How To Cook Rice



This may seem like a non-recipe, but it’s with a view to the upcoming winter months that will be a struggle for many, especially if you are in a situation where electricity choices impact your meal choices.

This post is about cooking rice quickly: four minutes for white basmati and pudding rice, fifteen minutes for brown basmati rice: much quicker than the usual 20+ minutes by conventional methods. I appreciate that there are many other types of rice available, but I am limiting this post to just these three for now, and to the method that keeps the grains separate. If you don’t want multiple bags of rice in your cupboard, you can just have pudding rice and still enjoy gloop-free rice for savoury dishes. With Basmati rice, you know that the rice is of a certain quality. I buy big bags in the Indian section at the supermarket. Buyer Beware: the Tilda brand is incredibly expensive at up to £5 a kilo. Always check the price per kilo on the shelf ticket. Long grain rice is another option, but I don’t currently have any. It is, however, by far the cheapest rice you can buy, at just 40p/kilo. I shall update this post when I have trialled some, but if you want to go ahead and use this method with your long grain rice, I suggest you cook for just 3 minutes before checking for done-ness. You can always cook it a little longer, but there’s no coming back from overcooked rice. I’d love to hear back in a comment below if you try this before I get round to it.

You can cook a large batch of rice quickly, portion it out and it will sit in the fridge quite happily for 3-4 days, or even longer. It can be reheated in a minute or two in the microwave. You can also freeze it, making it handy to bring a meal together in super-quick time. One of my favourite dishes (technically, it’s a side dish, but I eat it as a vegetarian main course) is Mujaddarah which comprises just three main ingredients: cooked rice, onions and lentils. It is ridiculously tasty and far more flavoursome – and satisfying – than it’s ingredients might suggest. With rice ready cooked and a tin/carton of lentils in the cupboard, it can be ready as soon as the onions are done.

We’re also going to cover how to ensure each grain and without even a whisper of gloopiness.

There are basically two stages to cooking rice quickly: soaking and cooking.

Soaking the rice

Soaking the rice for even as little as 30 minutes can drastically reduce cooking time. For the white basmati and pudding rice, the process of harvesting and shipping cause the grains to rub up against each other and produce finely powdered rice flour. If not rinsed off, this will thicken during cooking, and cause your rice grains to stick together. Now, sometimes that is what you want, but for today, we’re concerned with creating tender, non-gloopy grains. The brown basmati rice has had the husk removed, but retained the bran covering, so there’s a certain degree of protection from rice flour formation.

One approach is to spend a considerable time washing and rinsing the rice until the water runs clear. However, apart from the time this takes, there’s a great deal of water unnecessarily going down the drain. Instead, we’re going to stop the waste and soak the rice in just one bowl of water.

Put your rice – the amount doesn’t matter, but cooking a big batch is ultimately more economical – into a bowl and add cold water. Make sure the water level is at least 5cm above the rice. Salt heavily – 3-4 tablespoons – and swish it around. The salt will help bring out the whiteness of the pudding/white basmati rice. The water will turn cloudy, and that’s fine. Leave the rice to soak for anything from 30 minutes to several hours – whatever is convenient. I usually leave the rice for 2-3 hours, but I have left brown rice up to 6 hours.

Cooking the rice

The fast cooking approach cooks rice like pasta – in a large pot of boiling water.

The following method is for white basmati rice and pudding rice. NB the only difference cooking brown basmati rice is that it will need 15 minutes cooking time.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil.

Agitate the rice in it’s soaking water by swishing it about by hand, then drain by quickly tipping it into a sieve. Don’t worry about too much salt remaining on the rice, the cooking water will dilute it.

When the water is at a rolling boil, tip in the rice and immediately start a timer for 4 minutes. The water will initially stop boiling, but you should start the timer as soon as the rice goes in. Put the sieve in the sink over a bowl ready for when the rice is cooked.

After four minutes, taste a few grains of rice to check they are to your liking – they should be al-dente rather than completely soft. Turn off the heat and drain the water from the rice by pouring it into your sieve.

Immediately rest your sieve of rice onto your now empty saucepan and put it back onto the hob. Place a saucepan lid over the rice and leave it to steam for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan lid and fluff the rice. This is probably easiest done by tipping the rice into a larger dish and using a fork to scoop undernerneath and lift, allowing the grains to break apart naturally, rather than stirring or chopping at the larger clumps.

Serve immediately and/or spoon into boxes and refrigerate/freeze.

TopTip: To make the best stir-fried rice, the rice must be cold and dry, so spread the quantity you need thinly onto a tray and place, uncovered, in the fridge overnight.