Basic cooking: steamed rice with no rice cooker (stove-top method)
Let me start this post by telling you something embarrassing.
A few weeks ago, I had a friend over to help me put together a Chinese New Year party.
As we were finishing up a total of 8 dishes including traditional several dishes from my Chinese New Year Cookbook, I realized that I hadn’t cooked any rice.
So I kindly asked my friend to cook some rice while I was finishing up the steamed fish.
My friend took the rice and started searching for something around my kitchen.
“Do you need anything else?” I asked, a little confused.
“So, where is your rice cooker”, asked the friend.
“Hmmm… I don’t have one” I said, uncomfortably, “can you cook rice without a rice cooker?”
“Nope and welcome to 21st century where everyone has a rice cooker” said my friend jokingly.
That was so embarrassing I wish I didn’t ask my friend to cook rice at the first place.
I mean, who doesn’t have rice cooker nowadays? It’s like walking to someone’s house expecting nothing less than a wi-fi.
Well, apparently here is at least one outlier who still cooks his rice on stove top, every single time.
To be fair, I did own rice cookers in the past and do think rice cookers are generally useful and convenient, not to mention that it can be doubled as a steamer and there are books written on preparing a feast using just rice cookers.
However, as I started to accumulate stuff I had to decide the fate my rice cooker based on these two questions: 1) do I absolutely need it? 2) Do I have space for it in my small kitchen?
As you probably predicted, the answer is “no” for both so I traded my rice cooker for other cooler toys such as this espresso machine.
It’s important to know that hadn’t I had unlimited space in my NYC kitchen, I’d absolutely want to keep rice cooker just so I can enjoy perfectly steamed rice with press of a button.
On the other hand, I am glad that I have perfected the art of stove top rice making that I can share my own “system” with you today so you can make that perfectly steamed rice with a pot!
If you cook rice at least twice a week, I highly recommend you going through the following simple process to find best rice / water ratio. Once you find that sweet spot, you’ll be able to consistently cook rice without a fail with only 3 things: rice, water, and a pot (with a lid).
First thing first, you need to understand the kind of rice you are working with. Because each type of grain absorbs water different therefore it’s important to understand which kind of rice you cook the most.
Below I have listed the differences between a few popular Asian varieties which cover 95% of the rice I cook regularly:
Long Grain Rice: Long and skinny, this starchy rice is light and fluffy and fully separated once cooked. Example: jasmine rice, basmati rice.
Medium Grain Rice: Slightly shorter than that of long grain, medium grain rice is softer and less separated once cooked. Example: Arborio or broadly speaking white rice served in many Japanese and Korean restaurants.
Short Grain Rice: Short and plump, this rice becomes soft and sticky once cooked. Example: Sushi rice and glutinous (sticky) rice
Brown Rice: Whole grain rice with bran and germ not removed. This rice is chewier and with a slightly nutty flavor.
Since the goal is to consistently crank out perfectly cooked rice, you’ll need to reduce the number of variables such as pot size. I suggest you find a pot that’s big enough to accommodate your needs and stick to it. This helps you estimate the amount of water you need without using a measuring cup.
Nothing affects the texture of rice more than the water level. Rice can be easily undercooked (hard) or overcooked (mushy) when too little or too much water is used.
The key is to figure out the right water level for the pot you use. As a starting point, below is a water to rice ratio chart I keep for the 4 types of rice:
|Rice Type||Rice Amount||Water Amount||Simmer Time|
|Long Grain||2 cup||4 cup||12 mins|
|Medium Grain||2.25 cup||4 cup||12 mins|
|Short Grain||2.33 cup||4 cup||12 mins|
|Brown Rice||2.33 cup||4 cup||25 mins|
Add the water to the pot and mark the water level. My trick is to point my index finger straight down so it’s perpendicular to the surface of rice. Once your finger tip touches the rice, make a note where the water level to your index finger is. For me, it’s around the first joint. I know it’s super very scientific 🙂
Make a mental note of it then proceed to cook the rice as per the recipe below. If the rice comes out perfectly, great, next time you just need to add the same amount of rice then add water to where the mark you noted.
If the rice was too dry or to wet, then make some adjustment and note the new water level until you find the perfect water level relative to your finger.
That’s it! That’s how I have been cooking rice for the past several years. I intend to stick to it until without having to measure the water again!
Do you have a trick to make rice? Share with me and other readers in the comment area!
Yield: 4-6 Servings
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:20 mins
Total Time:25 mins