Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Cook White Rice

posted in Pasta, Rice and Grains, Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

Much to my surprise, people tell me they find it hard to prepare rice. Fortunately, it’s not complicated.

Rice comes in many different sizes, shapes and colors. I will focus here on long grain white rice. (The difference between brown and white rice is similar to that between whole wheat bread and white bread. More on brown rice another day!)

In order to cook rice you need to combine rice, water, salt and butter. The salt and butter are optional, so only rice and water are essential.

The proportions are generally two to one: two cups of water to one cup of rice.

The basic steps to cooking rice are:

1. Bring the water to a boil

2. Add the rice, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of butter, stir once.

3. Cover the pot and return the water to a boil

4. Immediately turn the stove down to simmer and turn the timer on.

The rule is simple: you can tell its done cooking if all the water is absorbed (assuming you have put in the correct proportions of rice and water.)

White rice usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Check the rice about 4 minutes before the timer is due to go off. When you take the cover off, the top of the rice may look like it is totally cooked. However, with a spoon, you need to gently move the rice to see if there is still water to be absorbed at the bottom.

Cooking times can differ just because simmer on one stove may not be the same on all stoves.

Don’t over-stir: if you keep stirring the rice while it is cooking it will get very gummy. (Not good!)

If you leave the rice in the pot once you turn the stove off, it will continue to cook. Be careful it doesn’t dry out too much. If it is too dry you can add a couple of tablespoons more of water.

I have actually seen some people cook rice like they do spaghetti, with lots of water which they drain off at the end. I wouldn’t recommend this way. I think it makes the rice very watery when you are serving it. Plus, you are also pouring off a lot of the nutrients.

They do sell so-called “Instant rice” which cooks instantly. You just add boiling water and within a few minutes all the water is absorbed. It sounds like a good plan. But on most brands the texture of the rice is really strange. I’d recommend avoiding it.

Let me know how your rice turns out!

White Rice Ingredients:

(Makes 3 cups of cooked rice)

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

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64 Comments

Jon Sacker said:

Kathy, I’ve never come across putting butter in rice before, what purpose does it fuIfil- it like adding oil to pasta? As for salt, my view is that unless you are on a medically ordered low sodium diet – put IN the salt, plain rice really does need it. Jon

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Jon, Butter adds a great flavor to rice! (Uncle Ben always uses butter when cooking rice.) I usually do use butter except when I’m cooking Asian recipes, or when I’m counting calories!

Cheers!

will said:

to cook perfect basamati rice, a friend gave me this tip:

  1. measure out 2 parts water, 1 part rice, then soak the rice until it is no longer translucent but white. ( about 1 hour)
  2. drain the remaining unabsorbed water into a measuring cup (this is how much water you will add when cooking)
  3. now take the rice that is soaked, and rinse it. drain it, let it sit for 5 minutes in a straner. put it in a pot, and add the same quantity of water you poured off after soaking, but use clean fresh water.
  4. add some salt.
  5. bring the water to a boil. as soon as it boils put a pot cover with aluminum foil on the top to seal the edges. A wet cloth works as well.
  6. turn to the lowest simmer for 7 minutes. if you have a gas stove, use one of those things you put between the flame and the pot.
  7. when ready fluff gently with a fork.

variations: add ghee, and / or a couple of cloves, a cardamom pod , some fried onions, a dash of safran, raisins, pistachios…

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Will! Now all we need are the pictures! BTW perhaps you (or Jon) could explain what *ghee* is to everyone

day said:

Hi Kathy ,

As an Iranian that eats rice everyday ,i like to add something to your rice recipe ;

When the water is absorbed u have to dot the surface of the rice with butter ,then simmer on low heat for half an hour ,the excess moisture goes and you’ll get a fluffy buttery rice with a nice bottom crust that goes well with some gravy ,a stew or in soups .

Jon Sacker said:

Ghee is a type of clarified butter with a distinctive taste (and aroma).

It is a mainstay of South Asian cooking, particularly as, unlike butter,it can be stored for some time without refrigeration.

