The Basics: Rice Rules


I’ve always considered white rice the “Mr. Cellophane” of the kitchen… neutral in flavor and always there to serve as an unmemorable plate filler. Well, Mama just got schooled.

One of the basic rules of the kitchen is this: good ingredients mean good food. But even with good ingredients, if you don’t know how to use them… having them is a complete waste of time and money.

I’ve always made white rice the same way and it has always been dramatically bland (how’s that for an oxymoron?), which was fine when the kids were sick and had to go on the BRAT diet (Bread, Rice, Applesauce, Tea). But I hardly ever served rice to guests unless there was a little more to it—like the real flavor you get in Mexican Rice, Risotto or Stir Fried Rice.

In researching a future post to this website, I began to realize how important it is to be able to make really good white rice. Fluffy white rice is a beautiful partner to a chili-crusted salmon. The nutty nuances of properly prepared white rice can nicely balance a cinnamon mango glazed pork chop. There are more than 7,000 types of rice… so think about this: when you know how to correctly make something as simple as white rice, you can really get your freak on and try your hand at some of the more eclectic (and tastier) types of rice popular in the U.S. like basmati rice, brown rice or wild rice.

Here are 10 rice rules:
1.  Rinse rice before cooking to remove surface starch and keep rice from sticking.
2.  Never stir rice while it is cooking… this will make it clumpy.
3.  If you are going to use white rice, buy enriched white rice. All rice is brown to begin with, it is the milling that makes it white. Milling also strips the husk, bran and germ… in other words, all of the nutrients and flavor. This is why you may see the word “enriched” on some packages of white rice… they are trying to replace the lost nutrients (particularly the B vitamins) and flavor.
4.  Use the right type of rice for the recipe. For rice pudding, sushi and paella, short or medium grain work best. For rice pilaf use basmati, brown or long grain white rice.
5.  Remember brown rice and wild rice take longer to cook… and you can’t rush it!
6.  Rice can easily absorb smells and odors, so always keep it in a tightly sealed container. Use white rice within 1 year. Use brown rice within 6 months.
7.  Add more flavor to your rice by using meat or vegetable stocks. Fruit juices can even be used with a substitution ratio of ½ juice and ½ water.
8.  Cooked rice can keep for up to a week if refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.
9.  For a flavor pop, toast the rice in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.
10. Did you burn the rice? To clean the saucepan, remove as much stuck on rice as possible and fill the saucepan half way with water. Simmer for 5 minutes and then carefully scrap off the stuck-on rice.

Now… go get your freak on and make some crazy rice…

White Rice Pilaf

prep: 10 minutes
cook: about 20 minutes
serves: 4

you’ll need…

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup minced onion
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt

let’s get to it...

Rinse the rice in a fine mesh colander or strainer until water runs clear; set aside.

Rinse the Rice

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, stirring often.
Stir in rice and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Rice will be glistening and coated with butter.
Add water and salt to saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.
Removesaucepan from heat. Uncover and place a clean kitchen towel over saucepan; replace the lid and let rice rest

Fluff the Rice

for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Nutrients per serving: Calories 135, Total Fat 3 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 8 mg, Sodium 583 mg, Carbohydrates 24 g, Fiber less than 1 g, Protein 2 g


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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: