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How to cook brown rice perfectly

By Wendy Ruopp, February 14, 2012 - 1:20pm

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By Wendy Ruopp, managing editor of EatingWell, and Cassidy Tawse-Garcia, editorial intern for EatingWell

I’ll admit that I have had my share of mishaps when it comes to cooking rice. Sometimes when the top came off the pot I’d find a mushy, sticky mess. Other times, the grains were burnt and stuck to the bottom. I always use brown or wild rice. Even though these “real” whole grains take a bit longer to cook, they are worth the wait: unrefined grains maintain more heart-healthy vitamins and antioxidants. Plus, they are high in fiber, which is important for a heart-healthy diet.

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Since brown rice is such an important and healthy staple in my kitchen, I figured it was high time to get smart about rice-cooking techniques. Through trial and some errors, and talking with our cooking experts in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, I’ve gleaned these tidbits that lead to easier (and faster) brown-rice cooking:

Tip 1: Set yourself up for success.
To cook whole-grain brown rice, use a pan with a tight-fitting lid, cooking the rice in lightly salted water, on your coolest (or simmer) burner, and making sure the rice is simmering at the “lowest bubble.”
Related: 4 “Bad” Cooking Habits You Should Break

Tip 2: A large pan is a happy one.
Cook rice in a large saucepan. A larger cooking surface allows for heat to be evenly dispersed, leading to a more consistent texture in the finished dish.
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Tip 3: Watch the clock.
The Test Kitchen has found that when cooking a small batch of rice (less than 1 cup), the cooking time varies greatly depending on what stove they use. Although brown rice usually requires 40 to 50 minutes of cooking, start checking it after 30 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Tip 4: Use the right ratio.
Starting out with the right amount of water or broth (for more flavor) for the amount of rice you’re cooking will help you avoid a burnt or mushy final product. Use the chart below for reference or follow the directions on the package.

How to Cook Brown Rice & Wild Rice: Rice to Liquid Ratio, Time and Directions

Grain
(1 Cup)
Liquid
(water/broth)
Directions Yield
Brown Rice 2 1/2 cups Bring rice and liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. 3 cups
109 calories; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber.
Wild Rice At least 4 cups Cook rice in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water until tender 45-55 minutes. Drain. 2-2 1/2 cups
82 calories; 17 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Tip 5: Rest up before digging in.
Once the rice is done cooking, let it stand for at least 5 minutes with the lid on. Food-science expert Harold McGee says this “resting period” allows the grains of rice to cool and become firm, so that the rice doesn’t break when scooped from the pot. Once rested, fluff rice with fork, and you should have a light and aromatic final product!

Download a Free Rice Recipe Cookbook!

Recipes to Try: Vegetable Fried Rice and More Healthy Rice Recipes

See another way to cook brown rice: in the oven.

What are your tips for making perfect brown rice? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Wendy Ruopp, Healthy Cooking Blog, Cooking tips

Wendy Ruopp
Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.

Wendy asks: What are your tips for making perfect brown rice?

Tell us what you think:

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