All About Rice

It's the world's most popular grain--and so easy to cook. But how to do it right?

By FamilyTime


If cooking rice is an afterthought in your house, you are missing out on one of the most versatile foodstuffs on the grocery shelves. It's perfect with savory foods from seafood to chicken and pork. It's spectacular mixed with vegetables, hot or cold for warm dishes or cool salads. And it's tasty when sweetened and served as dessert.

The Different Kinds of Rice

When they buy rice, most Americans reach for long-grain rice. This is a great choice for general purposes, particularly side dishes and salads. Some specialty long-grain rices, such as basmati and jasmine, are now grown in this country; these are deliciously aromatic and fluffy.

Medium-grain rice, such as imported Italian arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano, is starchier than long-grain rice and perfect for risotto, paella, rice pudding, and long-cooking dishes like arroz con pollo.

Generic and less expensive medium-grain rice, usually sold in large sacks, is grown in California and is very good, too.

Short-grain rice, which has stubby, starchy grains, is relatively rare in the United States, although it is getting easier to find as we embrace Asian cooking more and more. This is also called "sushi rice" and is very sticky when cooked.

White or Brown?
White rice is hulled and polished, which makes it cook faster than brown rice. The treatment depletes it of certain vitamins and minerals.

Brown rice is still encased in a fibrous coating. This means it takes about twice as long to cook as white rice, but it is more nutritious. It also has a shorter shelflife than white rice.

Storing Rice
White rice keeps very well for up to a year. Brown rice keeps well for five or six months. Both should be stored in a cool, dry cupboard inside a sealed container: the unopened box, a sealed plastic bag, or a lidded canister.

The Best Way to Cook Rice
For most uses, steaming is the best way to cook rice. This means cooking it in only enough water so that by the time it's tender, all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.

For heightened flavor, many cooks replace some or all of the steaming water with broth or a mixture of broth and wine.

To insure the rice is fluffy and the grains separated, many cooks like to rinse the uncooked rice in cool water to wash off any exterior starches. Some soak rice in water to cover for two or more hours for fluffier, lighter rice.

Rice can be steamed on top of the stove in a tightly covered saucepan or in a covered dish in the oven.

After it's cooked, rice should be left to sit for about 10 minutes, tightly covered to keep it warm, and then fluffed with a fork.

Inexpensive electric rice steamers are ideal for cooking rice -- no fuss and no guessing. If you cook a lot of rice often, investing in a rice cooker is well worth it.