Back to Basics – White Rice

DSC_0024Plain boiled rice might seem too basic for a recipe. However, I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how to cook rice. It isn’t hard to make rice, but there are several things that can trip you up.

First, since you are working with only two ingredients – rice and water – you need to have good rice. I don’t like to use the run-of-the-mill rice from the grocery store that is labeled “long-grain rice” or just “rice.” The quality can be inconsistent, which means your cooked rice can be inconsistent.

I prefer to use jasmine or basmati rice. They have more flavor than un-named, generic varieties and cook up more consistently. The jasmine has a subtle flowery, spicy flavor that perfumes the whole house when you are cooking it. Basmati smells and tastes slightly nutty, sometimes slightly reminiscent of popcorn. Both are long grain rices, sometimes extremely long. The grains are fluffy and separate easily – no gumminess.


Be sure to buy your rice from a store that has reasonable turnover. Even white rice can get old and rancid. Give it a sniff and you will know if your rice is over the hill or not. Old rice smells sour, musty and not good. And those aromas will only intensify when you cook it. Rice is cheap. If in doubt, toss it and buy a fresh supply. If you don’t cook rice that often, toss the raw rice in a ziplock bag and store it in the freezer. You can cook it directly from the freezer.

There really isn’t a lot to cooking rice, as long as you start with a good product. You cook it in twice as much water, by volume, as rice. So one cup of rice cooks in two cups of water. Cover it while it cooks and don’t stir. That is it. Yes, it is that easy. And yes, I am including a recipe. Follow the directions and you should end up with perfect rice, every time.

Download or print the recipe here.

White Rice
From the Cook’s Life
Serves 4, easy to double

2 cups water
1 cup rice

Bring water to boil in a 2- or 3-quart pot over high heat, covered. When water boils, immediately turn the heat as low as your stove will go. Add rice, stir once and put the lid on the pot. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Watch the pot for a minute or two to make sure the starch in the rice won’t make bubbles that creep to the top and run down the outside. If this happens, lift the lid, stir once, and re-cover the pot.

Now, leave the rice alone. Don’t stir it. Don’t uncover it.

After 15 minutes, check on the rice. Lift the lid and use a spoon to pull back a small section of the rice from the edge of the pan. If there is unabsorbed water in the bottom, replace the lid and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

When rice is done, all the water will be absorbed and the grains of rice will be tender and slightly sticky, but not gummy. If rice still seems too wet, give it a few more minutes to cook.

Fluff the rice and serve hot. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave, though the rice will never be as fluffy and moist as it is the first day.

4 thoughts on “Back to Basics – White Rice

  1. Sarah,
    I burn rice, so I’m happy to see a recipe for something basic like cooking white rice. To get around the whole ‘burnt rice thing’ I use my rice cooker, but every once in a while there are times when I need rice and my rice cooker is back at home. I’ve got you to thank for future non-burned rice!

    When we have leftover rice (we usually fill up our little rice cooker, so there’s usually leftovers) I make single serving patties of rice, wrap well, and freeze them. They thaw in the microwave easily.


    • Hope the tips help. Thanks for the idea to freeze patties of leftover rice. Usually we are eating ours under something saucy and we eat all the leftovers, but freezing it will be good when I miscalculate how much rice we will eat at a particular meal. Thanks, Kirsten!

  2. confession: i hate to make rice, because why? i’m horrible at it. i burn it, or it’s soggy, or somehow mysteriously gross, i don’t know. i can’t get it right. so this i’m trying…i also prefer basmati or jasmine when i DO make it, for the reasons you mentioned. i’m not a fan of generic “what is this?” stuff anyway; it can’t mean good things if you can’t identify it.
    oddly enough, i can make risotto like a BOSS. so who knows what’s wrong with me. 😉

    • Yeah, but you stir risotto. You are supposed to mess with it. The secret to plain rice is leaving it alone. Stir it once, then leave it. Stir it at the very end, then eat it. Let me know if you still have problems, and we will troubleshoot.

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