Rice is a basic food which most cooks should learn early on in their education. It is a basic staple in many types of meals from risotto to sushi, though each food requires a different variety of rice. Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, and Arborio rice are all used for risotto as they are short grain rices with a high starch content, making them stickier than long grain varieties. Sushi, named after the rice, not the fish like many people believe, is a type of rice picked for its short grains and perfect starch content, allowing it to stick together properly. Most other foods, such as burritos, Spanish rice, black beans and rice, and any other meal meant to be eaten with a fork or spoon requires long grain rice. This rice doesn’t stick together well, and is typically used in most western dishes.
Many cooks enjoy using a rice cooker to create the perfect fluffy rice, but this is not necessary, as all one needs is a pot, measuring cups, rice, water, and a stove top. To start, figure out how much rice is required for the dish. A general rule is to use twice as much water as rice. This doesn’t hold completely true for all varieties, such as brown rice, which needs about fifteen percent more water, but it does for the basic jasmine or basmati rice. So, to prepare one cup of dry rice, bring two cups of water to a boil in a small pot, add a cup of dry rice, bring back to a boil stirring a few times, place a lid on the pot, then bring to a very low simmer. If the heat is too high, the rice will burn to the bottom of the pot.
Most kinds of rice will take fifteen to twenty-five minutes to cook this way, but brown rice will take about twice as long. Being impatient is a bad quality when cooking rice, because if it is stirred too much after cooking, the rice will become mushy, so stir as little as possible. Taste the rice before taking it off the stove. If it is not cooked enough, let it cook another three minutes before checking on it again until it is cooked all the way through. Once it is fluffy and soft in texture, apply salt to taste and serve with dishes such as curry or sweet and sour chicken.
Dishes such as fried rice require slightly different preparation to make. Some cooks may feel as if they failed when after frying their rice only to discover it has become something akin to a hash brown with rice as the starch instead of potatoes. This is because cooked rice must sit in the refrigerator for at least a day before being fried. This allows the rice to lose moisture and harden slightly. After refrigerating, fry in a skillet with butter, olive oil, soy sauce, egg, and vegetables to create great restaurant quality fried rice.
Knowing which type of rice and method to use for each dish is key in cooking a good rice-based meal. All types of rice are unique and have something different to offer to each dish. Some are more difficult to cook than others, and some work better for different types of cuisines, so the basic types of rice at the local grocery store will not work for every type of meal. Remember to watch the rice carefully when cooking to prevent spills, and to make sure that it does not burn to the bottom of the pot, and each meal you create with rice will achieve perfection.