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Sometimes, the simplest dishes are the hardest to master. Even seasoned home cooks can struggle with rice that’s mushy, clumpy or sticking (or burning!) on the bottom of a pot. Here are our time-honored tips for turning out the perfect rice every time, whether you’re cooking on your stovetop or turning on your Instant Pot or rice cooker.
Tips for Making Perfectly Fluffy Rice
No matter which method you choose (stovetop, pressure cooker or rice cooker), these guidelines apply:
Always rinse your rice in a mesh strainer before you cook it. Rinsing cuts down on the starchiness that helps make rice sticky. Keep rinsing until the water is clear—this is key. You may end up rinsing six times or more, depending on the kind of rice.
Stirring encourages rice grains to stick together (think risotto). Instead, swirl uncooked rice and fluff cooked rice with a fork.
Getting perfect rice depends on four key variables. It’s best to consider the package directions on your rice as guidelines and experiment by cooking each type of rice until you find the perfect setup for you.
Ratio of water to rice: The ideal ratio of water to rice depends on how much water will evaporate during cook time. And cook time depends on the next key variables:
Type of rice: Different types of rice cook at different rates. For example, brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, so it needs a little more water. Start your experiment by following the package recommendation, and adjust from there till you get the results you want. The typical ratio for short-grain white rice is 1 cup water to 1 cup rice and long-grain white rice is 1-1/4 cup water to 1 cup rice. We recommend using long-grain rice. Short-grain rice has way more starch and is almost always sticky (think sushi).
Cooking temp: The hotter you cook your rice, the more quickly the water will evaporate. On the stovetop, after your rice reaches its initial boil, turn it down to a low simmer to keep evaporation at a minimum. A rice cooker or pressure cooker will automatically do this (which is one of the reasons we’re into the Instant Pot).
Your pot and its lid: A tight-fitting lid is best for making rice because it prevents water from evaporating too quickly and disrupting your perfect water-to-rice ratio. If you’re using the stovetop method, use a larger saucepan than you need to help prevent the water from spilling over when it comes to its initial boil. It’ll save you a lot of starchy cleanup.
If you lift the lid to check for doneness, you’ll—you guessed it—throw off the evaporation rate, which will affect the cook time. Set a duration for each experiment, and stick with it…unless you smell burning, of course.
Give it a rest.
When cooking time is up, let your rice sit for 10-15 minutes without lifting the lid to let the moisture distribute evenly amongst the rice grains.
Bonus: Sneak in some flavor.
To make ordinary rice amazing, add a bay leaf or two during cooking (discard before eating!), or try using chicken, beef or vegetable broth instead of water.
If you’re using a pressure cooker or rice cooker, getting perfectly fluffy rice is super easy because you’re dealing with fewer variables. Still, all of the above tips apply. And be sure to check your water-to-rice ratio in the manufacturer’s instructions; you’ll need less water than you would when you make rice on the stovetop.