3. Add the rice and salt, if using, to the boiling water; stir once to distribute evenly. Return to a boil; stir again.
4. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook the white rice for about 15 minutes and the brown rice for 45 to 55 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
5. When the rice is cooked, carefully lift the lid, so the condensation on the underside of the cover does not drip into the rice. Look at, do not touch, the rice. Little steam holes all over the surface indicate that the water has been absorbed. If the water has not been absorbed, continue to cook over low heat, covered, for 2 to 3 more minutes
6. When the rice is cooked, let it stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes before serving
7. Fluff the rice with a large fork, never a spoon. Turn into a serving dish
8. When cooking medium-grain brown rice for a salad, turn the cooked rice into a strainer and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch and stickiness. Drain well.
Boiling Water Method
Cooking rice uncovered in plenty of boiling water (like cooking pasta) until it reaches the consistency desired and then draining it in a strainer is an especially popular method among chefs. This method provides a certain amount of control, as you can easily dip into the pot to check the progress of the rice as it boils. But because all the enrichment is washed off the rice (if you are using domestically grown rice), it is wasteful. This method also leaches flavor from the rice, which goes down the drain with the water and the enrichment unless you are smart enough to catch it in a pot for soup or some other use. I do use this method when I precook rice for pudding and in Persian-style pilaf recipes. I also like it for medium-grain brown rice, which tends to be very sticky when cooked using the covered method.
Thai-Style Steamed Rice
Thai jasmine rice. Jasmine rice is sticky; steaming fluffs it up and also helps it to retain its natural aroma. Set a kettle of water on to boil. Select a large wide pot and a heatproof bowl that fits inside. Set a small rack in the bottom of the pot. Place the rice (2 cups, or whatever amount you will need) in the bowl, add cold tap water, and swish it around; drain. Repeat once or twice more. Return the drained rice to the bowl. Add 2 or 3 inches boiling water to the pot. Place the bowl of rice on the rack and add boiling water to the rice to cover it by ¾ inch. Cover the pot and steam the rice over medium heat—you should hear the water boiling against the bowl and there should be steam pushing at the lid—for 20 to 25 minutes.
Electric Rice Cookers
Electric rice cookers are as common in modern Asian households as a kitchen sink. A Chinese friend and her family always travel with their rice cooker; eating rice three meals a day is one dietary habit her family is not about to abandon just because they are staying in a hotel. It is certainly a convenient and efficient way to cook rice, and as rice cookers have improved over the years, they have become more and more popular in the United States as well. The problem is that they are not standardized, so you have to follow the manufacturer’s directions and then adjust the amount of liquid (the timing is automatic). People who have them love them. I occasionally use mine, especially when cooking rice for sushi. Generally rice cookers require ¼ to ½ cup less water per cup of rice than the absorption cooking method. Rice cookers are automatically calibrated to sound a bell and turn off when the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. They will also keep cooked rice warm
Microwave MethodAlthough it doesn’t save time, rice can be cooked in the microwave. Combine 1 cup long-grain white rice with 1¾ to 2 cups water (use 1½ to 1¾ cups water for short-or medium-grain rice) and 1 teaspoon salt in a microwave-safe dish; stir once to distribute rice evenly. Cover and microwave on high power for 5 minutes, then on medium (50%) power for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered, before serving. For long-grain or short-grain brown rice, use 2¼ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt; microwave on high power for 5 minutes, then on medium (50%) power for 30 minutes
Baking rice is a foolproof method that saves you from worrying about whether the heat under the pan is too high or too low. Because it is in the oven and out of sight, you won’t be tempted to lift the lid and stir it while it is cooking. It is also energy-efficient if you are cooking the rest of the meal in the oven at the same time.
To make plain oven-baked white or brown rice, preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine 1 cup long-grain white rice and 1¾ to 2 cups boiling water or broth; 1 cup medium-grain white rice with 1½ cups boiling liquid; or 1 cup brown rice with 2¼ cups boiling liquid. Add salt to taste; stir once to distribute the rice evenly. Bake covered, for 25 to 30 minutes for white rice, or 1 hour for brown rice. Makes 4 servings.