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How to Cook Rice–3 Ways

February 6, 2014

People who cook rice at home often belong to one of two camps: those who cook their rice in a rice cooker, and those who cook it on the stove top.

When I was in the beginning stages of researching my cookbook, I met a woman who was adamant that I should include a recipe for cooking rice the “right” way on the stove. I smiled and told her sweetly, “I use a rice cooker.”

Then, last year, during our multi-pronged move from Seattle to Washington D.C., I had to survive four whole months without my beloved rice cooker.

In those few months, with only two pots to my name, I had no choice but to learn how to cook rice on the stove. I even attempted micorwave cooking as well! Through trial and error, I perfected cooking rice using three methods, no special equipment necessary.

I realize now how spoiled I’ve been by my rice cooker—all I had to do was rinse, add water, and push a button. It was a humbling experience learning to cook without one of my most-used kitchen gadgets. Not to mention, I’m very surprised how much tweaking a seemingly simple food requires to achieve perfection.

Needless to say, if I met that woman again, I’d have to put my foot in my mouth.


I used jasmine rice for all these recipes but you can use any type of rice you prefer. You just have to adjust cooking times and the amount of water accordingly. For example, brown rice requires more water and a longer cooking time. The rice package should give you guidelines.


1. Stovetop Absorption Method

absorption_methodThis method can be tricky, as the ratio of rice to water varies depending on how old the rice is. The older the rice, the drier it is, and the more water you’ll need for it to come out tender. As a general rule, new-crop rice uses a one-to-one ratio, but older rice needs 1 cup rice to 1¼ cups water. New crop rice is usually labeled as such on the bag. Regardless, always pay attention to the rice-to-water ratio the first time you make rice from a new bag, even if it is your favorite brand that you’ve been buying for decades. If the rice is too dry, add more water, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue cooking. If it’s too soggy, decrease the water gradually the next few times you cook. You may have to make a few mediocre pots before you get perfect rice, but it will be worth it! Look for Thai or North American jasmine rice—they are of the highest quality.

Time: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear
1-1/4 cups water

Combine the rice and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (preferably glass so you can observe the changes). Set the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to a simmer. Bubbles will gather around the edge of the saucepan. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the saucepan tightly with the lid. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Turn off the heat and let the rice steam, lid intact, for another 10 minutes.

Lift the lid and gently fluff the rice with a fork or a pair of chopsticks. The rice should not be lumpy and the individual kernels should be separate.

Keep the rice covered until ready to serve. Serve hot.

2. Stovetop Pasta Method


Just as the title suggests, you can cook rice the same way you cook pasta. I don’t measure the water, I just fill my pot up with just enough water so that it won’t boil over. I love how the rice grains come out plumper and fluffier, and the kitchen rebel in me likes that precision isn’t key. My friend swears by this method for cooking brown rice–she claims it only takes 30 minutes and the rice comes out perfect every time.

Time: 20 minutes (5 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear

Pour in enough water to reach about three-quarters up the sides of a 4- to 6-quart pot and add the rice. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down until the water simmers sprightly but isn’t boiling over and cook uncovered. Stir when you remember.

Start testing the rice at around 15 minutes. When the rice is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and strain in a colander over the sink. Serve immediately.

3. Microwave Method

microwave_methodThe best vessel to cook rice in the microwave is the tallest one that can fit in your microwave as the contents tend to overflow making a huge mess. You can buy one here. I’ve tinkered with this recipe a little and I’ve found that a large, wide vessel with straight sides works well. (I used a 2-1/2 quart Corningware casserole dish.) But, you can’t cook too much rice at one time, and you have to cook it on very low. All microwaves are different (and depending on the rice you use) so you’ll probably have to use trial and error to get this right, but don’t be discouraged!

Time: 20 minutes (5 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear
1-1/2 cups water

Combine the rice and water in a microwave-safe container.

Cover and program your microwave on low (I programed mine to 60%) and cook for about 20 minutes. Starting at 10 minutes, check every 5 minutes and stir.

Once the rice is cooked to your liking, leave the lid on for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.

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  54. Janie permalink
    March 1, 2014 8:05 pm

    I am 67 I always cooked rice on top of the stove (so easy. I also have used a rice cooker (easier in a pot) I also have done it to get the crispy on the bottom (love that) and toasted it in oil before cooking. That is soon good..
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  55. David Soohoo permalink
    February 8, 2014 7:06 pm

    The truth is there are many yin and yang ways of cooking rice. You were never wrong nor right. I am sorry for sounding so Eastern…

    I remember very clearly cooking rice with a pot over gas or electric is right because you will make a crust on the bottom and create smell in the rice to make the nose happy. At the same time, old books will tell you many dishes to make out of the rice chips on the bottom of the pot such as “Sizzling/Singing Rice Soup” that makes the ears happy with sound.

    • March 26, 2014 10:09 am

      David, thanks for sharing this anecdote with us. Cooking is definitely all about the senses and I love the idea of creating a smell to make the nose happy.

  56. February 7, 2014 10:36 pm

    I’m going to have to try that pasta method. I’ve never had good luck with either stovetop absorption or a rice cooker–although I also need to try the rice cooker that a coworker handed down to me recently.

    The truth is, I’ve been disappointed in my own rice-cooking skills for years.

  57. eve permalink
    February 7, 2014 12:01 pm

    I’m the opposite of you in that I have never figured out how to cook rice in a rice cooker. I use the absorption method with some slight differences. Equal depth of rice and water (a little more water for brown rice), cook on medium/high heat until the water is gone (you’ll hear tiny crackling sounds), then cover and turn to simmer. It takes about 20 minutes or so and comes out perfect every time. You just have to keep an ear out for the sound if you’re not hovering over the stove.

  58. Martha permalink
    February 7, 2014 10:09 am

    Could have used this post just a few days ago.🙂 Though I usually use my rice cooker I was at the end of the bag and thought it too much mess to use the cooker for a small bit of rice….my old brown rice came out a bit crunch (now I know why!). Love the cook like pasta option…Great!

  59. February 7, 2014 7:25 am

    Excellent post!! Thanks for the tips.

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