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Do You Boil Rice With the Lid On or Off?

Should rice be cooked with the lid on or off? It’s life’s little question. So here’s the answer.

Every so often, a recipe will forget to mention something and send you off on a hunt for what to do. Something like, you know, whether or not to cover the pot with the lid when boiling rice.

When that happens, most people will pull out their phones or open their laptops and google for a solution. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to make a bet that this is how you landed here, too. Virtual high-five if you did!

I’m glad that stopped by, because this is what I wrote this guide for. And if you read on, you will learn whether to cook rice with the lid on or off faster than you can say, “Rice to meet you!” without giggling.

Should You Boil Rice With the Lid On or Off?

The long story short:

Bring the rice and the water to a boil over medium-high heat, leaving the lid off. Then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low and steam the rice with the lid on.

The whole process, step by step:

First, rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for 1 minute, or until the water runs clear. Rice is sometimes coated with talc to absorb moisture and, in turn, to preserve the grains. The thing is, you don’t want that talc in your body. Rinsing the grains washes that talc away.

Then, pour the rice into a pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the grains and come up to the first joint of your pointer finger, and season the water with a hefty pinch of salt.

Set the lid aside for the time being. Put the pot on the burner, adjust the heat to medium-high, and bring the water to a boil. Finally, when the water is boiling, give the rice a quick stir, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot with the lid. This will steam the rice to doneness.

Why Do We Boil Rice With the Lid On?

Now that you know how to boil rice properly, the question that’s running through your head is why. What’s so special about covering the pot with the lid?

It’s simple, really. We boil rice with the lid on because it keeps the steam and the moisture in, evening out the temperature, which cooks the rice faster and more evenly.

If you boil the rice in an uncovered pot, the temperature in the lower part of the pot will be much higher than that in the upper part, and so the rice grains on the bottom will overcook and those on the top will undercook. Sure, you can counteract this by stirring, but too much stirring will make the rice come out sticky and mushy.

Does It Matter If the Lid Has a Hole?

It’s good that you asked, because it definitely does.

A vented lid—that is, a lid with a hole in it—lets the steam escape, cooking the rice slower and less evenly. An unvented lid is what you want to reach for if you have the option, as it traps the steam and holds the heat in.

The vents save home cooks who don’t know what their doing from scaling their hands or ruining their food, but they also prevent those who know what they’re doing from getting it properly done. (After all, you can always leave an unvented lid ajar, but you can’t close a vented lid.)

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.