Rice is a staple in many cultures including Asian cultures, Cuban, Puerto Rican and many other cultures. It is said, and I’m sure this is just legend, that a Cajun can look at rice growing in a rice paddy in Louisiana and tell you to the teaspoon how much gravy needs to be made to cover it.
Types of Rice
There are many types of rice and I’ll focus on a few in this article. Ranging from short grain glutinous rice used for making sushi and other Japanese dishes, Jasmine rice seen for Thai, Chinese and other Asian culinary traditions, long grain rice common in the Carolina low country and Cajun country in Louisiana to brown rice seen in hipster and vegan restaurants. I haven’t met a rice I didn’t like. Most rices are savory components in a meal and a few can be and are used for desert. Including one of my favorite deserts that consists of mango and sweet rice and coconut milk. Someday I’ll have to learn to make it.
Arborio rice is an anomaly in the rice world. Arborio rice is the main ingredient in risotto and requires constant attention while cooking it and is considered in some circles as an advanced dish. I’ll cover this process in its own subheading in this article.
In my household we eat a lot of rice. It has become the go to starch. There are a few methods that work really well making rice.
A common method of cooking rice in Asia is the rice steamer. This automated wonder tool makes rice the easiest to cook. I use this tool myself when I am looking to set and forget something to cook my rice in usually in conjunction with making short grain rice. The rice steamer (and most rice steamers) pictured above comes with its own measuring cup and a graduated insert which makes getting the proportions of water to rice very easy. Once it is set you can walk away and let it do its thing and you’ll have perfect rice every time. It will also keep your rice warm after it is cooked for a very long time.
This method works best for short grain rice such as Nishiki or CalRose rice.
Covered Sauce Pan Method
Taking a plain old sauce man with a tight fitting lid is the most common way of cooking rice in my house. This universal method seems to work with all types of rice. Normal cooking time ranges from 15 minutes for Jasmine rice to 50 minutes for brown rice. No matter what type of rice you are cooking the method stays the same.
- Measure out your rice and place in a sauce pan
- Measure out your water and put in the sauce pan.
- Bring to a boil
- Immediately lower the temperature to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid and let steam.
Water to Rice Ratios vary slightly between types of rice. For most rices a 2:1 ratio of water to rice is the rule. Meaning 2 cups of water to one cup of rice. This will produce 2 cups of finished rice. Basmati is the exception to the rule where the ratio is more like 1.25 or 1.5 to 1.
Keep an eye on the rice and don’t let it burn once the liquid has all been absorbed by the rice.
Growing up my mother often made rice in the oven not just when she was cooking something in the oven with the rice. She felt it was a more reliable method than stove top rice. Mom also mostly cooked Uncle Ben’s Converted rice which is a long grain rice. Water to rice ratio is 2:1. Covered and placed in a 350F preheated oven the rice would cook in about an hour. A bit longer if you are doing this for some recipe like chicken and rice (AKA arroz con pollo).
Risotto is the odd ball in the bunch. Instead of steaming you simmer risotto in a saute pan stirring constantly while you continually add more broth or water (use broth) until the desired consistency is reached. Your consistency unlike other rice should be on the soupy side. Here is the basic technique.
- Get a pot with more broth than you’d think you need brought to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
- As the broth simmers put the amount of arborio rice you desire into a saute pan with clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil (about 2Tbsp) over medium heat and precook the rice until it becomes fragrant stirring constantly.
- Adding one cup or 1/2 cup of broth at a time stir rice until the broth is absorbed by the rice.
- Continue adding more broth allow each addition to be absorbed until the arborio is to the desire consistency (slightly soupy)
- Thicken with grated parmesan cheese.
As you can tell by the above technique this is a “needy” dish wanting lots of attention while cooking.