Rice is one of the world’s most popular side dishes to accompany a meal — but getting it just right can be tricky. Chef Peter Sidwell talks us through his favourite tips and tricks to achieve perfect fluffy rice on the stovetop.
- How much rice do you need per person?
- How to wash rice
- How to cook rice
- How to cook basmati rice
- How to cook brown rice
- How to cook jasmine rice
- How to cook sticky rice
- How to cook sushi rice
- How to cook pilau rice
- How to cook rice in the microwave
- Can you reheat rice?
- How long can you keep rice in the fridge?
- Top tips for perfect rice every time
- The best tools to make the perfect rice
How much rice do you need per person?
Before the rice even touches your pan, you’ll need to work out how much you need per portion. You can get away with eyeballing some things in the kitchen 一 let’s face it, most chefs do 一 but you should never ‘guesstimate’ your grains.
And don’t let the appearance of dry, uncooked rice fool you; the grains double in size once cooked so you’ll probably need less than you think.
“Use approximately one handful per person,” says Peter Sidwell. One handful is around half a cup if using measuring cups or 100 grams if weighing with scales. This will make enough rice for a side dish; for a main meal, double it.
If you’re struggling to work out portion sizes, don’t worry too much about getting it spot-on. One of the most important rules for cooking rice isn’t about the quantity, it’s the ratio of grains to water 一 but we’ll get to that later.
How to wash rice
Washing rice might seem like a waste of time on the surface. After all, you’re about to drop them in a pot of water, so what difference could it make… right?
The answer is: a lot, actually. Washing your rice before cooking is “an especially good technique for cooking high starch-level rice such as sushi, sticky and jasmine,” Peter advises. It helps to remove its natural, starchy coating and any unwanted chemicals or debris. This surface starch can cause your rice to clump together or get gummy as it cooks.
To give your rice a good rinse, try one of these two methods:
- The sieve method — Place your rice into a metal or plastic sieve with a fine mesh; use one that’s big enough to fit your portion and with a little extra space. Run tap water over the rice and gently shake the sieve so that all the grains are being washed. Do this until the water starts to turn clear.
- The bowl method — If you don’t have a sieve to hand, grab a large mixing bowl and fill it up with your rice and enough water to cover the grains. With clean hands, swirl your fingers around the rice to give it a good clean. The water will start to go cloudy as the starch comes off. Tip out the liquid and repeat with fresh water until it starts to look clear.
Something to note: the water will never run completely clear. Getting it as clear as you can, with a little bit of cloudiness, will still give you beautiful, fluffy rice!
How to cook rice
How to cook basmati rice
Basmati is an aromatic, long-grain rice that’s often used in Indian cuisine. It’s light and fragrant, making it the perfect companion for saucy dishes to soak up those incredible flavours.
“When cooking basmati rice, it’s best to use the absorption method,” recommends Peter. It involves adding water and rice to a pot and simmering on a low heat until the rice absorbs all the liquid. It’s one of the simplest ways to achieve beautiful rice on the stove top.
The rice to water ratio for basmati is 1:1½. So if you’re cooking enough for two people, use 1 cup (200g) of rice to 1½ cups (375ml) of water.
- After washing your grains, pop them into a saucepan.
- Add the correct ratio of water for the portion of rice that you’re cooking to the pan.
- Bring the pot to a gentle boil. The surface of the water should be foaming slightly.
- Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Let it simmer for 12-15 minutes. Smaller portions will be ready in 12, but if you’re cooking for guests, it might take up to 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to peek and lift the lid, the steam needs to stay trapped inside to work its magic.
- Take the saucepan off of the heat and leave it for 10 minutes, with the lid on, to rest.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
How to cook brown rice
Brown rice is a whole grain. It’s whole because it contains both the bran and germ parts of the grain, and these extra parts make it tougher and chewier than white rice.
Peter recommends using the absorption method for brown rice to get it nice and soft. He simply suggests “adding a little extra water” than you would with basmati rice.
If you’d rather not worry about getting the water-to-rice ratio perfect, you can use the boiling method for brown rice instead. Measure out your portion of rice as you normally would, pop it into a pan with some water and let it boil until cooked before draining. That’s it! Think of it like boiling pasta.
