Have you ever been the author of a culinary disaster?
After years of watching my mother and grandmother making rice, I decided to try my hand at it. I thought it would be a fairly simple task to do myself. So, 13-year-old me grabbed a pot and added an unmeasured amount of water. I threw in all the rice we had (a 2 lb bag) and brought it to a boil. Then I grabbed what I thought was salt and added that while the water was boiling.
When it started cooking, the rice almost expanded out of the pot, because there was so much! I didn’t add enough water, so most of the rice was overcooked, while a lot was severely undercooked. The bottom was burned because I didn’t know the adequate temperature. And that wasn’t even the worst of it… The salt I used wasn’t actually salt. I accidentally seasoned the rice with baking soda!
It was a truly embarrassing effort on my part. My dad and older brother ate it out of respect (and hunger, I think), but my mom and younger brother refused, out of wisdom. Or fear. Or maybe both.
I’ll never forget their faces. After that, my mom decided to teach me how to cook rice. She started with a very simple method. A 1:2 ratio of rice to water with added onion, garlic and salt.
After many years, I have compiled a list of tips to perfect your rice.
Here are my 10 tips to better rice
1. Respect the rice – Let the rice take the time that it needs. They’re not mashed potatoes. Put the rice in the pot and let it cook.
2. Exact double portion of water – rice should be cooked on a 1:2 ratio with water. Measure your portions.
3. Cook on low heat – be patient. If you try to rush the rice you, will end up burning it and/or undercooking it.
4. “No lo batas” – A phrase my mother and grandmother constantly told me. It means “don’t stir it.” You don’t want to end up making sticky, smashed rice. Once it’s in the pot, put the lid on and leave it alone until it’s ready.
5. Don’t open the lid – A perfect rice must steam. The steam inside the closed-lidded pot, while on low heat, is what actually cooks the rice. It’s not about the water boiling, it’s about the rice cooking correctly.
6. Rinse and sauté the rice before boiling – Rice has lots of starch. When you sauté with oil, it basically coats each grain, allowing the rice to be cooked without sticking to the other grains. It’s a beautiful chemical reaction. Make sure not to leave it in the pan too long (you don’t want to burn the rice before even adding water). When you rinse the rice, you’re cleaning the starch off. But you must rinse it very well, several times, to assure the starch is rinsed off fully. Also, after washing, the grain is very sensitive, so you must be careful when you put it in the pot so as to not break the grains.
7. Use a stock – To make rice more flavorful, add a stock instead of water. Flavor your rice according to your meal instead of always merely having simple white rice.
8. Add garlic, onion and salt – I always add these ingredients before I begin boiling the rice. I like to sauté the rice (see tip 6) with onion, garlic cloves and salt. I love the slightly more intense flavors I get from this practice.
9. Use a good pot – Make sure the bottom of the pot is not too thin, and use an adequately sized pot. A thin pot will cause the rice grains to burn more quickly. 1
0.“La práctica hace al maestro” – “practice makes perfect.” Keep going! And try adding your own special flavors to make the rice your own. Also, check out recipes for more advanced types of rice, like aromatic rice and risotto.
Want to get in touch? Email Johastable@gmail.com.