HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Which sauce pan to use for cooking rice? Shallow/wide or taller/more narrow?

Yet another question from me (still with sauce pans on my mind)....which is more effective for cooking rice and quinoa: shallow/wide surface pan (like the Calphalon Tri-Ply 2.5 qt. shallow sauce pan) or taller/more narrow (like the Cuisinart MCP 2 qt sauce pan)? Thank you!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi, kimbers:

    I'm not sure there's a correct answer to this, but I like a taller pan for cooking plain rice. All you're doing at a basic level is moistening and heating the grains enough to gelate and soften the starch granules.

    For more elaborate rice dishes, e.g., pilaf, paella, risotto, polo , I like a shallower/wider pan, but for different reasons.

    Indian and Iranian cuisines tend boil rice in an excess of water, which is poured off; this tends to keep the grains intact and distinct. Chinese and Japanese cuisines favor using just enough water, yielding clumpy rice that is easier to eat with chopsticks. But with enough volume and the right water/rice ratio, I think either of your pans will work about the same.


    1. I prefer taller but either ought to work.

      1. Hi kimbers324;

        Rice is a complicated matter, as there really are a very wide range of rices, and also several general methods to cook them, each of which is done best in different vessels.

        Regarding basmati rice, to cook it in the persian style, the best is an aluminum pot coated in teflon (to allow for good tahdeeg production) with a glass lid that has a tiny hole allowing a little steam to escape. This pot will also work well for other basmati rice dishes, such as mixed rices from various cultural recipes.

        Regarding medium and shorter-grain asian style rice (Jasmine white, brown, red; short Japanese varieties like white, haiga, brown, sweet), modern fuzzy logic rice cookers (e.g. Zojirushi, Cuckoo, etc) are your best bet. They make amazing white, brown, Gaba-brown, sushi, sweet, porridge, .... you get the picture.

        Personally, I lack the skill and would not attempt to cook rice in a pan lined in stainless, ceramic, bare iron, tin, etc, unless it's a particularly wet recipe like a Paella (which is best in a paella pan).

        So assuming your pans are non-stick, there's no wrong answer. I would choose a short wide pan in order to maximize the amount of tahdeeg. My wife would choose a taller more narrow pan in order to provide significant height, because she like the fluffiness of the "middle-rice" that only a taller pot can produce.

        I'm eager to read what the other more accomplished cooks here have written.


        1 Reply
        1. re: alarash

          If you can make good tahdeeg, how much more accomplished can you be with rice? :-D

        2. I like taller, narrow for most rice, mostly because that's what I've always used. I don't see any reason, though, that either of those pans would present a problem.

          Regarding the comment by Alarash about not using a stainless saucepan, I (and millions of other cooks) do it every week, and it's no big deal. It doesn't stick and clean-up's a breeze.

          4 Replies
          1. re: DuffyH

            I just saw that comment about not cooking in stainless. Yep, I do it with no problem. In a dented pot with a lid that doesn't quite fit... Rice isn't a mystery. Plus, it's fairly cheap so trying different spices, water ratios, etc isn't a big deal.

            1. re: Hobbert

              The glass lids on my Calphalon stainless don't seal well, so I wrap the lid with a kitchen towel, pulling the corners through the top loop handle. Works like a charm and no steam escapes. IIRC, I got the idea from a CI rec. many years ago.

                1. re: Hobbert

                  You're welcome. The towel ends make a dandy cool grip for the lid, too. :)

          2. I like a heavy pan with a heavy lid when cooking rice. For me, it’s best for measurements if the heavy lid fits into the pot and so seals, rather than having a more flimsy lid lightly resting on top of the pot and blubbering away as it boils and steams. My two favourite rice pots are a cast aluminum one picked up at the Salvation Army years ago, and a smaller Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pot. Both are somewhat squat and neither shallow nor tall. Having a couple of different sizes is useful unless you make the same quantity all the time. And as others have pointed out, specialized styles of rice making can benefit from more specifically tailored pots or pans.

            6 Replies
            1. re: VitalForce

              I've used a 2 qt Le Creuset round oven - about 7.5" wide, 5.5" high - for years. Perfect rice every time!

              1. re: janeh

                What rice, and what water ratio?

                1. re: paulj

                  The rice:water ratio depends on the variety of rice. I've tried many varieties in my 2-quart LC, and it's worked well for all of them.

                  1. re: Miss Priss

                    and cooking style. In Spain they distinguish between dry (seco), moist (melloso) and soupy (caldoso) rice dishes.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Good point, paulj. That's one reason I like using a pot on the stove, rather than a rice cooker - more control over the final product.

                2. re: janeh

                  That's what I use, too. Not only does it make perfect rice and other grains (such as quinoa) - it keeps the contents warm for a considerable time after the heat is turned off.

              2. You can make rice very easily in an oven/toaster oven with just an 8x8 baking dish. Just put equal parts liquid and rice, then cover tightly with foil (or a tight fitting lid if it came with it) and bake it at 350 degrees (non-preheated) for about 40 minutes for white rice, closer to an hour for brown rice.