Brown rice comes in short, medium, and long-grain varieties, but the boiling method works for all three.
If you opt for the boiling method, here’s how to do it.
We’ve worked out that for every 1 cup (200g) of brown rice that you’re cooking, 8 cups (2 litres) of water will be enough so that you don’t have to keep topping up the pan as it boils. But don’t stress if you add too much liquid; it gets drained at the end, so as long as there’s enough water to cover the grains, your rice will be fine.
- Place enough water to cover the rice as it cooks into a saucepan.
- Bring the water to a boil over a medium heat. You should see rolling bubbles on the surface of the water.
- Add your washed rice.
- Leave the pan to boil uncovered for 30 minutes. Keep the temperature steady so that the pot doesn’t boil over and top up with more water if it looks like it’s getting low.
- Drain the leftover water from the pot using a fine mesh strainer.
- Add the grains back to the now-empty pot and cover with a lid.
- Let the rice rest off the heat for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
How to cook jasmine rice
A favourite pairing for many East Asian dishes, jasmine rice is a long-grain white rice. Often mistaken for regular white rice, you can spot (or smell!) jasmine by its aroma.
With a high starch content, jasmine needs a good old rinse before cooking. It’s naturally softer than other types of rice too, so less water is required to keep it fluffy.
Following the 1:1¼ ratio of rice to water, use 1 cup (200g) of rice to 1¼ cups (310ml) of water for enough to serve two.
- Place your washed rice and water into a saucepan.
- Turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a rapid simmer. The entire surface of the water should be rippling.
- Pop a tight-fitting lid on the pan and turn the heat down to low.
- Let it cook on a gentle simmer for 12 minutes until the water has all been absorbed. Do not lift the lid.
- Turn the heat off and let the pan stand for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Lift the lid, fluff the rice and enjoy.
How to cook sticky rice
Sticky rice is also known as “Thai-sticky”, “glutinous”, or “sweet” rice. And as you can probably guess, it has a sticky, glue-like texture when cooked. This makes it a dream for mixing into dumplings and clinging onto flavours in loads of sweet and savoury dishes.
The unique properties of this rice mean that once it’s been thoroughly washed, you also need to soak it before cooking. This extra step ensures that the water has a chance to soften the outer shell of the grain. It helps the rice to cook evenly and gives it a tender but distinctly chewy texture.
Ideally, sticky rice should soak overnight for up to 24 hours if you’re preparing it for dinner. If you’re in a pinch (or, let’s be honest, you forgot to prep the day before!), it’ll still be tasty having soaked for 4-10 hours. The longer you soak it, the softer it will be.
Once you’ve soaked your grains, use a 1:1¾ rice to water ratio with 1 cup (200g) of rice and 1¾ cups (425ml) of water.
- Soak your rice in water for 4-24 hours. Drain and then add the rice and add the required ratio of water into a pan.
- Bring the pot to a boil.
- Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Take a lid for the pan and place it on the saucepan at an angle, rather than directly flat on top, so that the pot is partially covered but steam can escape through the small gap.
- Let it simmer for 10 minutes until the water has all been absorbed.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and place the lid completely on the pan. Let it rest with the lid on for 10 minutes.
- Fluff, serve, and enjoy!
How to cook sushi rice
Sushi rice also has a sticky, gummy feel. It gets its unique taste from the vinegar that’s added to it after cooking.
Originating from Japan, this short-grain rice is traditionally only used for making sushi… but that’s not to say it isn’t delicious when used in bibimbap or a poke bowl!
“Always rinse sushi rice in a bowl of cold water to wash off the extra starch,” reminds Peter; much of its natural starch needs to be removed to let its texture and taste develop.
After washing, let the rice soak in freshwater for 30 minutes to help the grains soften. Strain it and then it’s good to go. Since vinegar is added to the cooked sushi rice, it should feel slightly firm initially and it has a unique ratio of rice to water: 1:1 + 2 tablespoons. If you’re cooking 1 cup (200g) of rice, you’ll need 1 cup (250ml) of water plus two extra tablespoons.