It is made by simmering unsalted butter until the water has boiled off and the solids have settled to the bottom of the pan.

Hope this helps.

Felix said:

Everytime i cook my rice it tastes very bad. So now i discovered not to stir it too much. Hopefuly next time it will taste just fine with a little bit of butter.

Thanks asian cooking expert,

Felix

Brooke said:

Every time I have tried to cook white rice (basmati kind) it has come out bland and watery tasting. Thanks for the tips! Maybe all I really needed was some salt and butter. But I’ll also try some Indian-type spices or some ghee.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Brooke, Welcome! Be sure to measure very carefully as well! Cheers

Laura said:

Very helpful! Just the info I was looking for. Thanks so much!

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Laura, I’m glad I could help! BTW I am working on making this into a video!

Carrie said:

After having lived in apts w/ electric stoves for 7 yrs, I was thrilled to get back into a place with a gas stove. Although, now my rice is a gummy mess. I use Mahatma long grain, as always, with the 1 2=3 method, leaving it for 20 mins. but I practically had to slice the stuff I made last night! Does rinsing vs. not rinsing the rice beforehand make the difference? I never used to rinse but do now. Climate/elevation change is not an issue. I’m miffed that something I whipped up w/o a second thought almost nightly now stresses me out! I miss my rice w/ kim chee lunches…

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Carrie, I’m sorry you are having so much trouble cooking rice. I do think it has more to do with getting to know your new gas stove than the rice itself. (I did just check Mahatma’s site and they do not mention rinsing or soaking their white rice before cooking it. Soaking rice will alter the cooking time.)

Try lowering the temperature setting on your stove top. (Each cooking element on my gas stove top is a different strength. I have one really powerful one that I use for stir-fry and another really small one used for simmering stews for several hours- plus two more in between strengths.)

You can also try checking the rice after about 17 minutes of cooking it. Even if your stove is set to the lowest possible simmer, the rice may not require 20 minutes cooking time. Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

Livingstone said:

Hi everyone,
The way we cook rice in Brazil is to fry the rice for a few minutes with minced garlic and butter or oil, then add water and once it boils, leave for about 15 to 20 minutes. Just remember no to stir it too much, scpecially after it started boiling. Another trick is to add some drops of lime. It helps the rice not to get gummy. The measures are the same: 1 rice, 2 water.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Livingston,

Lime! What a great idea! I’ll bet it gives the rice a great flavor too. Thanks-Kathy

Michelle said:

I cook my lunch every day, and 9 times out of 10, I make rice.

Personally, I don’t add butter. I also use short-grain rice (or sushi rice). The brand and kind of rice you use makes a HUGE difference – short-grain rice clumps together, making it easier to eat, and long-grain tends not to. (That’s what I’ve heard, at least).

It’d be great if you could write something about the types of rice! :D

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Michelle! I will add “Types of Rice” to the list! Until then this might help!

Lul Ahmed said:

i never cook rice and i want to learn how to cook, fist when i am starting am i putting the water and rice to gather, please advice

Kathy Maister said:

Lul, I think you should go have a look at my video on How to Cook White Rice!
Bring the water to a boil first then add the rice to the water.
Good Luck!

Orlean said:

How much rice do I need to cook to serve 20 people?

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Orlean, first check the instructions on the particular rice you have purchased. Then let’s do the math – depending on the crowd you are serving, 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked rice is needed per person.

KGWagner said:

One of the most endearing things about rice for me is that it absorbs all its cooking liquid. This is really handy, as you can flavor it a jillion different ways, and even add nutrients you may have lost otherwise.

For instance, a quick side dish that goes with many things is rice with sweet peas and mushrooms. Rather than pour the liquid those two things are packed with in the can down the drain, pour it into a measuring cup. Add however much butter or margarine turns you on, and finish filling with water to get the liquid meaure you need to satisfy the 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice for cooking.

If you’re making a rice pudding, you can add complementary flavors such as vanilla or cherry juice to the cooking liquid. The rice will absorb it, and enhance the pudding.

