Cooking rice on the stovetop is an art form, but one well worth learning. While rice cookers are convenient, one may not always be on hand, or you may want to make a special recipe which uses ingredients that should not be added to a rice cooker, as is the case with coconut sticky rice. A few simple steps should be followed when you cook rice for perfection every time, although you may have a few false starts in the beginning. Whether you cook rice in a rice cooker or not, the steps for pre-treating the rice are the same, so do not skip them!
To cook rice, start by storing it properly in containers labeled with the type of rice and the date on which it was purchased. Store hulled rices like white rice in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark place, and try to use them within six months. Brown rice should be refrigerated until use because the oils in the hull can become rancid. Ideally, brown rice should be used within three months.
When you are ready to cook rice, start by washing it thoroughly. While many Asian cooks are familiar with this step, some westerners are unacquainted with the reasons for washing rice. By washing rice before you cook it, you remove excessive starch, as well as any contaminants which the rice may have been exposed to, including pesticides and herbicides. Washing the rice will also help the grains to separate while they cook, creating a light, fluffy rice. When you wash rice, use multiple changes of water until the water runs clear.
After you have washed the rice, it should be soaked to relax the grain. If cooking a hulled rice like brown rice or Forbidden Rice, soak the rice overnight. If you are making sticky rice, plan on soaking it overnight as well. White rice can be soaked for thirty minutes to 12 hours before cooking; if you plan to cook rice when you come home, put some on to soak before you leave for work. When you cook rice that has been soaked, it cooks faster and usually has a better texture.
When you cook rice, use a heavy pot, preferably one which is enameled. Thin pots are more likely to burn the rice while cooking, especially on unreliable stoves. Drain your soaked rice and add fresh water: a scant two cups to every cup of rice. Using a ratio of exactly two to one will tend to make the rice soggy and mushy. With the rice and water together in the pot, turn the stove on high until you can hear the water beginning to boil. Immediately bring the burner down to the lowest possible temperature, cover, and cook the rice for between 12-20 minutes, depending on the type of rice. White rice will cook more quickly, while rice with a hull cooks slowly.
Do not lift the lid of the pot at any point while you cook rice. Lifting the lid will disturb the balance of heat and steam in the pot, and will change the flavor and texture of the rice. Until you get used to the cooking time for the rice you are using, you may slightly overcook your rice, but this is not a major cause for concern. The crust which forms on the bottom of the rice pot is delicious when sprinkled with sugar and butter for dessert or fried in oil and sprinkled over the main course.
When your rice is done, fluff it briefly with a fork and allow it to sit for five to 10 minutes before serving. Leftover rice should be put immediately in the fridge, and used within two days for fried rice or other dishes. While cooking rice properly may seem like an elaborate process, the flavorful results are well worth it. After you are comfortable making rice on the stovetop, consider adding ingredients such as sliced bananas, shredded nori seaweed, or coconut milk for extra flavor.