- After straining your rinsed and soaked rice grains, place them into a saucepan with the required amount of water. If you want to make truly authentic sushi rice, you can also add a small sheet of kombu (dried seaweed) to the pan as the rice cooks. This adds that subtle umami flavour.
- Bring to a boil on medium heat before reducing the temperature to low.
- Place a tight-fitting lid onto the pan and let it simmer for 12-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Don’t open the lid!
- Turn the heat off and leave the pan to rest for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Remove the sheet of dried seaweed (if you’re using it), and mix the rice with a spatula before turning it out into a large mixing bowl. Leave it to cool slightly.
- When the rice is still warm, add 50ml of sushi vinegar and gently fold it into the rice. Try not to vigorously stir it — otherwise the rice will end up mushy.
- Place a damp tea towel over the bowl to stop the rice drying out as it cools. Leave it to cool to room temperature before rolling out and adding your favourite sushi fillings!
How to cook pilau rice
Similar to basmati, pilau is a traditional Indian rice dish that you might often see paired with the likes of a tikka, bhuna, or rogan josh. It’s a simple rice dish but with a vibrant yellow colour; the distinct golden hue comes from natural spices which enrich the grains with a mild, savoury taste.
Essentially, pilau rice is made by cooking basmati rice with a selection of aromatics. Every chef has their own preferences, but onion, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, turmeric, and bay leaves are common choices.
Despite using basmati as its base, pilau uses a different rice-to-water ratio to plain basmati rice. “Use a 1:2 ratio of rice to water when making basmati for pilau rice,” says Peter: there are additional ingredients that will soak up the extra liquid.
- Heat 25g of butter, oil, or ghee in a medium-sized saucepan until melted.
- Add one small, finely-diced onion and fry until soft.
- Add in your choice of aromatics. Here are a few suggestions to try: ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 4 crushed cardamom pods, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of turmeric.
- Fry these with the onions for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in one cup (200g) of basmati rice into the pan and coat with the onion and spice mixture.
- Pour in two cups (450ml) of boiling water and stir.
- Bring the pot to a boil and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan.
- Turn the heat down to low and cook for 10-15 minutes until the water has absorbed. Do not lift the lid off the pan while it’s cooking as you don’t want the steam to escape.
- Take the pan off the heat, let it rest for 5 minutes with the lid on, and enjoy the mouth-watering blend of spices drifting through your kitchen.
- Fluff with a fork, remove the bay leaves and cardamom pods, and serve.
How to cook rice in the microwave
Let’s face it — sometimes there’s no time to wait for a pan of rice to boil, simmer and rest.
For dinner-time emergencies, you can still make the perfect rice by steaming it in the microwave in something like the KitchenCraft Microwave Rice Cooker.
“This is great for cooking rice while you have other things in a saucepan,” recommends Peter: “it’s also good for speeding up cooking rice at home or work.”
You still have to wash your rice and let it rest once it’s cooked, but once you have it going in the microwave, there’s no fussing with temperatures and boiling points.
Use the 1:2 ratio of rice to water for this method.
- Place your washed and drained rice of choice into the KitchenCraft Microwave Rice Cooker.
- Add double the amount of water. Go for boiling water as it helps the rice to cook more evenly.
- Place the lid on the rice cooker and microwave for 13 minutes on high.
- Carefully remove it from the microwave and let it rest for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Fluff with a fork and serve.
Can you reheat rice?
Reheating rice has become a little controversial recently because it’s believed to be dangerous. A bacteria called Bacillus cereus can grow in rice once it’s cooked — and sometimes this bacteria can survive the reheating process. If eaten, it can cause severe food poisoning which has resulted in many people believing that rice shouldn’t be reheated at all.
The truth is that while rice should be served as soon as it’s cooked to be completely safe, there are ways that you can safely reheat and enjoy pre-cooked rice.
“It’s not dangerous to reheat rice: it just needs to be cooled down quickly after cooking,” says Peter. “When reheating it, spread out the rice; don’t try to heat it up in a big pile. You want it to be on a plate and in as thin a layer as possible. That way it can be heated quickly and efficiently.”
Always make sure that it’s piping hot and at a temperature of over 74°C (165°F) all the way through and serve it immediately. Check it with a thermometer to be extra safe.