                The benefit is you don't get any scorching, and the rice doesn't become gummy from stirring. It cooks evenly throughout.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Atomic76

                  As others have replied already, rice is a delicate matter. What may seem as a benefit for you (no scorching) is actually a disadvantage for others. Some of us want the scorched rice, and as a Dominican, I can attest to that. Dominicans call the scorched rice that you scrape off the bottom of the pot (or dutch oven) "concón". Since the amount of concón is less than the normally cooked rice, don't be surprised to hear family members arguing over who gets more concón during lunch.

                2. Either can work, but you many need to adjust the water ratio a bit. When cooking rice, most of the water is absorbed, but some also evaporates. Other things being the same, there will be more evaporation in the wider pan. But you also have to take this into account when making different quantities. The water ratio should be lower when cooking 2c of rice than when cooking 1 (in the same pan). Some cooks use a 'water depth above the rice' measure, rather than cups.

                  1. I have always had luck with a 'electric rice cooker'... no guess work... just follow instructions..

                    1. The best all around way to cook rice other than high glutonous rice (sticky rice) is by way of a rice cooker. Follow instructions and you have perfect rice everytime! Sticky rice on the other hand is soaked fro 3 hours and then steamed in a bamboo hat like container 15 - 20 minutes 4 - 6 persons serving and longer depending on the quantity being cooking.

                      1. Use what Asians the world over use--a rice cooker. Millions of Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Viet Namese, Thais, Cambodians, Chinese, Laotians, etc., etc., etc. can't be wrong. You'll find rice cookers in ethnic restaurants, in large part because the rice will stay warm without overcooking or drying out.

                        Get the basic $15-$20 model--you don't need to splurge on models that have bells and whistles, unless you really want to spend the extra money for bragging rights. Do, however, splurge on the rice cooker book written by the late, great Roger Ebert: It's called "The Pot and How to Use It" and I guarantee you'll love his recipes (Whole meals! Healthy dinners! In a hotel room at Sundance!) and stories as much as I do. Really. Get it now. You'll be glad you did.

                        That said, I've cooked stovetop rice, quinoa, cous cous, barley and probably every other grain known to man in pots, pans, sauciers, skillets and Dutch ovens made from aluminum, stainless, tri-ply, ceramic, glass, cast iron and non-stick, with the appropriate lid or covered with aluminum foil or a dinner plate. They all work, as long as your stove can be turned to a very low heat.

                        And shallow/wide works best for fluffy, evenly-cooked grains.

                        1. What kind of rice are you making? If I'm making pilaf I use wide shallow pan, otherwise a normal sauce pan. Ok well I usually just use the rice cooker for steamed rice.

                          1. I've used both, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Use very slightly more water for the shallow pan as more of it will tend to evaporate, but again, its not a significant difference. taller smaller diameter is a little easier, less surface area to burn if things go wrong. If you are paying even a modicum of attention neither should give you any trouble.

                            1. I use a spaghetti steamer, with a deep perforated insert, which is good for veggies, while for rice there is a higher basket. It is made by Leyse out of aluminum.
                              Generally runs around $25 or $30. Had it forever, and still like it a lot. Very versatile pot to have in the kitchen.

                              1. Cooking rice isn't rocket science. Sorry to make that statement. I can cook it in basically any pot ( which I've had to to when visiting people) It' the understanding of water ration to rice - as someone referred to earlier. Majority of people are in a hurry and that leads to burnt, undercooked etc. It's the ratio and level of heat that the main concern for me when cooking rice.
                                I like to have a crust with my rice as I was brought up on " Stone Soup" or you throw butter on it and have a crispy snack. BTW - that's also what/how Sizzling rice soup is is made - from the crust.
                                Quinoa is the same for me except for the crust thing.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: dlady

                                  To all.....
                                  Then there is the old 'finger' way to measure,
                                  double the depth of water to the depth of rice..
                                  (If I've remembered correctly ? )

                                  1. re: marciap

                                    I've seen one that uses 1 knuckle above the rice, about an inch. Haven't tried it yet. Since I'm cooking for 2, I use a dry 1cup measure for rice, and fill the same one twice with water. Seems to work out. That gets me rice for 2 meals, a pretty sweet deal.

                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                      I've always used the 'knuckle measure' as well with good results.

                                    2. re: marciap

                                      The way my Dad taught me was placing your hand on top of the washed rice and fill til the water covers your hand.
                                      Always worked for me, plus he ran the kitchen in a chinese restaurant.

                                  2. Accurate measurements will be on the rice package but usually 2 x water to rice. Boil water, add rice, turn off heat, cover for 20 to 30 minutes ...no peaking!

                                    1. With a pot with a good seal, I find a ratio of 1-1.3 rice-water is good for basmati cooked for 20 minutes and rested for 10. Otherwise, the result is too loose and watery. 1-2 is asking for soup.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: VitalForce

                                        Do you rinse (or even soak) the rice before hand?

                                        I use something close to 1.3 if it is broken Jasmin that I have rinsed. 1:2 works best for long grain done pilaf style.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I rinse but don't soak basmati. Jasmin's about the same at 1.3 or there abouts. Both come out nicely cooked through with each grain separate. I don't like either rice seeming wet. I'm still working on getting short grain calrose right though, which I don't rinse. It seems to taste best when a little bit sticky but certainly not gluey.

                                      2. I like taller, and I like enameled cast iron as it holds heat so well.