How To Properly Cook Rice
Photo by Mgg Vitchakorn on Unsplash
Rice, whether long-, medium- or short-grain,1 is a staple in many countries like India, China, Japan,2 Korea,3 Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.4 It can be enjoyed savory or sweet5 and pairs well with various ingredients. Some common types of rice include white, brown, red, black6 and wild,7 although you may also encounter other “special” types of rice like jasmine, basmati and Arborio.8
Still don’t know how to cook rice? It’s not too late to learn. Having knowledge on how to cook this grain may come in handy the next time you need new ideas for your meals. But before you start cooking, here’s a reminder on why you should limit your rice intake — and why the right cooking technique matters.
Rice May Offer Health Benefits If Cooked This Way
One caveat with rice is that it is high in net carbs and excessive consumption can raise your risk for insulin resistance, which is why you should moderate your intake. If consumed in excess, rice and other wheat-based foods like bread and pasta can also damage some of your gut’s tight junctions, which help maintain intestinal barrier function and allow ions, nutrients and water to pass through,9 since the grain itself contains high amounts of lectins. However, there may a way to sidestep this — as long as you follow this cooking technique.
Studies show that there are three steps to improving rice’s nutritional content: cooking, cooling and then reheating. The last two steps are crucial, because when cooled and reheated, rice, as well as other high-net carb foods like potatoes, bread and pasta, becomes digestive-resistant.
Digestive-resistant starch acts as a type of indigestible and low-viscous fiber that ferments in your large intestine and acts as a prebiotic. It passes through your digestive system without being broken down, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. Digestive-resistant starch also bulks up your bowels for easier elimination.
Studies found that cooling then reheating cooked rice makes it digestive-resistant through a process called starch retrogradation.10,11 Once in this form, you may be able to unlock its potential health benefits. This is better than just eating freshly cooked rice. Consider this: A 2015 Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition article reported that eating cooked rice that’s been cooled for 24 hours then reheated was found to better reduce the body’s glycemic response compared to eating freshly cooked rice.12
Authors of a 2012 Nutrition Research and Practice study also noticed that rats that ate rice that was heated and allowed to cool several times had improved gut function, increased stool production and reduced cholesterol levels, and were less likely to gain weight.13 To read more about digestive-resistant starches, read this article.
Other Health Reminders When Eating Rice
But even with the potential to become a digestive-resistant starch, I still advise keeping your net carbs below 15 or 20 grams per day as a general rule, until you’re metabolically flexible and have recaptured your ability to burn fat. Once you’ve reached this point, grains can be reintroduced and can be part of a healthy diet.
Where you get your rice is also important, as rice can easily absorb arsenic and metals such as cadmium from the ground it’s grown in.14,15 In fact, research is full of reports of rice being heavily contaminated with arsenic that may lead to side effects like sore throat, irritated lungs, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.16,17,18 So, as much as possible, opt for organic varieties.
The Type Of Rice You Pick Matters
Although white rice is very popular and considered a staple in Asian countries like Thailand, Japan and Vietnam,19 take note that it’s not the healthiest variety. White rice usually undergoes refining and polishing, removing the grain’s seed coat and embryo and possibly its nutritional content, too.20
Instead of white rice, opt for other varieties like brown and black rice. Cooked long-grain brown rice offers 208 milligrams of phosphorus and 174 milligrams of potassium per 1-cup serving.21 When used as a replacement for white rice, it may lead to a reduced Type 2 diabetes risk, according to a 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine study.22
Black rice is a good choice, too, as it’s rich in antioxidants23 called anthocyanins24 that may lower your risk for health problems like cancer and heart disease.25,26 If you want to know more about the potential benefits of brown and black rice, check out this article.
How Long Does It Take To Cook Rice?
It depends on the variety. White rice can take as long as 25 minutes to cook,27 but brown and wild — 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the rice and the recipe.28,29 Ideally, when you’re reheating it, rice should be cooked until it reaches a high temperature, as bacteria can grow rapidly in environments with temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F.30
If you made too much rice, you can store it in the refrigerator for three days, provided it’s kept in an area with a temperature of 41 degrees F (5 degrees C),31 or in the freezer for up to three months.32 You’ll want to cool rice down completely to room temperature before storing.33 Once this step is done, place it in a tight container and refrigerate or freeze it.34 If you’re ready to use frozen rice, The Kitchn suggests heating it on a small saucepan over low heat and stirring it frequently until ready.35
How To Cook White Rice Properly
White rice is the most common type consumed today, making up more than 70% of rice consumption.36 White rice can be prepared on the stovetop, using this guide adapted from Bon Appétit magazine:37
How to cook rice on the stove
Serving size: 3 cups
- 1 cup short-, medium- or long-grain white rice (not parboiled, converted or quick-cooking)
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Rinse 1 cup long-grain white rice in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear (this may take up to a minute). Alternatively, you can rinse the rice in a bowl or pot with several changes of cold water, draining carefully between rinses. Rinsing rice before cooking it is key — it washes away the starchy powder that would make the grains of rice clump and stick together.