How long can you keep rice in the fridge?
Cooked and safely cooled rice should be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for no longer than 24 hours. Any longer and potential bacteria growth can pose a health risk — even if it’s been refrigerated.
Top tips for perfect rice every time
1. Invest in a quality saucepan and lid
They say a bad workman blames his tools 一 but if you’ve got a set of quality kitchenware for cooking your rice, you’ll never have to! A trusty saucepan and lid set makes cooking a delight, and less of a chore, even on the days when you’re feeling uninspired.
Peter’s preference for cooking rice? A non-stick saucepan. “Non-stick is always the best option for me as it just works for all jobs in the kitchen.”
Find one with a sturdy, heavy-based lid to match as it’ll help to keep all the steam locked in.
2. Choose the right pan size
Let’s face it: you don’t need a cauldron-sized pan to cook 1 cup of rice!
When cooking for up to four people, a medium-sized pan should do the trick. For any larger quantities, you’ll want to go for a deeper, larger pan.
If you choose a pan too large for the amount of rice that you’re cooking, the water can evaporate too fast inside the big, open space. The result? Patches of uncooked rice. There’s al dente and then there’s just bad cooking.
3. Use the right size stove
Just like choosing the right pan size, you’ll want to select an appropriate size stove burner.
Bigger burners are more powerful and they can heat the water too fast. This causes it to evaporate before the rice is cooked properly and the bottom layer of rice can end up scorched. If you find that you’re following the guide perfectly but are coming up with sad, burnt rice stuck to the bottom of your pan, it’s probably because your burner is boiling the water too intensely. Try switching to a smaller ring or turning your heat down.
And if you choose a ring that’s too small? Well, you might find yourself waiting an eternity for the boil.
4. Don’t lift the lid during cooking
We’ll say it one more time and then we promise to stop — don’t lift the lid while the rice is cooking!
Opening the pot, even just for a second, releases all of the steam that’s transforming your uncooked grains into fluffy goodness — undoing all your hard work in a flash. Let the pan do its work and you’ll be rewarded with delicious rice, every time.
5. Never stir the rice while it’s cooking
Leaving the pan to do the work also applies before the lid goes on. As soon as the rice and water hit the saucepan, don’t be tempted to stir it as it comes to a boil.
Agitating the rice as it’s heating will activate the residual starch, resulting in gluey rice. We’re going for soft, separate grains here.
6. Don’t be tempted to skip the resting
There may be occasions when you’re short on time, but never skip on this vital step to perfect rice.
Letting the rice rest after cooking means that any leftover water and heat still lingering in the saucepan will fully absorb into the grains.
7. Add flavour to plain, boiled rice
Plain rice is a vessel for exploring a whole host of different flavour combinations. Spruce it up by incorporating different herbs and spices.
“Try crushing a clove of garlic and adding it to the pan while cooking,” offers Peter. “And when cooked, dress it with a little garlic or chilli oil for a big hit of flavour.”
8. Cooled rice is the secret to great egg-fried rice
“When making egg-fried rice, it’s so important to use cooled rice,” explains Peter.
Safely-chilled rice that’s been stored in a fridge overnight fries much better when it hits the pan. It’s drier than freshly-made rice, so it separates easily and you won’t get any soggy clumps. It also does a great job sponging up flavour.
The best tools to make the perfect rice
KitchenCraft Stainless Steel Sieve
“One of the many essential pieces of equipment needed for washing rice and draining it,” states Peter. “A must-have in my opinion.”
MasterClass Non-Stick Heavy Duty Saucepan
“This MasterClass piece is a great all-round kitchen pan,” Peter praises. “It’s lightweight, quick to heat up, super non-stick, and works on induction stoves.”
From pan to plate, you’re now ready to cook the perfect rice
Delicious, stovetop rice doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you’ve picked your grain and practiced your technique, fluffy rice can be yours in under half an hour.
And of course, having the right saucepan for the job can take your experience from stressful to stress-free. Whether you settle for non-stick or stainless steel, it’s sure to be a versatile addition that’ll help you tackle a wide range of kitchen tasks.