Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conquering brown rice

Bowl of rice

Confession time: brown rice and I have never quite had what you'd call an amicable relationship. That's not to say that I don't like brown rice--I do. I like that it's nutty and slightly chewy. I like that it's more nutritious than its refined counterpart. But until recently, I couldn't for the life of me cook it properly.

Inevitably it came out not just a disappointment, but shamefully bad: it was either burned on the bottom or a soupy mess, no matter how much I fiddled with the cooking time or the amount of water. I can make a gorgeous pot of white rice (the fluffy kind, not the sticky kind), but a good pot of brown rice--even an acceptable pot--has eluded me.

And no, an electric rice cooker is not the answer, at least not for me. For one thing, I simply don't have the space, and when I get/find the space, the first thing that's going in it is one of these. Even in a kitchen twice the size of the one I have now, I don't know if I could dedicate that much space to something that has only one use.

More than that, though, it's a point of pride: I don't like to fail in the kitchen. I don't like to fail, period, but I fancy myself a fairly capable cook, and any evidence to the contrary tends to rile me into an attitude of "I WILL conquer this!" I wouldn't be satisfied resorting to a gadget to address my inadequacy. So, I've been stuck, and it's been bothering me: what kind of a cook can't make a simple pot of brown rice?

Growing desperate, I swallowed my pride and googled "brown rice recipe." The feeling of shame was acute--I felt like I had just asked someone how to boil water. But the interwebs were pleased with my (grudging) humility, and revealed this recipe from Saveur. As far as I'm concerned, they should add another "u" to their name, because Saveur is my sauveur when it comes to brown rice.

This recipe works. I've made it a few times now, and it hasn't failed me yet. "A few" might not sound like proven reliability, but that's more successes than I can count in a dozen or more previous attempts at brown rice. The secret is below the fold, and if you've struggled with brown rice, I encourage you to try it.

Perfect Brown Rice

Adapted from Saveur
Makes about 2 cups of rice


  • 1 cup raw brown rice
  • lots of water
  • salt to taste


  1. Place the rice in a sieve and rinse under cool running water until the water runs clear.
  2. Bring a couple of quarts of water to a boil in a medium or large pot. Choose a pot with a lid that fits snugly.
  3. Salt the water as you would for pasta, add the rice, and stir once or twice. Cook at a rolling boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the rice into the sieve and let drain for 10 seconds.
  5. Return the rice to the pot, cover, and set aside off the heat for 10 minutes so that the rice steams. Remove the cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Adjust seasoning if necessary.


  • This recipe will yield rice that still has some chew to it--if it were pasta, it would most certainly be al dente. I like my brown rice this way, but if you like your rice softer, increase the boiling time by 5 minutes or so.


Bee said...

I make a lot of brown rice, and that is pretty much my method . . . although the brand of rice that I use generally only needs about 25 minutes. I'm glad that I'm doing it right!

BTW, I agree with you on electric rice cookers. And Kitchen Aid mixers are truly wonderful. Mine stays on our (limited) countertop because I use it all the time.

Thanks for visiting me when I was away. I finally got some pics up -- including a couple of me in dreaded bike shorts!

Anne said...

Glad to have you back, Bee! Can't wait to see your pictures.

Thanks for pointing out that the cooking time might even be shorter, not just longer. Perhaps the type of rice affects the cooking time. (I'm using short-grain rice.)

SarahKate said...

I'm totally the opposite! I have no trouble with brown rice, but my white rice often comes out in great sticky clumps! In fact, I made really nice, fluffy white rice tonight by accident and I got so excited!

Bee said...

I made some brown rice tonight and thought of you, dear friend. We seem to be eating lots of stir-fries lately, what with the veggie in our midst. (I refuse to make two meals.)

Silver said...

Brown Rice is not a favourite although we have read so much about their highly acclaimed values.


Pity said...

hi, my name is pity and i am a spanish living in london, i just found your blog and i loved it! btw here in london i buy one of the best brown rice sushies! Visit my blog if you have the time,



Anne said...

Aw, thank you, Bee! Stir-fries are great veggie-friendly meals. My parents refused to make two meals, too, when I was veggie in high school. (A sensible position, I think!) But sometimes, if I had time to fix my own dinner, they would have a meat dish and I would make my own meal.

Hi, Silver, thanks for stopping by.

Welcome, Pity! I'll be sure to head over your way soon.

chris britton said...

I learned from a zen teacher who prepared meals at zen retreats how to make brown rice. Start out by cleaning the rice as mentioned. Then let it soak in water for a few hours, or overnight. The rice will absorb some of the water, make it less "crunchy" and reduce cooking time.

When cooking, I add about 2.25-2.5 times the dried rice in water (i.e. 1 cup dried rice and 2.25-2.5 cups water) in a stove top pot. Bring it to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 25 minutes or so.

At the zen retreats, sticky white rice and brown rice are combined in a big rice cooker and served.