I recently got into a rather fiery discussion on the proper way to cook rice. Do you start rice in cold water or do you throw it into rapidly boiling water referred to as the “Pasta Method”? I’ve always been taught to start rice in cold water with a little salt and oil, bring it to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 – 25 min. This has always worked for me. It’s a standard in the industry and used by every chef I’ve known and/or worked for. I just discovered that some people throw rice into boiling water until done, then strain it through a sieve. Hmmm, I’ve never heard of this before. It just sounded odd to me. The first thing I did was to ask several chef friends of mine if they had ever heard of the later. Karen thought that throwing rice into boiling water was preposterous, completely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense. In other words, absurd! John said that yes, this was a valid way to cook certain types of rice. I then consulted two faithful reference books: James Beard’s “Theory and Practice of Good Cooking” and “Joy of Cooking”. James Beard attests to the later of throwing rice into boiling water. Joy of Cooking says to put rice into a pre-determined amount of boiling water, then cook over very low heat, covered, for 15- 18 min. I then found James McNair’s “Rice Cookbook”. He uses 3 different cooking methods mostly adding liquid to the rice and then bringing it to a boil. McNair also states the pasta method is good if you are adding rice to a dish in which the rice will continue to cook further. There are also the risotto, baked rice, Spanish rice, sticky rice and sushi rice methods, which are topics for another study.

I am going to put this through the “Proof of the (Rice) Pudding” test so to speak. Here are my results:

Steam Cooking Method:
Put liquid, rice, pinch of salt and 1 tsp butter into
pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover
for 20 min. (or per directions on package)
Let rest for 5 min. and fluff with fork.

Pasta Method:
Throw rice into rapidly boiling water until done then strain through a sieve.
Jasmine Rice
Steam Cooking Method:
Cooked nice and tender, somewhat fluffy and a bit sticky. One cup yields 4 cups cooked rice.

Pasta Method:
The rice didn’t stick together but didn’t fluff up either. One cup yields 3 1/2 cups cooked rice.

Lundburg’s Brown Rice
Steam Cooking Method:
Cooks a little more meaty than Jasmine but not as sticky or fluffy. One half cup yields 1 1/2 cup cooked rice.

Pasta Method:
The rice came out cooked but very dry. One half cup yields 1 cup cooked rice.

Basmati Rice
Steam Cooking Method:
Slightly fluffy and minimal stickiness. Nice nuttyFlavor. One cup yields 3 1/2 cups cooked rice.

Pasta Method:
Cooked Tender, fluffs just slightly. The kernels didn’t stick together. One cup yields 3 cups cooked rice.

Lundburg’s Wild Rice
Steam Cooking Method:
Cooked pretty tender for wild rice. The hull opened but the kernel didn’t split or swell up. Wild rice doesn’t really fluff. Six ounces yields 3 cups cooked rice.

Pasta Method:
Came out about the same.

In conclusion, I prefer the classic cook rice like you’re cooking rice method. I like rice to stick together slightly, it’s easier to eat and it holds together nicer. I would, however, use the “Pasta Method” if I was adding rice to a dish in which the rice will continue to cook or to substitute it for orzo pasta for someone with a gluten free diet.

Here’s the basic recipe for cooking rice:

The general rule is 1 part rice to 2 parts water. (Consult the package for specific cooking directions.)

1.) After you have rinsed the rice until the water is clear, put rice and cold water in a pan with a pat of butter or a little olive or veggie oil and a couple pinches of salt. Stir once to incorporate everything. Do not stir again!

2.) Bring to a boil for about a minute, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid.

3.) Let simmer for about 20 minutes, remove the lid and if you see tunnels in the rice, it’s done.

4.) Check for tenderness. If you want the rice a bit more tender, add more liquid and leave on the stove for a bit longer. If you want the rice more firm, use less liquid and less cooking time.

If you’re just not confident in your rice cooking skills, electric rice cookers are awesome!


Chef Trusan