What Is Steamed Rice?

Angie Bates

Popular in Asian cuisine, steamed rice is simply plain white rice that is cooked using water and steam. The rice is simmered in water while it is covered so that no moisture can escape. As the grains absorb the moisture, they swell and soften. This is sometimes known as the absorption method. Often served as a side dish, steamed rice is also used as an ingredient in main dishes.

Rice plants.
Rice plants.

Steamed rice can be made from any type of long-grained or short-grained rice. Although the only ingredients that are necessary for this dish are water and rice, salt is sometimes added as well. Occasionally, other flavorings, such as lemongrass, might be included. Tea bags might be placed into the pan with the rice to add flavoring as well.

A bowl of steamed rice.
A bowl of steamed rice.

Even though it is simple to make, steamed rice is often too sticky. The stickiness is a result of excess starch on the grains. The starch can be removed by rinsing the rice three to five times. After the rice stops coloring the water a milky white, enough starch should have been removed to prevent overly sticky rice.

After the rice has been rinsed, it is placed in a pan with water and brought to a boil. When the water begins to boil, the heat is reduced, and the pan is covered. The rice is allowed to sit undisturbed during this time. It is important for the pan to remain covered and for the cover to be secure throughout the entire cooking process to ensure that no moisture escapes. If salt, lemongrass or other flavorings are added, they are included before the water boils.

During this process, the rice is absorbing both the water and the steam that is created by the heated water. Rice swells with added water, tripling the rice's volume, so 1 cup (about 237 mL) of uncooked rice will produce 3 cups (about 710 mL) of cooked rice. Overcooking or undercooking is often a problem when preparing steamed rice. Undercooking can be avoided by ensuring that all the water in the pan has been absorbed by the rice before removing it from the heat. Conversely, overcooking can be avoided by ensuring that the rice does not stay on the heat after all the moisture has been absorbed.

After the rice has simmered, it is removed from the heat and allowed to stand for several minutes before the cover is removed. Steam holes should have appeared in the rice at relatively regular intervals, and no moisture should remain in the pan. Before serving, the rice should be fluffed with a fork.

Uncooked rice.
Uncooked rice.

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