Perfect Stovetop Rice Technique

I was doing a bit of blog-hopping this morning, and I came across a recipe for dal that looked fantastic.  But, in the notes, the author recommended serving it with rice, and she also recommended that everyone who likes rice should buy a rice cooker.

My house is about 940 square feet.  My kitchen is one of the smaller rooms of the house–if I could switch the living room, at about three times the size, with the kitchen, I would.

I have very few appliances, and I’m very selective about them because there’s just not room for their storage–nevermind the luxury of storing them right on the counter-top.  The only appliance allowed that status in my house is the coffeemaker, and even that gets put away if I need to take another appliance out.

I like rice though, and so tried for years to make it well on the stovetop without the resulting product being either scorched or soupy.  And I thought about buying a rice cooker.  But one of the most valuable things my ex-husband taught me was how to make perfect stovetop rice of any kind, in any amount, in any-sized pot.

Here’s how:

Use a saucepot with a tight-fitting lid.  Measure out how much rice you’ll want–I just throw in a few handsful–more if I think I’ll want leftovers.

Sometimes I rinse the rice, sometimes I don’t.  Either way, make sure the rice is in an even layer at the bottom of the pot.  Take your pointer finger and touch the tip to the top of the layer of rice.  Hold it there, without moving it up or down, while pouring in enough cooking water to go up to your first finger joint.

Now, add any spices, seasonings, etc. you might want to use, clap the lid on, and put it on the stove.  Turn the heat up to medium high until the water starts to boil.  Then, turn the heat down to low (about 2-2 1/2 on my electric stove).  Let rice simmer without ever removing the cover for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off.

Leave the cover on for an additional 10-15 minutes or so to let the rice soak up the additional water.

I cannot claim that you will make perfect rice the first time with this technique–you have to learn the whims of your cooking-vessel and your stove.  But this works very well for me, and I rarely have any crust to soak out of the bottom of my pot. This also works nicely for camping because it doesn’t require measuring utensils.

You’d think that different people with different-sized hands would throw this off, but even though Harry’s hands are literally twice the size of mine, there is little difference between us in the length between the tip of our pointer fingers and that first joint.

This works for brown rice or white–jasmine, basmati, long-grain, short-grain, you name it.  With brown rice, you just let it simmer a couple minutes longer, and let it sit a couple minutes longer after turning off the heat.

You might even try working a taller pot and steamer basket for vegetables into this technique–I’ll bet it’d work nicely.


6 responses to this post.

  1. > You might even try working a taller pot and steamer basket for vegetables into this technique–I’ll bet it’d work nicely

    But how do you get the steamer basket into the pot if the lid can’t come off the entire time (boil + holdover)? Does this involve very very soggy veggies?

  2. Posted by donny lawn on June 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    it worked perfectly for me the first time. this is a great technique!

  3. The measuring of water with finger is very Asian. My Japanese mother always did that when making rice.

  4. Posted by Tom Hanger on January 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    this is perfect for dorm cooking! thank you so much!

  5. Posted by Mixels on May 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I searched for “stovetop rice” and this was the first result on Google. I’m commenting because there is a legitimate criticism of this technique. That criticism is this: if you measure the amount of water you add to the pot by using the method described in this article, the actual amount of water you’re adding will depend greatly on the size of your pot. To see why this is a problem, try adding a cup of rice to a drinking glass. Then add water up to your first finger join. Enough water? No. Not nearly enough. Now try adding that same cup of rice to a dutch oven or large cake pan. Now add water up to your first finger tip. Right amount of water? No. Way too much.

    A more reliable way to do it is to use one and a half cups of water per cup of rice. Boil the water in an uncovered pot, then reduce heat to minimal setting, add rice, and cover. Let sit on low heat for about twenty minutes. Then remove from heat and let sit until the water is absorbed, about five to ten minutes. This should give you an idea where your fingertip measurements might be going wrong if you’re not getting good results with the method described in the article.

  6. Posted by on June 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Thank you! I always forget how and I make it all the time. Never measured up to the knuckle before! I am going to go make it right now. Thank you again perfect rice maker person. Teri

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