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The 1 trick to making perfect rice every time

It's easier than you think.
by Alessandra Bulow / / Source: TODAY

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Sick of crunchy, undercooked rice? Or perhaps, your rice always turns out mushy and clumps together. Banish grainy, flavorless rice forever with these expert tips for how to cook rice and make a perfect pot of this staple grain.

"Rice is a sponge and the starches that are inside long-grain and short-grain rices cause them to behave differently when they're cooked," Tony Nogales, associate dean at The Culinary Institute of America, told TODAY Food.

How to cook rice
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While long-grain rices lend themselves well to boiling or for use in pilafs, short-grain rices are best steamed or cooked in an electric rice cooker. Short-grain rices, like arborio, can also be cooked low and slow in a one-pot meal like risotto. For any cooking method, always start by rinsing the rice in a colander or sieve with cold water for the best result.

1. How to boil rice

"When making boiled rice, it's important to treat it like boiled pasta," Nogales told TODAY Food. In a large pot, add 1 quart of water and 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Add 1 cup of rice and stir right away so the rice does not stick to the bottom. Lower the heat to medium and cook uncovered until the rice is evenly translucent, about 12 minutes for long-grain white rice and up to 35 minutes for long-grain brown rice.

Strain the rice in a sieve and place it back in the pot. The rice will be very tender and delicate, so treat it carefully and don't use a wooden spoon. Add 2 tablespoons of sweet or salted butter. Using two forks, aerate the rice until it is fully coated and fluffy, then serve.

2. How to make rice pilaf

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of minced shallots or onions. Cover and cook over low heat until the shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of rice and stir until the rice becomes translucent around each grain, about 1 minute. Then add 2 cups of a liquid like vegetable stock, chicken stock or water. Add salt to taste and 1 bay leaf or sprig of fresh thyme. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil, then cover.

At this point, the rice can finish cooking on the stovetop or in the oven. On the stovetop, turn the flame down to low and cook for 12-15 minutes. Alternatively, place the covered pot in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pot from the stovetop or oven and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before uncovering. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and fluff up the rice with two forks. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and serve the fluffy rice.

How to cook rice
Nathan Congleton / TODAY

3. How to steam rice

In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a rapid boil. Add 1 cup of jasmine rice, turn the heat down to low and cook covered for about 15-18 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the covered rice to sit for 5 minutes before gently fluffing it with two forks and serving.

4. How to cook rice in a rice cooker

The best way to cook short-grain white or brown sticky rice is with a rice cooker (like one of these best-sellers on Amazon), according to Nogales. Following the manufacturer’s directions, sweat an aromatic like minced shallots or onions before adding water and rice to the machine.

How to cook rice in a rice cooker
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5. How to cook sushi rice

For 3 cups of sushi rice, cook 1 1/2 cups of short-grain white rice in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer’s directions. In a small pot, bring 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar to a boil. Place the cooked rice in a large bowl. Using a hand fan, fan the rice until the steam stops rising and the rice is cooled to room temperature. Add the vinegar mixture two tablespoons at a time, stirring gently with a plastic paddle until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

6. How to cook rice in the microwave

While it is possible to cook rice in a microwave, be warned that it may not actually save that much time and the flavor and texture may not be as delicious as more traditional methods. Since not every microwave cooks food at the same rate, the total cook time for making rice can vary. For the best results, microwave in increments using the following method. In a microwave-safe dish, add 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of long-grain white rice. Microwave until there are steam holes, about 10 to 13 minutes depending on the device. Stir and cover, then microwave for an additional 3 minutes. Microwave in 1-minute increments until cooked through.

Now that that's covered (like white on rice!), it's time to get cooking with these delicious rice recipes from paella to risotto.

Coconut Rice

Coconut Rice

Lucinda Scala Quinn

Cooking rice in coconut milk imparts a delicious lightly sweet flavor and an extra creamy texture.

Skip the takeout and whip up a healthier version of fried rice at home in only 20 minutes.

Natalie Morales' Brazilian Black Beans and Rice

Fluffy white rice is perfect for soaking up the sauce of protein-packed black beans.

Skillet Paella

Ah, paella. This hearty and comforting Spanish rice dish is loaded with chicken, chorizo and shrimp.

Mushroom Risotto with Truffles

Patience is key when making risotto, but the reward is a heaping bowl of creamy heaven. It takes a little care to make, but it's definitely worth it.

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