Many consider rice one of the easiest things to make. However, as with any other form of starchy carbohydrate, rice too must be cooked well in order for it taste well, and be stored well, be edible, be absorbed well by the body. Simple things such as the amount of water used, the heat applied, can make a big difference to how rice tastes, and also to its nutrient profile. Also, many culinary dishes require rice to be prepared in a certain way – for instance, Biryanis calls for rice to be cooked such that each grain is separate, whereas pongal requires rice to be overcooked till it is soft and almost sticky.
Keeping a few tips in mind will help you cook rice perfectly for every occasion and every type of recipe – while also ensuring its nutrients are not lost.
- Washing rice is an extremely important step when it comes to cooking rice. Washing removes impurities and also rids the grains of any chemical or pesticide coating. This not only makes rice healthier but also increases its capacity to absorb water while cooking.
- To wash rice well, use cold or tepid water and rub the rice grains well with your hands. Change the water 2-3 times, repeating the rubbing action each time.
- Soaking rice is also highly recommended, if you want to get maximum nutrition. Soaking allows the starches in rice to slowly absorb water, making them more pliable and responsive to heating. This slow absorption, speeds up the digestion and absorption time of rice in the body, leading to better assimilation of nutrients
- Ideally, white polished rice should be soaked for a minimum of 2 hours; while brown rice is best soaked overnight.
- The quantity of water added to cook rice depends largely on the method used to cook rice and the yield desired. Pressure cookers are the most efficient whereas open-pan boiling requires the most amount of water. Also, different households have different measuring systems – some use their fingers and some use bowls.
- If cooking in a pressure cooker, as a general rule of thumb, use twice as much water as the rice.
- In an open pot, use 1 ltr (approx) for 1 cup of rice.
- In a closed pot, adjust the water as needed.
- If you want to cook rice with each grain separate use the open pot method.
- Fill an open pot with lots of water and place on high heat. Just as the water starts to boil, add the washed rice. (Do not soak rice)
- Keep the flame high and allow the rice to boil. Keep stirring gently to avoid the rice from sticking to the bottom. Add some oil or butter and salt.
- Once the rice has cooked to your desired consistency, remove from heat and strain immediately.
- Wash under running cold water and keep aside. Add a dollop of butter/ghee/oil to keep from sticking until served.
- If you want to cook rice for pongal the closed pot method is best.
- Add four times as much water as the rice to a pot and boil it.
- Once it comes to a rolling boil, add salt. Wait till the water starts boiling again.
- Add the washed and soaked rice to this, stir and close the pot. Simmer the flame.
- Keep stirring occasionally to ensure rice doesn’t stick. Once the rice has absorbed all the water, check to see the consistency, add more water if desired. Bring to the consistency you like and remove from flame.
- Keep covered until serving time
- Storing rice well is very important. Keep rice in tightly closed steel or aluminium containers
- Coating rice in castor oil keeps insects away
- If storing rice over long periods, keep edible camphor tablets in the containers.
- Adding a handful of high-quality basmati rice into your regular rice container will impart a fragrance to your regular rice.
- Extra tips:
- Adding some oil/butter/ghee to the rice while cooking while increase the flavour profile and also make it easier to absorb
- To give the rice slight flavour and aroma, add cardamom/cinnamon/fennel seeds/mint leaves – as per your choice while cooking
- To re-heat rice, moisten it and heat in a pressure cooker for one whistle.
- Never store rice in gunny bags or jute sacks or cloth. It attracts rodents and pests.
- Never store rice in damp or wet areas.
- Do not throw away the strained water after cooking rice. It is rich in trace minerals and a great source of essential vitamins. Use it to knead chapatti dough or to soak pulses.
Never temper leftover cold rice. It destroys the nutrients and also makes the rice difficult to digest. Always reheat leftover rice before tempering.