Rice: How Much Water?

I was talking with my friend and restauranteur Winnie this afternoon about the difficulty I have with making rice: somehow it just never turns our right. She said “how do you measure your water, with measuring cups or with your hands?”

How would I measure the water with my hands,” I asked, believing her to be pulling my leg.

Winnie placed her hand flat on the counter and said she measures the water so that it it comes up to her knuckles.

But for how much rice,” I asked.

For any amount,” she replied.

So the idea is this: put the rice in the pot you’re going to cook it in. Put your hand on top of the rice. Add water until the water comes up to your knuckles.

Winnie says you need to experiment which exactly which knuckles as we all have slightly different hands (and taste in rice).

Perhaps everyone else already knows this technique; for me it’s a revelation.


JenniferR's picture
JenniferR on September 20, 2011 - 00:50 Permalink

The best thing I ever did was buy a rice cooker from the Superstore. Only 12 dollars and cooks perfect rice everytime. It shows you on the bowl how much water to add — but it is about a knuckles worth.

Robert Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on September 21, 2011 - 15:04 Permalink

I just cover the rice with a few mills of water — bring to the boil and then TURN OFF the heat and cover for 10 mins — works every time — fluffy cooked rice and no water left

Kevin's picture
Kevin on October 3, 2011 - 17:06 Permalink

Rob’s method works in most standard pot shapes but would fail on very narrow or broad pots. I’ll bet it would work 95% of the time or more. Alors, for those who would prefer to practice scientific approaches even when they are not strictly necessary, nor likely to improve your life much if at all, or for those who use cooked rice as a major input to other dishes (and might therefore need some more consistency) then…

… it really does pay to be careful and deliberate with rice.

But, even simpler than Rob’s is this —→ 2:1 Water:Rice

After years of going through this same thing I’ve settled on a really simple method which has never fail me (it was the method Ellie was using when I met her and I assume it came down from her mother and her’s and perhaps even her’s too). If the rice is dry just put double the volume of water as you have rice. If you wash the rice then reduce the water you add. If I wash a cup of rice I’ll add 1 3/4 cups of water (but I rarely wash rice because boiling does everything I’m concerned about).

Leaving the cover off, add water to rice and bring to a boil (stir or it might stick), cover and turn heat to the lowest setting you have and set for for 12 minutes. If your stove will scorch rice on it’s lowest setting, turn the stove off at the 5 minute mark.

If you disturb the rice during the setting time it will not fluff well. To get really fluffy rice leave it on a cool surface for an additional 3-4 minutes and then fluff with a fork before serving. Reducing the water slightly below the 2:1 ratio also enhances fluffing.

If you pilaf your rice (oil, or dry-fry it before cooking) you can adjust the texture of the final dish by adjusting the amount of water you add. If you use oil the setting time will have to be longer than 12 minutes because the rice absorbs the oil and then wants to reject the water. It might have to sit for five minutes longer.

What rice you use has a lot to do with the outcome. For simplicity I stick with Basmati because of its wonderful flavour, it’s exceptionally long grain and relatively low glycemic index. Any short-grain rice and all sticky rices (which are all short grain I think) is really not worth learning to cook unless you make sushi — otherwise it’s best fed to the animals. A sushi master would know how to cook sticky rice. I’m sure my method would not produce the best possible result for these grains.

Oh, one more thing: wild rice is not really a rice, it’s a grain, and it can be simmered for more than half an hour (in plenty of water) then added to any other rice later. I like measuring the water so that it will work out to be the correct amount for the Basmati later on — the wild rice water adds a subtle texture to the Basmati that’s hard to describe (and might not even be noticed unless the rice is the main dish) it needs to be experienced to understand.

Anyway, a simple 2:1 ratio is a close to perfect as rice can get.