Rice is a cereal grain and is one of the most commonly used staples around the world. And learning how to cook rice so it’s perfectly fluffy will help you master a wide range of tasty, thrifty meals for the whole family.
There are 40,000 varieties of rice and so many ways of cooking it, with almost every country its own take on it. From sticky or steamed rice as an accompaniment to stir-fries, stews and curries, to one-pot meals such as Italian risotto, Spanish paella and Caribbean jambalaya. Rice can also be sweetened up in rice pudding, for classic creamy comfort.
When cooking plain rice (also known as long-grain), there are a few simple steps to follow so that you can enjoy deliciously fluffy results every time. Basmati (a type of long-grain rice) is the most commonly used variety around the world. Read on for a step-by-step guide, plus our top tips on how to cook brown rice and our favourite rice recipes.
How to cook basmati rice perfectly
This is our method for cooking the perfect plain rice. It’s also the one to follow if you want to flavour your rice with herbs and spices (more on that later).
- Place a large pan of salted water over a high heat and bring to the boil.
- Rinse 300g of rice in a colander under running water for about 1 minute, or until the water runs clear (this will help stop the grains sticking together when cooked).
- Add your rice to the boiling water, and when the grains start dancing around, boil for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Drain the rice in a metal colander.
- Pour 2.5cm of water into the pan, put it back on the heat and bring it to the boil again, then turn down to a simmer.
- Cover the rice in the colander with foil or a lid. Place the colander on top of the pan of simmering water and let the rice steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Steaming the rice in this way will help to finish it off, separating the grains without overcooking them.
- Remove from the heat, and if you’re ready, serve immediately. If not, leave the foil or lid on and put aside until ready to serve – it should stay warm for about 20 minutes.
Once you’ve got the hang of this basic recipe you can add flavour by infusing the rice with different fragrances and flavours. Experiment by boiling your rice with things like fresh herbs, a cinnamon stick, a few cardamom pods, a strip of lemon zest or even a green tea bag in the water with the rice.
There is another very simple method for cooking rice — the absorption method. For four people, add a mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water to a pan with a pinch of salt and pepper, then cook with the lid on over a high heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, until all the liquid has been completely absorbed. You can also add aromatics to the water with this method.
How to cook brown rice
Brown rice is just as easy to cook as white rice, but takes a little longer. The easiest way is to add rice (following the quantities on the pack) to a pan and just cover it with water. Cover with a lid and leave to tick away for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through – easy! Check out this recipe for Rice & peas with jerk roasted veg to try it yourself.
Other types of rice
Here’s how to cook other types of rice:
Primarily grown in northern Italy, arborio is a short-grain rice that has a very high starch content, which is why it’s traditionally used for risotto. When cooked, the starch helps to absorb a lot of the cooking liquid and flavours, and gives a creamy result. Arborio can also be used for rice pudding, paella, while leftover risotto can be made into the Italian favourite arancini.
Sushi rice (also known as shari) is a short-grain white rice, which is cooked and seasoned with vinegar, salt and sugar. Each grain retains its original shape, and yet they magically stick together without being gluey. Learn how to make sushi with this Simple sushi recipe.
Sticky rice (not to be confused with sushi rice) is used in south-east Asian cooking, particularly in Thailand and Laos. It’s a short grain that’s very sticky, so it can be easily eaten by hand. It’s also the main component in this beautiful, traditional Thai pudding, Sticky rice with coconut and mango.
Black rice (also known as purple rice) is grown across Asia. It’s source a fibre, making it highly nutritious. Uncooked, it’s inky black in colour, which turns purple when cooked, with a slightly chewy texture and a nutty flavour. It’s used in desserts in many cuisines, or can be served as a alternative accompaniment for dishes such as this Amazing veggie chilli
Wild rice, also known as Canadian or Indian rice, originated in North America and China. It is more difficult to grow and is therefore slightly more expensive than other rice grains. It has a chewy outer casing and a tender inner grain, is a source of protein and fibre, and is often eaten alongside other grains rather than on its own. The texture of wild rice makes a great base for salads like this Wild rice salad.
Generally, any short-grain white rice can be used to prepare rice-based desserts such as rice pudding, as these varieties should always end up creamy and sticky after cooking. As a rule, anything labelled ‘pudding rice’ is a safe bet for any sweet rice dish.