Cooking Rice Perfectly
One traditional way of cooking rice that still remains today is to bring rice and a small amount of water to a boil over the stovetop and simmer it over low heat until the water is almost gone; then let it stand and allow the remaining steam to be absorbed or to escape.
The invention and commercialization of the rice cooker brings modernization and convenience to rice cooking, bypassing the stovetop. Traditional or modern, the basics of rice cooking remain essentially the same — the amount of water required depends on the type of equipment (or pot) used.
The degree to which you rinse the rice depends on how well you know its source. Typically, modern industry standards assure that rice is clean before it is packaged and sold on the shelves. Thus, there is no need to overdo the cleaning. Rinsing it sufficiently to remove any residual debris and foreign particles that may impact the flavor of the rice will be enough.
To soak or not to soak the rice depends on the rice variety and sometimes the recipe you are using. For example, you will typically find glutinous rice dessert recipes that ask for the rice to be soaked to allow the grains to absorb enough water to be steamed dry. Additionally, soaking also helps to remove excess starch in glutinous rice.
The bran layer of whole-grain rice such as brown rice contains fatty acids, and when not protected from the air, the outer layers of the kernel go rancid relatively quickly. It is recommended that you store your brown rice in the fridge in airtight containers, and use within a year. White rice can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.
Back to the most important element — water. There is really no perfect recipe when it comes to cooking rice. The standard measure when cooking long-grain white rice in the rice cooker is 1½ to 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. However, each type of rice requires a different amount of liquid due to different water absorption rates, so falling back to the cooking directions on the rice package or rice cooker might be a best bet.
For instance, the medium- or short-grain variety of white rice may require less water than long grain, with the short-grain variety possibly requiring just up to 1 cup of water to 1 cup rice. As a general rule, you can reduce the amount of water used for long grain by ¼ to ½ cup per cup of rice when cooking medium or short grain. As already mentioned, whole-grain rice such as brown rice requires more water (2½ to 3 cups water to 1 cup of rice) and about a 60 to 70 percent longer cooking time than white rice.
Do not lift the lid to check on the rice when it is cooking. The cooking process depends on the development of steam inside the pot, so allowing the steam to escape by opening the lid may result in improperly cooked rice.
Instead of measuring with “cups,” there are also graduated marks on the inside of many rice cookers indicating how much rice and water should be added. As these measures can never be accurate enough, there are also the popular “orthodox” (or rather, “unorthodox”) ways of measuring the amount of water required for white rice: the 1-segment finger rule, the knuckle rule, the palm rule, or whatever you call it.
For example, in the 1-segment finger rule, you measure rice into the pot, add what seems to be enough water, and place your pointer (or index) finger at the top of the rice. The water should just cover the first segment (crease) of your pointer finger. Accurate? Not exactly. Rather, these “rules of thumb” can be used as a guide to counter-check the amount of water used when cooking rice.
Ultimately, it will still depend on the kind of rice you are cooking, the equipment you are using, and simply, how you prefer your rice.