If you’re making the rice as an underlayment for stir-fried chicken, beef, etc., you can add a bouiliion cube to the cooking liquid to enhance the flavor.

Carrie –

You’re overcooking the rice, and maybe playing with it while it’s cooking. Once the rice comes back to a boil, turn the heat down to where the water doesn’t even look like it’s simmering. Once you cover it, the pressure will rise a bit, and it’ll be at the perfect cooking point. Don’t mess with it! Don’t even look at it! Leave the cover on, and time it for 15 minutes. After that, it’ll be right. You have to trust the process

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks for all the great advice KGW!

Philip. said:

Hi, could you tell the difference between adding the rice into boiling water and adding the rice into the cold water and bringing to a boil.

I was searching the net and found that other websites suggest to do just that.
Thanks.

KGWagner said:

Phillip –

I don’t know that there’s any difference, but I can’t see any advantage to it, either. You sill have to bring it to a boil, then crank it back to a slow simmer, cover, and time it.

If cooking rice confounds you, you might be interested in a rice cooker. For my money, though, discipline is the way to go. It’s free and effective

Kathy Maister said:

The most important thing is to check the directions on the back of the box of rice you bought. Some rice “mixes” have you combine the rice and water (and flavor/spice packets) and then bring it all to a boil. Plain white or brown rice (cooked in a pot not a rice cooker) have you boil the water then add the rice. My suggestion is to buy your favorite kind of rice, perfect cooking it, then branch out to different types of rice. One key step in cooking all kinds of rice is NOT to keep stirring the rice as it cooks!

Katie said:

My fool proof way of making rice is instant rice 1 cup rice 1 cup water, Micro will water is gone. Amazing!

I just found this blog and love it.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Katie! I find “instant” rice to have an odd texture compared to the real thing. If your way works…go for it!

Jane said:

Tonight I made a pilaf for the first time. Although I followed the directions in the recipe exactly I found the rice hadnt cooked (it was still a bit crunchy) and the meal was dry. can i add more Hot stock now and let the rice absorb it ao is it too late??

KGWagner said:

Jane –

You’re out of luck. Toss it and start over. Some will say you can add liquid while it’s still cooking if you’ve ended up short somehow, but it’s tricky as you don’t know how much to add. Also, opening the pot lets the magic out somehow. Once all is said and done, you really only get one shot with rice. Also be aware that you shouldn’t eat half-cooked rice. You can’t digest it.

gizmo3 said:

with the price of rice going up can you freeze white rice I found where it said you could brown rice

Kathy Maister said:

Excellent Question!

Yes you can freeze cooked rice. It will keep one week in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Be sure to freeze rice in single serving size baggies or plastic wrap and then it will take no time to defrost.

You can store uncooked white rice in an airtight container, for up to one year, in a cool, dry place.

Uncooked brown rice keeps best when refrigerated (because of the oil content) and has a shelf life of about six months

erooo2 said:

How much rice dose 1 cup of rice make?

Kathy Maister said:

Generally speaking for white rice, just remember 1-2-3!

1 cup of rice 2 cups of water = 3 cups of rice.

Pat said:

Thanks for all the info from yourself and the people who have written in to the blog. As to instant versus ‘real’ rice – the instant has almost no nutritional value; it is removed during the processes that make it ‘instant’.

Do you have any tips for cooking rice prior to frying rice, in order to get the least-clumpy rice possible? Every time I try to make fried rice, it never turns out quite right and is always the result of the texture of the primary ingredient – cooked white rice. Thanks.

KGWagner said:

Pat –

There are two ways to do it that I’m aware of.

The traditional way, with cooked rice, is to not make clumpy rice in the first place. Be sure to add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or margarine to the liquid when you make it, and fluff it up with a fork when it’s done.

The other way is to not re-fry it. Fry it first in oil or margarine, then cook it in whatever flavoring liquid you like. I’m a big fan of chicken or beef stock. This is the trick Rice-a-roni does. Same deal, though – be sure to add a bit of a lubricant and fluff it when it’s done.