- Combine rice, 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt and 1 1/4 cups filtered water in a medium saucepan.
- Give everything a gentle stir. Bring to a boil, then cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low, aiming for the lowest possible flame. Cook rice, undisturbed — that means not opening the lid — for 18 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Let stand at least 15 minutes or until ready to use. Uncover and fluff cooked rice with a fork before serving.
Electric rice cookers, which were available as early as 1955 in Japan,38 are convenient if you want to make white rice. This adapted guide from The Spruce Eats will show you how:39
How to cook rice in a rice cooker
Total time: 25 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Preparation time: 5 minutes Serving size: 6
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Gather the ingredients.
- Follow the instructions that come with your rice cooker and the type of rice you are preparing.
- For most rice cookers, combine 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid with 1 cup of rice; this will yield about 3 cups rice or enough for 6 (1/2-cup) servings.
- Turn the rice cooker on and let it cook according to the instructions.
- Most rice cookers can keep the cooked rice warm for hours without burning. Check to see if your rice cooker has a specific warming setting or if it will activate automatically.
- Enjoy with your favorite recipes or on its own!
Using a pressure cooker to make rice is also possible; try this guide adapted from The Kitchn:40
How to cook rice in an electric pressure cooker
Serving size: 6 cups
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Optional: 1 teaspoon grass fed unsalted butter
- Place the rice, water and salt in the bowl of an electric pressure cooker. Lock the lid on.
- Set the pressure cooker to high and set the timer for four minutes.
- Let the steam release naturally for 10 minutes. Do not open the release valve.
- Carefully quick release the remaining pressure until the lid can open. Add the butter, if using, and fluff with a fork.
How Do You Cook Brown Rice?
Unlike white rice, brown rice has an outer layer containing the grain’s bran and germ. It tastes stronger and nuttier compared to white rice, and can work well with stronger-flavored foods and flavors like smoked fish, ginger and soy sauce. It’s also considered more nutritious than white rice. When cooking brown rice, BBC Good Food notes that you need to double the amount of water and provide ample time for the rice to absorb the liquid. Brown rice cooks longer than white rice, and may need an additional 30 to 35 minutes.41
Once brown rice is finished cooking, turn off the heat and let it rest for at least 10 minutes with the lid on, so it can absorb moisture and become light and fluffy. If you’re interested in cooking brown rice, try the recipes below:42
How to cook brown rice
- 1 1/4 cups brown rice
- 2 cups water
- Put the rice in a medium-sized saucepan with a well-fitting lid and pour over the water. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 30 minutes then turn off the heat.
- Quickly cover with a lid and leave tightly covered for another five to 10 minutes to absorb any remaining water.
- Serve immediately with a stew or curry, fish, chicken or tofu.
What’s The Ideal Water-To-Rice Ratio?
It will mainly depend on the type of rice you have. Here are some pointers on the ideal water-to-rice ratio from Southern Living magazine:
- Long-grain white rice — 2 cups water to 1 cup rice
- Long-grain brown rice — 1 3/4 cups water to 1 cup rice
- Short-grain white rice — 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup rice
- Short-grain brown rice — 2 cups water to 1 cup rice
How To Reheat Rice
As mentioned, reheating chilled, cooked rice may be better for you compared to freshly cooked rice because the cooling-reheating process helps increase the digestive resistant starches in the rice. However, you will need to be very cautious when reheating rice. According to Medical News Today, rice can house a bacteria strain called Bacillus cereus that can remain in the food even if it’s cooked and trigger food poisoning and associated symptoms. To prevent these adverse effects, take note of these reminders:43
- Wash your hands using plain soap and water before you prepare any food.
- Keep utensils that come into contact with raw animal products separate.
- Don’t leave rice sitting on your table or counter for more than one hour. You can eat cold rice provided it has been stored and cooled appropriately.
- Try to cool food quickly by portioning the meals, keeping them in shallow containers and covering them with a lid, or placing hot food (like risotto and paella, which tend to freeze better compared to white rice) directly into the freezer.
Reheating rice can be done in multiple ways, but always remember that the food should be hot throughout the process:44,45
- Place the rice in a wok or sauté pan with coconut oil or grass fed butter.
- Turn the stove to medium heat and stir rice continuously. If there are clumps, break them up.
- Continue stirring the rice so it’s covered in oil.
- Use a thermometer to check the rice’s internal temperature. Ensure it’s at least 165 degrees F.
- Serve immediately when piping hot.
- Place the rice in a saucepan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of grass fed butter or coconut oil.
- For each cup of rice, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on the sauce pan.
- Continuously stir the rice. After the water has boiled off, use a thermometer to see if the rice’s internal temperature is at 165 degrees F.
- Serve immediately when piping hot.
