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Step-by-step guide to cooking perfect rice

By BBC Maestro

Last updated: 14 March 2022

Rice is a staple in many diets around the world today. Historically, it’s a grain cultivated and consumed within many cultures, most notably in China, India and across Southeast Asia. 

Nowadays, you’ll find it on the shelves of supermarkets and on restaurant menus. Although a relatively simple grain, there is a knack for cooking the perfect fluffy rice. This article will help you nail it.

Different types of rice

There is a vast range of rice types out there. Sources suggest there are more than 120,000 varieties of rice in the world, and each is categorised by degree of milling, kernel size, starch content and flavour. We’ll discuss some of the most common varieties of rice available today below.

Arborio rice – Popularly used in risotto dishes, Arborio rice is a short-grain rice that undergoes less milling than other white rice. Because of this, it’s thicker and contains more starch. Once cooked, the grains of rice are firmer, chewier and creamier than other types of white rice. Its size and starch quantity mean it can absorb a lot of liquid, making it the perfect rice for a risotto dish, where all the flavours of your sauce can be slowly soaked up.  

Basmati rice – When cooked, basmati rice emits sweet and nutty aromas. It’s a rice popularly used in across various Asian cuisines, such as in Chinese and Japanese dishes. In Indian recipes, many suggest cooking basmati rice with fennel seeds or a cardamon pod to maximise flavour. It will often be served with a curry or dahl in Indian cooking.

Bomba rice – Most famously found in a Spanish paella, bomba rice is a short-grain rice cultivated in the eastern parts of Spain. It’s also referred to as Spanish rice signifying its influence. Similar to arborio rice in that it can absorb a lot of liquid, bomba rice can soak up all those delicious flavours found in a paella but retain its chewiness. Some people may choose to use bomba rice in risotto if arborio rice is unavailable.

Brown rice – Also known as wholegrain rice, brown rice is considered a healthier alternative to white rice. It contains more nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium, and offers more fibre per serving than white rice. Brown rice contains a bran layer on the outside of the grain, which is removed in white grain rice. When cooked, its texture is slightly grainier and chewier than white rice thanks to this hardened layer, but it makes the perfect addition to a burrito, buddha bowl or curry.

Jasmine rice – Jasmine rice is famous for its aromatic tones. Its fragrant nature makes it perfect for Thai dishes, so you’ll find it used in Thai recipes or on the menus of restaurants and takeaways. It can be classified as a long grain rice, meaning simply that its appearance is long and thin. Once cooked, jasmine rice is a naturally soft and fluffy, and a delicious addition to Thai curries.

Wild rice – Wild rice is considered a rice due to its similar appearance, but is actually a collection of seeds that are found in a various types of marsh grass. Its texture is chewy and it has a unique nutty, earthy taste. Wild rice contains far more nutrients and antioxidants and is lower in calories per serving than other varieties of rice, so many enjoy it as a healthier option.

Brown rice and white rice

How much rice per person?

If you are in search of the perfect fluffy rice, a white long-grain rice is a good option. The first rule of thumb when it comes to cooking rice is to make sure you’ve got the right proportions. The general rule with rice is, for every 1 cup of rice, use 2 cups of water. To serve for 2 people, measure out 210g (1 cup) of rice, and 470mls (2 cups) of water.

How to cook rice

1. Rinse the rice under cold water a few times. This removes some of the starch that rests on the surface and brings the rice to a boil quicker. It also helps avoid your rice clumping together.

2. Put the rice in a medium-sized pot and cover it with your water. For the best fluffy rice, add a teaspoon of butter or margarine and a sprinkle of salt here. Bring to the boil on high heat.

3. As the rice begins boiling, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid closed. Cook until all the water is absorbed.

4  After about 11 minutes, check the rice. It should be tender to touch.

5. Remove the pot from the heat. If you can wait, leave it to sit for 10 minutes with the lid on. Serve when you are ready.

A bowl of cooked rice

How to cook brown rice

Brown rice contains thick bran layers in the grain, and therefore takes a little longer to cook than white rice. One way around this is to bathe the rice in cold water for 20 minutes before cooking. You can also add a little more water when cooking brown rice.

Can you reheat rice?

Ideally, you should eat rice as soon as it has been cooked. If cooked rice is left to cool at room temperature, there can be a risk of harmful bacteria growing on its surface. It's best to store cooked rice in the fridge pretty quickly after cooking and is usually safe if you reheat this within one day of being placed in the fridge. It is important to not reheat the rice more than once.

Perfect for a host of different cuisines – rice is one of the world’s favourite carbohydrates. From a wild mushroom and truffle risotto to a fragrant Thai red curry or a fresh, steamy paella and spicy burrito bowl, rice’s simple nature makes it an invaluable ingredient to elevate any dish. Just be sure to enjoy it whilst it’s fresh. If you're looking for some at-home menu inspiration, take a look at our online cooking courses where you'll find some of the world's finest chefs ready to teach you their craft.

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