Kathy Maister said:

Pat, do keep in mind that you must start with COLD rice for fried rice. Use leftover rice that you have cooked the day before. Hot or even room temperature rice will yield very gummy, clumpy, fried rice. (By the way, tomorrow I am posting a new video on How to Make Fried Rice!)

aaron hall said:

if you double the recipe do you add more time or is it still the same 15-20 minutes?

KGWagner said:

It’s always the same timing.

Bob said:

I am wanting to make rice as a side dish to go with some porkchops we are making for about 60 people that we are serving in the homeless program we supply. How many 1/2 cup rice servings shall I plan on making in a standard turkey roaster size foil pan? I am plannning on using the 1-2-3 measuring plan mentioned above to make my servings. We are cooking this on Sunday afternoon, so any responses are welcome quickly.

KGWagner said:

How many 1/2 cup servings of rice should you plan on making for 60 people? I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say: 60. This, of course, goes against Deep Thought’s ultimate answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything, but computers always think they’re such smarty-pants. I mean, come on! 42? That doesn’t even make sense here.

Some equivalent ways to look at 60 1/2 cups would be 30 cups, or 240 ounces, or 15 pints, or 1 7/8 gallons, or 7,097.647 milliliters. I would expect it to weigh slightly less than 15 pounds, and take up .2506 cubic feet of space.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Bob, first of all you will not be able to follow the directions above using a foil pan on a stove top. You can however cook rice in the oven using a foil pan.
Here is a recipe for Foolproof Oven-Baked Brown Rice which you can use as a guide. (Although I have never cooked rice this way, this is an excellent source.)

If you Google “oven-cooked rice this recipe keeps showing up on tons of sites:

For 50 Servings:

  • 3 1/2 qt. white rice
  • 7 qt. of hot water
  • 7 tsp. salt

In two large roasters or other baking dishes, combine rice, water and salt.

Bake, covered, at 350F for 1 hour

I do not know the source of this recipe or if it actually works.

Serving Size: If you plan on serving this rice using a 1/2 cup measure then by all means make 60 servings. That is a big serving of rice!

Good Luck!

Bob said:

Dear Kathy,

First of all, thanks for responding to my call for help. We went ahead with our desire to serve at least 70 for lunch so, following your advice, we placed 5 cups of plain white rice (not instant), and 10 cups of boiling chicken broth (from store-bought bouillon paste) in a large turkey roaster aluminum pan, along with some chopped celery and carrot dices. We figured that would give us 15 cups of finished product (rice). We did that twice, giving us 30 cups or 60 1/2 cup servings to which we added a couple of cups of thawed frozen peas for color. We sealed the pan with foil and cooked it in the 350 degree oven along with the pork chops we were serving. After about an hour, we took the rice out of the oven, added the thawed peas, gave it a stir and were good to go. There was very little rice left (none of the pork chops, a salad, buttered sliced bread a and a good dessert was left) Only about a spoonful of the rice came back to our kitchen at the church. Thank you again for your assistance in this ministry effort. Do you have any large-size recipes we might try in our quest to feed the homeless in the future?.
Bob

Kathy Maister said:

Bob,
I am so glad to hear your rice, and the whole meal for that matter, turned out so well!
Cooking for a large number of people is really tricky. I wish I could offer more help but I have zero experience in this area.
I did just Google cooking for a crowd, and TONS of sites came up, many of which looked really useful.

I wish you the very best of luck!
Cheers
Kathy

bonita addo said:

please i went learn how to cook white rices and chicken steew thanks plsea show me

Bob said:

Dear Bonita,

If you will scroll back on this page you find my journey to make white rice to serve the homeless (it was a summer project for our church) By following the 1-2-3 format I alluded to, you, too, can be successful in whatever amount you desire. Good luck in your attempts with rice.

Bob

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Bob for jumping in!

Ever since I started startcooking.com, How to Cook Rice has been the biggest cooking challenge for beginner cooks.

Dal said:

hi there!