- In an oven-safe baking dish, combine the rice with a small amount of water.
- Use a fork to break up large clumps of rice and cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid.
- Bake the rice at 300 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until the rice is fully heated.
How To Make Fried Rice
If you want to reheat rice and add flavor at the same time, try making fried rice. Different cuisines have their own fried rice variations, such as China’s yangchow or Yangzhou fried rice, Indonesia’s nasi goreng (fried rice with shrimp paste), Thailand’s pineapple fried rice and southern India’s lemon rice.47
According to The Spruce Eats, using previously cooked rice around two to three days old is essential for this dish, since it’s dryer and won’t make the overall dish wet and sloppy. Before cooking, use your fingers to rub the rice and eliminate clumps — making sure to wash your hands thoroughly first and to use sanitary kitchen cooking gloves as well.
If you only have freshly cooked rice, restaurateur and celebrity chef Ming Tsai says you can “mimic” the consistency of days-old rice by placing it on a baking sheet and freezing for 25 to 30 minutes.48 Try this basic egg fried rice recipe adapted from BBC Good Food:49
Egg Fried Rice Recipe
Total time: 20 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes Prep time: 10 minutes
- 1 1/4 cups long-grain rice
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 pasture-raised eggs, beaten
- 2 spring onions, sliced, to serve
- Cook the rice following pack instructions, then drain, spread it out to steam-dry and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large wok over a high heat, then add the onion and fry until lightly browned, around five minutes. Add the rice, stir and toast for about three minutes, then move to the side of the pan.
- Add the remaining oil, then tip in the egg mixture. Leave to cook a little, then mix in with the rice — stir vigorously to coat the grains or, if you prefer the egg chunkier, allow to set for a little longer before breaking up and stirring through. Tip into a serving bowl and scatter over the spring onion to serve.
If you have leftover fried rice, you can reheat it in a frying pan.50
Why You Shouldn’t Go Overboard With Rice
While rice is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in multiple ways and combined with additional ingredients, remember that if consumed in excess, its health risks will far outweigh its benefits. Eating too much rice may predispose you to issues like insulin resistance56 and increased arsenic exposure.57,58,59 As such, it would be wise to moderate your rice intake and other net carb-rich foods like breads, pasta and potatoes until you’re burning fat as your fuel.
If you want to stock up on some portions of this grain, check your source and ensure that you’re always getting high-quality organic rice. Avoid white rice and opt for healthier varieties like brown and black rice instead.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Cooking Rice
Q: Does rice have protein?
A: Yes, rice contains protein, although the amounts vary depending on the length of the grain. According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, a 1-cup serving (186 grams) of cooked and enriched short-grain rice has 4.39 grams60 of protein, while a cup of medium-grain rice (also 186 g) has 4.43 grams.61 A cup of cooked and enriched long-grain rice weighing 158 grams has a slightly lesser amount of protein at 4.25 grams.62
Q: Does rice have carbs?
A: Rice is a carbohydrate-rich food. A cup (186 grams) of cooked and enriched short-grain rice has 53.44 grams of carbohydrates,63 while its medium-grain counterpart has 53.18 grams.64 Long-grain rice that’s been cooked and enriched has 44.51 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup (158 grams) serving.65
Q: Is rice gluten-free?
A: Yes. Rice and rice flour may be considered gluten-free.66
Q: Is brown rice good for you?
A: Brown rice is considered one of the healthiest types of rice because it’s not stripped of vital unsaturated fatty acids, protein, minerals and vitamins that may be removed during the polishing process. Some studies have also shown that eating brown rice may lead to positive reductions in glucose and fasting insulin levels67 and could help in lowering your Type 2 diabetes risk when used as a replacement for white rice.68
Q: Is brown rice gluten-free?
A: Yes. Some health websites list brown rice as a gluten-free food.69,70
Q: Is white rice bad for you?
A: White rice has a low nutritional content, since the refining and polishing processes it undergoes removes the seed coat and embryo.71 Increased white rice consumption may also increase your exposure to contaminants like arsenic,72,73 and can raise your risk for insulin resistance,74,75 a precursor to conditions like Type 2 diabetes.76,77
Q: How long is cooked rice safe to eat?
A: You can store leftover cooked rice in the refrigerator for up to three days in temperatures of 41 degrees F (5 degrees C),78 or in the freezer for three months.79
Q: What is the fastest way to cook rice?
A: If you’re pressed for time, try cooking rice in a pressure cooker on high mode. The rice cooks in just four minutes and steams for an additional 10 minutes.80
Q: How long does it take to cook rice on the stove?
A: According to a recipe from The Spruce Eats, cooking white rice on the stove may take 25 minutes.81
Q: How do you cook undercooked rice?
A: If you end up with undercooked rice, Epicurious suggests adding one-half cup of water to the rice, covering the pot and letting it simmer.82
This article was brought to you by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your free Take Control of Your Health E-book!
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