Welcome to our All About Rice series! Find more rice cooking tips, buying suggestions, and recipes here.
For as long as I can remember, I have always read the last few pages of a book first. I can’t help it. I like to know what to expect. It saves so much time and emotional energy. Oh, what’s that? The main character, who I am undoubtedly going to get attached to over the next 268 pages, dies? Well, I am now left with two choices: I can either ditch the book before wasting another minute or I can relax and read it, knowing I’m not going to be rocked by any major surprises.
My husband thinks this is cheating. I just think it is smart. And I hate to break it to him (not really), but science is on my side. Research show that “spoilers” (what an awful term) actually enhance one’s enjoyment of a book.
What’s that? You are wondering where I’m going with all of this? Well, it occurred to me as I spent the last 4 weeks sharing my favorite rice bowl recipes with you that I kind of skipped to the ending. I jumped to the last pages without talking about what each bowl had in common: THE RICE! So now that you know it has a happy ending (read all four Rice Bowl recipes for yourself), let’s get back to the first chapter and dive into the world of rice.
Rice is inexpensive, delicious and split into three different sizes: short, medium, and long. Are you still with me? Good, because now that we have established that, let’s move to the exciting part. All the different varieties! Throughout the world, there are more than 40,000 different varieties of rice. For fear of losing you around #36,753, I’m just going to define some of the most common types and terms you’ll find in your local grocery store:
Arborio – This is an Italian short-grain rice with a high starch content, commonly used to make risotto because of its creamy texture and ability to absorb other flavors.
Basmati – A long-grain fragrant rice, originally from India, it is aged to increase aroma and decrease moisture. The dry, fluffy grains are light and separate, not sticky.
Black – This is an unusual whole grain rice that is black when dry, purple when cooked. It might also be referred to as “forbidden rice,” referring to when it was once reserved for Chinese emperors.
Brown – Rice where the hull has been removed, but the germ and bran layer are left intact. It can be eaten or milled into white rice. Brown rice takes longer to cook and has a shorter shelf life than white. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. The color is caused by the bran, which is high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.
Calrose (California Rose) – This medium-grain rice was originally developed in California. The rice is soft and sticky, making it popular for sushi.
Converted – This rice is steamed and dried before being hulled so some of the nutrients are absorbed into the rice grains. It somewhat balances the loss of the germ and bran from the milling process.
Instant – This rice has been pre-cooked and dehydrated before packaging. As the name implies, instant rice cooks much faster than traditional rice.
Jasmine – A long-grain rice originally from Thailand, it has a shorter grain and stickier texture than basmati.
Red – This is a beautiful, short-grain rice from Bhutan.
White – The most common form of rice, these varieties have had the outer husk removed and the bran layers milled (“polished”) until the grain is white. It has a milder flavor and lower nutritional value than brown rice.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I’m going to leave you with a fool-proof recipe for cooking brown rice. At least it passes the test for this fool. White, I can handle, but my brown rice never turned out quite right (aka crunchy on top, burned on the bottom) before I discovered this recipe.
Search high and low for perfect brown rice, and you’ll eventually click your way over to Saveur’s method. And for good reason. It is easy, and it works. The only change I made was to increase the amount of rice and decrease the amount of water. I have also read rave reviews about Alton Brown’s method for Baked Brown Rice. It looks just as simple and would be another great option. Has anyone tried this?
With either method, leftovers are a good thing. Cooked rice freezes beautifully for a future meal.
How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice
Adapted from a Saveur technique
Makes 4 cups of cooked rice
2 c. short, medium, or long-grain brown rice
12 c. water
salt, to taste
- Rinse the rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds. In a large, lidded pot, bring 12 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, stir it once, and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer over the sink.
- Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover the pot and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt. Eat immediately or cool and freeze in bags or containers.
Truth be told, though, I have my heart set on a digital rice cooker. And this is coming from someone who really hates collecting appliances. I prefer simple tools over monstrous pieces of equipment that only have one use. However, I know enough people who use their rice cookers regularly and love them. I think I would, too. Amazon carries rice cookers in a variety of styles with a wide range of prices. This Aroma Rice Cooker and Food Steamer is under $30.