I find my preference is a “slightly” gummy rice finish, so my mesuring is 3 cups r+ 4 cups (maybe 1/3 more W) and cooking it on a gas stove is GREAT never did get it good on electric, but gas is SO much better it seems..

Love it and the cost savings are adding up..I also will admit walking 3 miles to work (Early shuift start) and the rice and small additions have made me drop 45 lbs in a few months!

I do add butter/salt but not too much of either.

Kathy Maister said:

WOW! Congratulations!

I’m going to have to start walking or eat more rice!

Grace Houle said:

Hey Kathy,
this is the exact recipe that I use every time. And I love it.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Grace!
Many new cooks find rice to be very difficult to make. If you measure correctly and are able to find the “Simmer” adjustment on your stove then it should be easy. My stove is a gas stove with four different size burners. I always need to make adjustment depending on which burner is free.

Patrick said:

why not use a rice cooker ?

Kathy Maister said:

A rice cooker is a great idea, but I don’t own one!

Many new to cooking do not own specialized equipment so I thought it best to show how to cook rice on the stove top.

MRK MURTHY said:

Dear Sir,

Please inform 1 KG rice can give how many KGs cooked rice?

Thanking You,

KGWagner said:

It’s tough to say by weight. By volume, you use 2 times as much liquid as you do raw rice, so you end up with 3 times as much rice as what you started with.

For example, 1 cup raw rice + 2 cups water = 3 cups cooked rice.

kaye said:

any recommendations on using a pressure cooker for cooking white rice?

KGWagner said:

Kaye –
There’s a list of categories of foods and their associated timing charts/liquid measures for doing pressure cookery here.

Felipe said:

I messed up the proportions, and added too much water– I couldn’t remember whether I had added 1 1/4 cups, or 1 1/2 cups, and guessed wrong. The 17 minute check was what saved me, because I realized there was still too much water left. I let the rice cook open-topped for the remaining 3 minutes, so the excess water evaporated. It wasn’t perfect, but a good fix. I also used olive oil instead of butter, and the taste was great!

This site is wonderful; I grew up in a non-cooking family, and until recently thought myself completely inept at it. Your site has changed that. Thanks a lot!!

startcooking said:

Thanks Felipe! I am delighted to hear that your rice turned out OK after all! Good luck developing your cooking skills.
Cheers,
Kathy

Diana said:

How long does it take to cook white rice?

startcooking said:

The rule is simple: you can tell its done cooking if all the water is absorbed (assuming you have put in the correct proportions of rice and water.)

White rice usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Check the rice about 4 minutes before the timer is due to go off. When you take the cover off, the top of the rice may look like it is totally cooked. However, with a spoon, you need to gently move the rice to see if there is still water to be absorbed at the bottom.

Cooking times can differ just because simmer on one stove may not be the same on all stoves.

Spooscott said:

My usual way to cook rice is adding both water & rice to the pot at the same time, bring water to boil, turn down to simmer for 20mins. Parfait! I’ve done it with boiling the water first & have seen no difference so i guess it’s a matter of preference.

First i’m hearing 1, 2, 3: thanks for the new tip. My rule of thumb has always been add water to rice until it is 1″ (one inch) above the top of the rice. Also works like a charm :-)… Aahh! now i know why i prefer cold water- i use my thumb to measure the level of water above the rice as it it approx 1″ in length from tip to first joint. Bad idea in boiling water!! lol!!

As others have mentioned, adding different seasonings to the water enhances the taste of the rice. The possibilities are endless! Salt & butter/margarine/oil are basic for me. I also use bullion cubes occasionally (omitting salt depending on the salt content of the cubes) – lovely flavour!

Peace!

startcooking said:

Hi Spooscott,

I too have been experimenting with cooking rice by starting with cold water and rice and not boiling the water. In fact, I have discovered that once the water comes to a boil, turn off the stove and let it sit until all the water is absorbed – about 20 minutes. There is no worry about burning your rice this way.

Thanks for the thumb tip!
Cheers,
Kathy

Sue said:

How hard can it be to cook rice? As a novice cook, i find it really easy to make it. To make your life a little easier, rice cookers.