Rice 101

From NY Times Cooking (my edits italicized)

Types of rice

Brown rice is brown, or darker in color than white rice, because it’s unmilled, or barely milled, and still has its bran, germ and aleurone layers. It’s generally a little chewy and nutty-tasting, and requires more water to cook than white rice. After it’s milled and polished, brown rice loses its color and becomes white rice. 

Aromatic medium- and long-grain rices, such as basmati and jasmine, have an almost buttery, toasted fragrance as they cook, thanks to a naturally occurring compound they share. 

Sushi rice, which needs to stay soft and tender even as it cools, is generally a short- or medium-grained pearly rice, with grains that cling together after they’re cooked. 

Also called sweet rice, or glutinous rice, short-grain sticky rice doesn’t actually contain sugar (though it can easily be worked into a dumplinglike dough to make mochi, and a vast range of sweets). 

Smooth short- to medium-grain rices like arborio and carnaroli are ideal for risotto. (If you’re making them, don’t rinse to get rid of excess starch: It’s what produces that rich, creamy consistency you’re after.)

Bomba is a chubby, short-grain rice cultivated in Spain, best known for its starring role in paella. It’s an ideal vehicle for soaking up flavorful stock, and capable of absorbing a lot of liquid without turning to mush. 

Sometimes called forbidden rice, slow-cooking black rice has roots in China, and turns purple as it cooks. Rarer, delicious black rice varieties come from West Africa, with a bran layer that ranges from red and purple to black. 

Wild rice is the long, thin, dark grain of an aquatic grass; you can cook it like pasta, in boiling, salted water, then drain it when it’s cooked through.

Cooking Rice

RINSE The foundation of successful rice is a rinse. Some cooks skip the rinse entirely, but washing dry rice gets rid of the extra starch all over the surface of its grains, which can cause an overly sticky, clumpy or mushy batch. There are many ways to go about it, but here’s one: Pour the rice into a bowl, and fill it with cold water. (You can also use a strainer set inside a bowl, as above, to lift the rice up out of the starchy water.) Use your fingers to gently swirl around the grains. You’ll notice the water get cloudy. Tip out all that starchy water. Rinse the rice and repeat. You’ll need to do this anywhere from two to six times, depending on the type of rice and what you’ll be using it for, until the water you’re tipping out runs almost clear. Now the rice is ready to cook.

COOK Check the packaging on the rice you buy, as water requirements and cook times both vary according to grain type, when the rice was harvested, and whether or not it’s been parboiled. Use these rice-to-water ratios as a general guideline, but adjust to taste. 

  • For most long-grain and medium-grain rice, such as basmati and jasmine: 1 cup rice to 1⅓ cups water ( I prefer 1.5 cups water). Cook for 15 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let rest, without moving the lid, an additional 10 minutes. 
  • For most short-grain rice, such as sushi rice: 1 cup rice to 1 cup water (I use 1 1/4 cup water) for about 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let rest, without removing lid, an additional 10 minutes. 
  • For most brown rice: 1 cup rice to 1¾ cups water for about 40 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let rest, without removing lid, an additional 10 minutes.

If you like firmer, drier rice, reduce the water by a few tablespoons, and pull back on the cook time by a few minutes. If you like a wetter, softer rice, increase the water by a few tablespoons. You can use these ratios to cook rice on the stovetop, the oven or pressure cooker.

REST AND FLUFF Resting the rice for a little while is crucial. As the rice rests, covered, off the heat, its starches cool down slightly, which means the grains firm up. (If you stir the grains as soon as they’re cooked, while they’re still very hot and wet, they can break up and get mushy.) After 10 to 15 minutes, you can use a flexible rubber spatula to fluff the still-hot rice if you like, stirring it gently, creating some volume in the pot without squishing the rice. This is also the moment to taste, and to season with a little more salt. The rice is ready, just keep it covered until you’re ready to eat.

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