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The Best Ways to Tell If Rice Is Done

Is your rice perfect? How to cook and eat rice like a connoisseur, whether you’re about to make sushi, risotto, or Spanish rice.

Along the Pacific Ocean, rice is an essential part of the daily diet, seasoned with sea salt and spices and served with seafood, sautéed meats, and wok-fried vegetables. Rice is also a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, whether in Spanish paella, Italian risotto, or Portuguese arroz.

When preparing rice, it is relatively easy to use herbs, spices, meats, and vegetables to achieve the right aroma and taste. But nailing the consistency can be quite a challenge, especially for us family cooks.

This, of course, raises the question: How can one tell that the rice is ready? What are the signs that the grains in your pot are cooked just right, that is, nary crunchy and undercooked nor mushy and overcooked?

Cooking the Perfect Rice

Has your rice ever come out too sticky? What about clumping up into balls? If you have, trust us when we tell you that you are not alone—and we’re here to make sure it never happens to you again.

Knowing how to tell when rice is done is one key way to help you avoid mishaps in the kitchen and ensure that your meals are all the buzz across the block. Luckily, we have tips for you that will help you cook your rice dishes to perfection every single time you fire up the burner on your stove.

Step 1: Rinse and Soak

Though it might not seem like it, rinsing and soaking your rice are essential. Rinsing will remove some of the dust, chaff, and pebbles left behind from the process of milling—and soaking will take away some of the surface starch. These starches are the reason why rice gets sticky; be sure to soak it well.

If you have time, rinse the rice, then soak it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours. You can do this in the morning to prepare the rice for cooking for dinner. The soak will get rid of the excess starches, cut cooking times in half, and cause most of the arsenic in the rice to leach into the water.

Right before it is time to get cooking, give the rice a good rinse and drain it with a sieve so that it comes out nice and clean.

Step 2: Add Enough Water 

Ask five people you trust how to cook rice, and chances are you will get at least twenty opinions.

There are so many ways to cook rice that, when it comes to the right amount of water to use, it can be challenging to come up with a rule of thumb. Part of it depends on the type of rice you’re cooking and the type of dish you’re cooking it for. To determine the amount of water, you’ll need to consider the type of rice.

Generally speaking, brown rice and long-grain rice will need more water than short-grain rice, as they require longer cooking. For brown and long-grain rice, add 2⅓ cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. For short-grain add 1½ cup of water for 1 cup of rice.

Some recipes call for less than this, but they fail to take into account the amount of water that evaporates in the form of steam during cooking. That said, you don’t want to overdo water because the more you add, the more watery your rice will come out (cooking it down will make it mushy and sticky).

Step 3: Start Cooking

Roomy pots are the best for making rice, though you can also use a saucepan. Find one that has a lid and heat it up on high. Add the water and let it come to a boil. Once water is boiling, add rice and turn down the heat to low.

Once there is a steady bubbling all around, top it off with the lid and let it sit for 10 to 12 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, peek under the lid and see if the water has absorbed. If not, give it a quick stir and cover for a few more minutes.

How To Tell When Rice Is Done

While the process of cooking rice is simple, it can be a challenge to determine when it is done. Unless you’re an experienced rice cooker, in which case more power to you, you may need to find key signs or give it a taste to determine its readiness. When you think rice is done, here is what to check for.

By the Absorption

Rice is usually done when most of the water has been absorbed from the cooking pot. However, there are some times when it’s still has a bit to go, and all of the water is gone.

When trying to tell if rice is done, see how much more cooking water is left. If it’s nearly gone, then your rice might be done. (Provided you added enough cooking water in the first place.)

By the Texture

Another way to determine if the rice is cooked is to feel the texture. Pick up a few grains of rice with a fork or spoon and wait for them to cool. Give them a taste-test. They should be soft and cooked through on the inside, but still have a slight firmness to them on the outside.

If you can’t bite into the rice without a crunch, your rice is not done and will not have a good texture no matter what dish you add it to. (Conversely, if there is no crunch and the rice falls apart in your mouth, it’s already overcooked.)

What to Do If the Rice Is Too Watery?

If, after 10 to 12 minutes of cooking, the pot with the rice still has a lot of water, you might need to bring up the heat. On top of that, you can cook the rice with the lid off, allowing evaporation of some of the water.

Keep an eye on it and when all the water is gone, turn off the heat and place the lid back on to let it steam. One trick to prevent the rice from becoming mushy as you evaporate the water is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to the pot.

What To Do If the Rice Is Too Dry?

On the contrary, if rice is dry and still crunchy, you may need to add some more water. Depending on how dry the rice is, add ¼ to ½ cup of water. Continue cooking with the lid on over low to medium-low heat, lifting to stir occasionally to prevent the grains from sticking to the pot.

After about 5 minutes, take off the lid and give the rice a stir. Cover it up and take it off of the fire to let it steam. The steaming will help moisture penetrate the rice, taking away any of the dryness or crunchiness left behind from cooking.

Why Let the Rice Rest?

After cooking rice, there is one critical step that you should always take, and that is to let it rest.

The resting phase of cooking rice is super important; and will ensure that your rice is fluffy and moist, but not sticky or too dry. When rice has cooled down, the grains stay firm and intact, and are thus more appetizing.

To let the rice sit, simply cover with the lid and allow the pot or pan to sit without heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Once your preferred time has passed, lift the lid and use a fork to give the rice a stir, letting the air mix with it for extra fluffiness.

Final Thoughts

Rice is a versatile food that can accompany any dish. While it’s simple to cook, making sure that rice is fully cooked and has the right texture is key. First, determine the type of rice you’re cooking and add the appropriate amount of water.

Then make sure that you simmer, checking on the amount of water as you cook. Once all the water is gone, let your rice sit so that it comes out warm, fluffy, and perfect to go alongside one of your star dishes.