Foodies, home cooks, fitness gurus, let’s get real about something: cooking brown rice is a pain in the grain. Follow the stovetop directions to a T and after waiting patiently, you still might end up with mushy or undercooked rice—an especially disappointing outcome if you’re cooking in bulk or meal prepping (Here are the 5 best whole grains to meal prep.) Despite the difficulty in getting it just right, brown rice is a powerhouse of nutrients: rich in proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium.
But cooking brown rice? It can often feel like being in a never-ending story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, only unlike Goldilocks, we continue to eat the not-so-perfect plate anyway, for those health benefits and so you don't waste food.
Here to help with this common cooking woe are chefs, nutritionists, and personal trainers who have gone through their fair share of mushy brown rice to learn how to master the art. Follow these steps and get perfect, fluffy rice every time and enjoy all the fiber and minerals it has to offer.
No matter the cooking method you use, it’s important to rinse your rice to help reduce the amount of arsenic. Since brown rice has a particularly high amount, go one further and soak it over night. This trick is very helpful in reducing arsenic, because it opens up the grain and allows arsenic to escape.
To do it, cover uncooked grains with water and place in the fridge overnight. Then before cooking, give it a rinse. This method also helps reduce cook-time by almost half, says Jennifer Eler Haubrich, certified natural foods chef, holistic health coach, and founder of Your Veggie Coach.
Alisa Viti, author of Women Code and founder of Flo Living offers this quick little brown rice trick in her 4-Day Hormone Detox:Before cooking, spread the desired amount of rice in a wide pot with a bit of olive or coconut oil. With the heat on high you’ll start to smell a beautiful nutty aroma after roughly 3-5 minutes. Move the rice around to toast all of the grains. For extra flavor, add some shallots, garlic, or leeks. This method not only reduces the cook time, but adds a tremendous amount of flavor to your rice.
(Watch our video below for some easy, no-cook jams to make yourself.)
3.Use Your Widest Pot
After staring into pounds of mushy, overly absorbed rice I decided to do a little experiment and cook my next batch using a skillet. It. Worked.
Because the pot is being more thoroughly heated the grains absorb at an even rate, and any excess water is evaporated. This compared to a narrow, high pot, which causes the grains on top or in the middle to retain water.
“I have found that the box instructions are just not accurate,” says Neda Varbanova, certified culinary nutritionist and holistic health coach. “I never cook the rice in water ratio 2:1. I always add more water.” There are many reasons box directions don’t work for everyone. Pot size and stove temperature play big roles in the role that rice cooks.
So, instead of checking, assessing, and adding water as rice cooks, add more water to begin with. “If I cook 1 cup of brown rice, I would use 5 cups of water. The rice will absorb it or I can strain,” explains Varbanova.
5. Bring Liquid To A Boil First
Haubrich fills a large pasta pot with water (dependent on how much rice she is cooking) and brings it to a boil, then adds rice—instead of adding rice and water all at the same time.
“This is a fool-proof method because you can taste the rice and decide when it’s done without waiting for all the water to be absorbed,” says Haubrich. Starting with boiling water takes less time to cook too, so she recommends checking the rice earlier than you normally would.
"Years ago I learned that you can cook rice the same way you cook pasta,” explains Haubrich. “I tried it and have never gone back to my old struggles.”
Just like pasta, bring 12 cups of salted water to a boil, and then add your cup (or cups) of rice. Once you’re satisfied with the texture of your rice, drain it in a colander and rinse with hot water, says Haubrich. Another benefit to this method? Combined with soaking your grains is said to reduce the amount of arsenic by 82%. (Here are the foods with the highest levels of arsenic.)
7. Steam It
Unlike with white rice, it’s challenging to get that airy texture from brown rice. But after a lot of trial and error, personal trainer Saguren Redyrs figured it out, saying, “It’s a big staple in my diet, so if I didn’t get the texture just right, I wouldn’t be able to stomach the idea of eating rice every day.”
His big secret? Steaming the grains. After cooking in lots of water and straining the excess, he chucks the rice back into the pot as quickly as possible to avoid losing heat. He then places it on a cool burner with a tight fitting lid letting the rice steam from it’s own heat. “Leave it in the pot for another 15 minutes,” advises Redyrs. “Then fluff out the rice with a fork and let it steam for another 10.”
In a huge 3-inch-deep pan, add your rice at roughly a 1:1 ratio with boiling water, cover with tinfoil, and bake on 400 for one hour, says Maltese. Directions are the same on a smaller scale. “In the shelter, we butter and salt per the residents’ requests,” remembers Joey. “In my own kitchen I finish with coconut oil and lime.”
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