A new (old) method of cooking rice. And it works just fine.

brown rice

Brown rice cooks up even faster and fluffier in the boil-like-pasta method, IMHO. Photo by Laura Groch

I have to confess I am late to this rice-cooking party. But I’m here at last, so here goes:

It’s not easy cooking rice on the stovetop. This seemingly simple task is the bane of many home cooks (and why those boil-in-bag rices, which are parboiled, were invented):

Two cups water to one cup white rice, or two and a half cups water to 1 cup brown rice. Heat it up in a saucepan and boil it, but not too hard. Keep the pot lid on but a little askew so some steam can escape. Cook 15 minutes for white rice, closer to 40 minutes for brown, and be careful about the last stages. Take it off the heat about 5 minutes from done and close the pot lid for those 5 minutes to let it absorb the last of its water.

By now, I’ve pretty much mastered the timing, but I still mess it up occasionally and have to add water and continue cooking until all the water is properly absorbed.

We used to use a microwave steamer, which worked pretty great, but we also managed to burn out a couple of them, so no, not completely foolproof either. That’s why, I guess, there are rice cookers and Instapots and the like, to remove the guesswork. (I can’t vouch for whether those are foolproof, though.)

Anyway, a few months ago I started reading warnings about arsenic levels in rice — brown, white and parboiled. I got a bit nervous. (This research has been around for a while, by the way. I’m a little embarrassed that I only recently found out about it.)

But it seems that arsenic is just a fact of life, according to the Food and Drug Administration (https://bit.ly/2ndMPh); it’s naturally in our air, water and soil. But if you eat a varied diet, you won’t absorb too much, and you’ll be just fine. (As for babies and toddlers eating only rice cereals, best advice is to vary their diets, too.)

It doesn’t matter whether the rice is organically or inorganically grown. Arsenic is just there, taken up by the rice plant roots as it grows. Not a pretty thought.

But I like rice, brown and white. A lot. What to do? Well, there are options. You can rinse the rice before cooking, but that evidently doesn’t do much, according to the FDA (“minimal effect”).

Their recommended method is to cook the rice as you would pasta: in lots of water, swirling and bubbling each grain until it’s cooked, and then just drain the whole thing. That will remove 40 to 60 percent of whatever arsenic is there.

That solution sounded just awful. Amateurish, even. But since one of the reasons I write this blog is to try ideas and then pass them along to whoever might be reading, I decided to experiment.

And I was very pleasantly surprised. This method works very well, it’s easy to do — and I think it’s even faster than the absorption method.

Cooking brown rice, especially, as if it were pasta yields a fluffier grain, IMHO.

Just measure out your rice and put it into whatever size saucepan will comfortably hold it and the water. How much water? Enough to more than cover the rice — as you would for pasta. Bring it to boiling and leave the pot uncovered. Doesn’t have to be a violent boil, either. Taste a few grains after 10 minutes for white rice and 15 or 20 for brown, and adjust your timing from there.

When the rice is cooked to your liking, drain it and return it to the pot. I drape a paper towel over the top and put the lid over it for a few more minutes to absorb more of the steam, so the rice won’t be too wet. And you’re done.

Cooking rice the way we cook pasta sounded like a bad idea, but it works very nicely. Now if only we could eliminate ALL the arsenic …

(c) copyright 2018 Laura Groch


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