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How to Make Steamed Rice without Rice Cooker 米飯 | Yi Reservation

How to Make Steamed Rice without Rice Cooker 米飯

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make rice on stove top recipeBasic 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.
make rice on stove top recipe
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!
make rice on stove top recipe


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).

Step 1) know your rice grains

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.
make rice on stove top recipe

Step 2) designate a pot

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.

Step 3) find the right water level

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!

make rice on stove top recipe

Step-by-step recipe

How to Make Steamed Rice without Rice Cooker (Stove-Top Method)

Yield: 4-6 Servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 25 mins


2 cups long grain rice 1.75 cups water 1/2tsp oil (optional)


To rinse and clean the rice, add 2 cups of long grain rice to a large mixing bowl. Add cold water and stir the rice. Pour out the water and repeat the steps. Drain all the water.cook steamed rice stove top no rice cooker Transfer the rice to a cooking pot. Add 4 cups of cold water to the pot.cook steamed rice stove top no rice cooker Optionally, add 1 tsp of cooking oil which helps keep the rice moist if you plan to store the cooked rice for several days.cook steamed rice stove top no rice cooker Cook the rice over medium heat. Once the rice starts to boil, monitor the rice to make sure the rice/water doesn't overspill. Lower the heat if necessary.cook steamed rice stove top no rice cooker The water will get absorbed by the rice quickly. As soon as 90% of the water is gone, lower the heat to simmer and cover the pot with a lid.cook steamed rice stovetop no rice cooker Let the rice simmer for another 12 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it rest for another 3 minutes.cook steamed rice stovetop no rice cooker The rice is ready to be served. If for some reason your rice come out too dry or too wet, adjust the water level accordingly the next time you make rice. cook steamed rice stovetop no rice cooker

make rice on stove top recipe

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  1. 11

    My mother tried to teach me the knuckle measuring method when I was 19-20 years old.  I was at the age where I mistakenly  thought I knew better than Mom. Now I know Momma knew best! Thank you for the memory!

    • 11.1

      hi Jamia, thanks for sharing your memory on the knuckle measuring method. It’s really amazing how much knowledge the older generations possessed!

  2. 10

    I don’t mess with a rice cooker or cooking it on the stove. I cook it in the MICROWAVE!!!

  3. 9

    I grew up with the index finger measuring the rice water. That’s the only way I know how to make rice. My mother used to make a fresh pot of rice everyday on the stove. She finally got a rice cooker in the late 90s. I don’t own a rice cooker (I had one once but gave it away) but have never had a problem with using the stove. About 20-25 minutes is all it takes plus that leaves me more room on my small counter top. I only cook about 3/4 – 1 cup of dry rice at a time so no need for the cooker. Btw, I notice your lid has a steam hole. With mine, I make a plug out of aluminum foil to keep the steam inside.
    I ‘m sure lots of people are learning a lot from your posts! Keep it up, Yi!

    • 9.1

      Yup, I dropped my rice cooker for the same reason as I was living in a tiny apartment with a shoebox size kitchen.

    • 9.2

      Yes exactly thats the best way to cook perfect rice every single time. This method is fail-proof. I noticed the steam hole too and remembered the aluminum plug I use too!

    • 9.3

      Oh and the index finger means you soak your washed rice so the water level is two joints of you index finger above the level of the rice.

  4. 8

    Nice post Yi…I will remember your post if I find myself without a rice cooker…thanks for the ratio of water with all the variety of rice.
    I hope you are having a nice weel 🙂

  5. 7

    Great post! Thanks for this fantastic information! I’ve always wanted to know how to make the perfect steamed Rice and it’s great learning from an expert!

  6. 6

    Hi Yi, how useful post, I will adopt your water-rice ratio. Normally I rinse very well the  short grain rice then I cook  1 cup rice with 1 ,  1/4  water but half way  I rince again  then I finish cooking with a minimum of water  with the lid just a moment then I switch off the heat leaving the lid on. the  rice is cooked and separated with no  starch at all.I need to pay attention not to over  cook  of course then the rice is ready for many recipes. Greetings and thanks.

  7. 5

    I don’t have a rice cooker either! The stovetop method always has worked for me. The cooking guide you have provided is helpful! Each type of grain is unique!

  8. 4

    I don’t have a rice cooker, so I’d be able to cook rice in your kitchen. 🙂 It’d be fun to have one, but I have a space problem, too. Plus I know how to cook rice! Anyway, really good post — a lot of good info here. Thanks.

  9. 3

    Even though I would never get rid of my rice cooker, I do love making clay pot rice, especially the burnt rice on the bottom. 

  10. 2

    I lived in Hawaii for a while and that is how I learned to cook rice while there.  It comes out perfect every time.  No rice cooker needed!  Thank you for spreading the word, Yi.  

  11. 1


    Excellent article on rice my rice us cooked on a stove top and turns out well , but the ratio you have used is ideal , plus l would never have thought of the tsp of vegetable oil 

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