How to cook rice

Top tips on how to cook rice perfectly including the all-important question of how much rice per person...

How to cook rice: A step-by-step guide
(Image credit: Getty/Future)

Find out everything you need to know about how to cook rice including how to prep, how much rice to cook per person, and how to store leftovers.

Cooking rice may seem simple, but it can sometimes be a tricky thing to get right and can often lead to wet rice, a burnt pan, and ruined dinner. In our handy guide, we cover everything you need to know about cooking rice to perfection. 

From preparation to portion sizes. We've even included a section on how to store leftover rice safely as well as leftover rice recipes (opens in new tab). Not forgetting how to add flavor to your rice too.

"To ensure light, fluffy results every time, we'd recommend using good quality rice, if you can," says Food writer, Samual Goldsmith. "Cheaper options could leave you with disappointing, soggy, and lacking in flavour - however carefully you cook it. There are many different varieties of rice you can opt for. The most common being American long grain, a good all-rounder that holds its shape well."

How to cook rice

The general rule is that you use twice as much water as rice (2:1). So, for example, if you have 100g of rice you use 200g/ml of water. "Nigella Lawson also agrees with this rule for white rice; her top tip is to use a mug or cup rather than weighing it out. If you decide to use a cup we would suggest ½ cup per person," adds Samuel Goldsmith.

Brown rice or other rice that is higher in fiber may require more water as not only do they need to be cooked for longer but they will also absorb more water. We recommend 125ml water to 100g rice or, if using cups, 1 and 1/4 cups to 1 cup rice. If you’re steaming rice then you can easily top up the pan with water. Keep an eye out so that the water doesn’t run out.

"Many chefs insist that rice must be rinsed thoroughly before cooking. You can pop the rice into a sieve or colander and rinse until the water runs clear," says Food Writer, Samuel Goldsmith. "If you would rather not waste too much water, try soaking the rice in water for 10-15mins and then rinse once or twice."

You will need:

  • 200-300g (or 200-300ml if using a measuring jug) good quality American long grain or basmati rice
  • 400-600ml of water
  • pinch of salt

How to cook rice

Measure the rice and water before adding to the pan to boil

How to cook rice: Step 1

Measure twice the amount of water to rice i.e. 400-600ml water for 200-300ml rice. It’s important to start your rice in cold water – this will mean longer cooking times but you will get the best result. This is because the grains of rice will cook more evenly.

Hand sprinkling salt into a pan of water on the hob

Salt is optional but gives the rice a hint of flavour

(Image credit: Getty)

How to cook rice: Step 2

Place in a saucepan, season with a little salt, and bring to the boil.

Pan on the hob boiling

Try not to lift the lid too often to keep as much steam in the pan as possible.

(Image credit: Getty)

How to cook rice: Step 3

Cover with a tightly fitting lid, reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and cook for 10-15 mins until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, American long grain rice will take a little longer to cook than basmati.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 mins before fluffing up with a fork and serving.

How to steam rice

If you'd like to steam it then you can use a rice steamer or small-holed colander on the hob. Steamed rice tends to be more fluffy than boiled rice as it isn't fully cooked in water.

  1. Place your uncooked rice in a small-holed colander.
  2. Cover with foil and place over a saucepan of boiling water (ensuring the rice isn't submerged).
  3. Steam for 20 minutes checking the rice until fluffy. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How to microwave rice

You can cook your rice in the microwave and it's pretty simple. Use the ratio of 2:1 (e.g. 200ml water to 1oog rice).

For 200g white rice:

  1. Place both water and rice in a microwaveable dish cover with cling film and, using a knife, pop some holes in the film.
  2. Cook on high for 4 and 1/2mins, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 4 mins longer.
  3. Test the rice and if it needs longer cook for 1min extra at a time.

You can try using this method for other types of rice but you'll need to adjust the cooking times. It's pretty simple but just keep an eye on the rice so it doesn't burn.

If you prefer your rice cooked in the microwave then try investing in a microwave rice cooker. These are easily available from some great brands.

How much rice per person?

We recommend allowing 50-75g of uncooked rice per serving. This equates to 50-75ml per person if using a measuring jug which is often quicker than weighing it.

When following a recipe, however, stick with the amount of rice it says in the ingredients list otherwise if you go with the portion sizes above it may alter the recipe and the end result may be disappointing.

"Often recipes go off the average of 50-75g of rice per person. For example, a recipe that says to use 200g of rice, serving four, works out at 50g per person," says Samuel.

Grains of rice - white, brown and wild rice

Make sure you measure out the correct amount of rice per person to ensure no waste

(Image credit: Getty)

How to cook different types of rice

There is a variety of different rice to choose from. Most are cooked the same way, however, some may vary in length, temperature, and method of cooking. 

For example, Basmati is a more expensive aromatic delicate rice and is the classic accompaniment to curries and for making pilaf (rice flavoured with spices). Both these types of rice can be cooked in the same way.  Brown rice contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white because the bran and germ have not been removed. This type of rice takes a lot longer to cook and has a chewier texture. It keeps you feeling fuller for longer so is the healthier choice - especially if you’re on a diet.

Black, red Carmargue, and wild rice are less common and more expensive, specialty rice. They have a nuttier flavour than white rice and take 20-40mins to cook. These types of rice are firm and have a chewy texture and vibrant colour, making them ideal for salads. Risotto (Arborio) rice is a short plump grain, which when cooked softens on the outside to give a creamy texture to risottos but still remains slightly firm in the center.

How long does it take to cook brown rice?

Brown rice takes longer to cook than your usual white rice because you have to cook through the bran. Because it includes the bran it does mean that the rice includes more fiber. This is a great addition to your diet as it has some great health benefits such as lowering cholesterol (opens in new tab). Brown rice can take up to 40 mins to cook but you can usually have it ready in 25-30 mins.

How long does it take to cook Basmati rice?

Basmati rice will usually take the same amount of time as normal white rice. The grains are slightly thinner and the rice responds well to steaming and also for use when making dishes like pilau rice. This involves a little frying too. Basmati rice, if using our method above, usually takes 15-20 mins.

Samuel says "the key thing to remember is that all types of rice will cook differently so check packet instructions and keep that in mind when planning your meal."

How long does it take to cook Jasmine rice?

Jasmine rice originates from Thailand and is commonly used in Asian cooking. It’s a long-grain rice that has a subtle floral aroma. It should be soft and sticky when cooked properly. Traditionally is it recommended to use 1-1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of Jasmine rice.

"Despite this being long-grain rice, the grains are shorter and thicker than basmati rice. Jasmine rice takes only 15 minutes to cook or when all the water has been absorbed. Stand the rice for 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork," adds Food writer, Samuel Goldsmith.

Mushroom risotto

Risotto rice takes a little longer to cook than Basmati

(Image credit: Future)

How to store leftover rice

Evenly spread any leftover cooked rice onto a baking tray so it cools to room temperature quickly. Once cool, place into airtight containers and refrigerate immediately.

Leftover rice once cooled can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. You’ll need to make sure the rice is piping hot when reheating again.

You can freeze cooked rice too. All you have to do is make sure it is thoroughly cooled, and quickly, and then stored in an airtight freezable container. Make sure you label the container with when the rice was cooked.

You can freeze for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge and make sure the rice is piping hot all the way through before serving again.

How can I add flavour to rice?

"Try adding flavour to the rice by popping some flavourings into the water such as lemon zest, fresh herbs, cardamom pods, or even a green tea bag," says Samuel.

"You could add a pinch of turmeric to the rice not only to change the flavour, but the colour too. Beetroot is also a great, natural way to change the colour of rice - perfect for kids."

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