky. So my sequence is usually:
1.) Toast rice in butter or oil depending on recipe
2.) Add about 1/2 cup of wine, wait until it evaporates
3.) Begin adding hot stock (at a low simmer) a ladle or cup at a time
4.) Stir until mostly evaporated

I've been using 4-5 cups of stock for 1 cup of rice, and it's taking me a long time. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. How long is too long? I make risotto quite frequently, and I pay zero attention to timing. More so than with almost anything else I make frequently, I think tasting is vital, and timing is irrelevant. Make sure your stock is just under the boiling point, and try adding it a half-cup at a time. I eat mine al dente, and I feel like it takes a few minutes past 20 minutes to prepare, incidentally. As long as it tastes good, who cares?

    1. You seem to have most of the bases covered. My first thoughts were that you were adding cold stock or not toasting the rice, but neither seems not to be the case. 20 minutes is a little short by my reckoning - but if it's taking, say, an hour, then your risotto is taking longer than most.

      The only suggestions I could come up with:
      1) Could be the rice. You didn't specify what you use. Arborio rice seems to be the most common choice, though most short grain rices seem to work. I've heard some people swear by carnaroli rice. It's possible that the rice you're buying is just especially old or something. Not a problem I've experienced, but it strikes me as a possibility still.
      2) Risotto seems to work best for me cooking in a wide pan. I use a straight sided 12 inch saute pan - it seems to get the right mix of evaporation and absorption by the rice. If your pan is too narrow for the volume of risotto you're cooking, you might be forcing yourself to keep the temp too high in order to get the liquid to incorporate.
      3) You may still not be toasting the rice and onion enough. You don't want any scorching or browning, but you also can't be so afraid of browning that the rice isn't thoroughly heated in the oil. If you have a problem here, it's likely that you're heat is still too low once you add the rice - a lot of recipe have you soften the onion on fairly low temp and then turn up the heat a bit when the rice is added (but only toasting briefly to avoid browning). In your case (and mine, sadly), you electric stove might have too slow a heat response for that to work, so you might have better luck removing the pan from the stove once the onion is softened while you get the stove warmer in preparation for adding the rice. Hard to say if you've got it right without being in your kitchen with you.

      Of course, if your risotto is still getting to the consistency you like and your only problem is that it's taking longer than expected, you may not have much of a problem at all. Keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to stir constantly while you make it - I'm of the opinion that the most important stirring is the vigorous final stir once the rice is your desired degree of doneness and the butter and cheese has been added.

      1. I tend to add a fair amount of stock to start....stir and let it absorb....and then add a half cup at a time.
        I made a pumpkin risotto on Christmas Eve, and think I added about three cups to start....then added the smaller amounts. I had people take turns stirring while I did other things...which was fun. I'm not sure of the time (since we were drinking champagne...we'll call it multi-tasking) but I'm guessing it was about half an hour.

        1. The softness of the risotto depends on how much liquid the rice absorbes. The more liquid, the softer the rice. We keep the rice on a medium low heat and the liquid hot but not simmering. Ladle in each portion of liquid (including the wine)and stir until the liquid is absorbed ( not evaporated) and the rice is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan before you add the next portion. We like it a bit softer than the traditional el dente and we use about 4.5 cups total liquid (stock and wine) for two cups of arborio rice -a bit less than you do. This is only a rule of thumb as the absorption can vary with the type and age of your rice. The entire process takes us about 40 minutes-risotto is not traditionally a quickie dish. I have never quite understood why recipes suggest it can be done in 15-20min.

          I am guessing you are using risotto friendly rice such as arborio. Cooking on too high a heat will cook outside of the rice grain first and the leave the interior hard resulting in eventually a mushy product. If your stove is truly wonky, I have read about stirless oven methods for risotto in Donna Hay cookbooks but have never tried them. The oven, in your case, may be a better source for steady heat.