The way we cook our food is a key element in how good our food will be, aside from ingredient quality. Knowing how to use each ingredient, how to clean it, what to peel, and what to cut greatly improves food in general. Today we’re taking a look at rice, and the age-old dilemma of whether we should wash rice or not before cooking it.
Should you wash rice before cooking ? What happens if you do ? What happens if you don’t ? Is this supposed to happen for all rice types ? Let’s take a look.
Should you wash rice before cooking ?
Yes, the rice should generally be washed in fresh, cold water before cooking. This is to remove excess starch that may have formed during transport, to remove any debris from production, and to reduce overall starch levels that will affect the texture of the cooked rice.
Not all rice comes with a lot of starch, and some types are very well known to stay separated as they cook – like basmati and jasmine. Generally rice is well washed when the rinsing water runs clear, though you can stop when it’s still a little cloudy.
The best way to wash rice is to place all the uncooked rice in a mesh sieve, and let tap water run over the rice. Move the rice grains around the sieve to make sure all of them are rinsed off.
If you can’t do that, then place your uncooked rice in a bowl, fill the bowl with cold water, and move the rice through that water. Strain water, add fresh water, rinse again, strain, and repeat until the water runs clear.
Beriberi, washing rice, B1 levels
Some people advocate against washing rice for fear of washing off the minerals the rice is fortified with. This type of rice usually has a label on it asking you to not rinse the rice. In those cases, it is up to you. Rinsing will remove the added minerals, and if you eat a lot of white rice you’re not taking in thiamine (vitamin B1).
A severe lack of B1 results in beriberi disease, which can prove debilitating. The cases are rare and only occur in people who have a very poor nutrition and generally rely on white rice entirely, without eating much else.
However, vitamin B1 can also be found in other wholegrains, in legumes, and in meats. So unless you’re following a very specific diet or nutrition plan, the occasional white rice bowl will not put you in the hospital. Aside from this, taking a multivitamin that also covers B1 (most do) is sufficient.
Read also: What Rice Is Used For Fried Rice ?
Tips on cooking rice
There is only one real way to cook rice – bring heat and moisture to it. But each grain type cooks a little differently and you have to adjust your cooking method to whatever rice you’re cooking at the moment. Some rice dishes are entirely rooted in the cooking method, so using the right rice and the right method matters.
And the most common problem is moisture, or rather the water to rice ratio. If you’re not using a rice cooker – that usually comes with instructions – you’re left to fend for yourself when cooking rice. This is where we come in.
Basmati and jasmine rice
When cooking thin, long-grain rice like basmati and jasmine you want to use less cooking liquid, because these grains are not as thick and have less starch. A typical ratio is 1:2 rice to water. You need to bring the rice to a quick boil, the set it to low and simmer the rice with a lid on for about 20 minutes.
Do not stir or move the rice at all. If you do stir the rice you risk breaking the grains and releasing more starch, leading to an clumpy batch of rice. With a proper lid steam won’t really escape and the top part of the rice will be perfectly cooked through. This also works if you’re making rice in the oven, just be sure to set the oven on a low setting.
Once the rice is done cooking, you want to let it sit for 10-15 minutes undisturbed. Leave the lid on, so you don’t lose any moisture. Feel free to fluff up the rice before serving.
Round grain rice
This is the most basic grain type and the one most widely available in Europe and America. This kind of rice cooks differently than the thin, long grains. And it’s the rice that definitely needs a good rinse before cooking (unless you’re making risotto).
The optimal ratio for round grain rice is 1:3 rice to water or cooking liquid, and definitely a lid on top. Just like with basmati, don’t bother the rice, it will cook on its own. However, due to the kind of recipes that use this rice uses you may find yourself stirring the rice every now and then.
An occasional stir is fine, but don’t over do it or you risk breaking up the grains and getting a mushy rice dish. In some cases you may find that this rice asks for a little more water, like a 1:3,5 ratio because it can soak up a whole lot of liquid.
If you go for a 1:4 ratio the rice will definitely be cooked, but by the time the last of the water evaporates the grains may be puffed and burst.
Brown and wild rice (wholegrain)
Brown rice and wild rice are different from your usual white rice because they still have the bran left on. This is what gives them color, and it also makes the cooking process much slower because the hot water has to work a lot harder to get to the inside of the rice.
So what’s the best method to cook this rice ? As always, be sure to wash this rice very, very well and then let it soak for a couple of hours. This will give you a leg up in the cooking time. After the rice has soaked, you have to boil and simmer the brown rice, and them strain the excess water.
To boil the rice in water, you need to use more water than usual. Add your rinsed, uncooked rice and fill the pot with water. Bring to a boil, them let simmer until the rice is tender. With brown rice this can take up to 40 minutes. When the rice is done, strain it as best you can and serve.
If you’re wondering if you can’t just use a certain ratio and get perfect brown rice every time, we’re sorry but we’ve never found the right ratio to get pleasantly chewy yet tender brown rice. Really, the extra bran is a hindrance during cooking but well worth it when you eta the rice.
Step up your rice game with these twists
You can get better at cooking rice, and you can get even better at serving rice. This gain has an unfair reputation of being bland, and this is only true if you don’t pair it with some nice flavors. For example plain white rice with grilled chicken breast is always boring, but once you add some curry powder into the rice and a few veggies it suddenly becomes way better.
So let’s take a look at how to improve your rice game, aside from cooking methods.
Soak your rice to get an evenly cooked rice grain
If your main issue is that the rice often turns out crunchy, you may be simmering the rice too fast, or you have particularly dry rice. In any case, you will benefit from soaking the rice in cold water before cooking it.
We recommend rinsing the rice, and letting it soak for an hour or so in the water you’re going to cook it it. So if using basmati rice, rinse it, then transfer to a pot, and twice as much water as you did rice (the 1:2 ratio).
As the rice sits it will absorb water and it will cook through much better once you get the heat going.
Go for rice pilaf instead of plain, steamed rice
If you’re planning on serving a main dish that is very simple, such as pan-seared salmon, roast chicken thighs, or any sort of grilled meat, you’ll want to use pilaf. This is because pilaf is not as dry as plain steamed rice, and it has a few more flavors.
Plains steamed rice works incredibly well with very strong, hearty, and liquid dishes like most Asian dishes. The overabundance of flavors simply calls for a very plain and simple side dish. This way you get a balance from your meal.
A very simple main dish need a more complex side dish, otherwise the entire meal will be bland and you’ll feel like it’s missing something.
Use steamed rice when cooking very flavorful food
On the flipside, if you’re going to cook something incredibly flavorful, make sure you get your rice as plain as possible. Otherwise you’ll be reaching for the water bottle more often than you’d think.
A key point about steamed rice is that it’s incredibly dry sometimes. So, whatever culinary relight you’re cooking, make sure it’s got some sauce to it or you’re serving it with some salad.
Add some cooked rice into a lunch salad for more bite
Another way to use up steamed rice is to add some of it into a lunch salad. The best rice for this is the very sturdy, chewy one like brown rice, red rice, black rice, or wild rice. White rice works too, it’s just going to stick together more than the rice with the bran still on.
This works great as a way to add a bit more bite into an otherwise plain salad, or to use up leftover cooked rice.