Science: The Secrets of Cooking Rice — The Cause of Recipe Failure is Not What You Might Think

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Despite what many cookbooks suggest, rice-to-water ratios can’t simply be scaled up proportionally.

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We have a rice pilaf recipe that works without fail when made using 1 1/2 cups of rice, but many readers have written us to ask why they end up with an inch of mushy rice on the bottom of the pot when they try to double it. The reason is that, despite what many cookbooks suggest, rice-to-water ratios can’t simply be scaled up proportionally. After running a series of tests, we confirmed that rice absorbs water in a 1:1 ratio, no matter the volume. So in our original rice pilaf recipe, which calls for 1 1/2 cups of rice and 2 1/4 cups of water, the rice absorbed 1 1/2 cups of water. The remaining 3/4 cup of water evaporated. But here’s the catch: The amount of water that evaporates doesn’t double when the amount of rice is doubled. In fact, we found that when cooking a double batch of rice using the same conditions—the same large pot and lid and on the same stove burner over low heat—as we’d used for a single batch, the same quantity of water evaporated: 3/4 cup. Hence, simply doubling the recipe—increasing the amount of rice to 3 cups and the water to 4 1/2 cups—leads to mushy rice because there is an excess of water in the pot. The bottom line: To double our rice pilaf recipe, use 3 cups of rice and only 3 3/4 cups of water.

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25 thoughts on “Science: The Secrets of Cooking Rice — The Cause of Recipe Failure is Not What You Might Think”

  1. I always cook long grain Pakistani rice with a 2:1 ratio of water. Perfect results every time. The monitoring of heat also plays a great role.

  2. video title should be how to be anal about cooking something as simple as rice…… i cook the rice and it comes out fluffy everytime i even eye ball the water.

  3. I'm Cuban, I cook perfect rice every time. But, I have a question. Is it true that if you cook rice with coconut oil added to water before putting in rice and refrigerate for 12 hours, then consume, that method will cut the amount of carbohydrates? I'm doing keto and I really miss my rice. Please help me with this. Thank you Dan. You are awesome. Been a fan of yours for years now. Love the science of cooking.

  4. Years ago I started boiling my rice the same way I do pasta. I have never ever had rice not turn out perfectly. Just my experience.

  5. A good rice cooker (like the Tiger or Zojirushi ones) makes this so much easier, the pot is designed for this and has the ratios just right with the lines on the pot (they get closer and closer together rather than doubling). And they do a better job of cooking the rice if you're not so good at being consistent with the stove. Not to mention the keep warm function which on the nicer ones works for a few days.

  6. You don't need to waste rice trying to get the ratio right. Put a measured amt of water in chosen vessel, boil for amt of time recommended to cook rice, then measure amt of water left. The difference is evaporation loss amt.

  7. Can somebody explain why there are 111 thumbs down when Can is giving us the trick to make a pot of rice almost perfect? You may disagree but on what base(s) are you giving it a thumbs down?🤔

  8. put washed rice in bowl, pour the water into the bowl until the water is over one inch of the rice surface.
    Simple my grand mother and mother trick, measurement not scale by finger

  9. Why some people soak rice in water for 30mins before cooking..
    Please explain.. I am puzzling for long time… In search of that only came to know this Channel

  10. If the cooking vessel's evaporation rate is a key variable in cooking rice, is it better to cook rice in a tight vessel like an Instant Pot instead of a high end $300+ rice cooker like a Zojirushi? It's easier to justify the cost of an Instant Pot, being a multitask cooker, than an expensive rice cooker which only cooks rice.

  11. Or, you can use the pasta method for cooking rice. Use about four or five time as much water as rice, and cook it like pasta. Doesn’t stick. Cooks. NO MATH.

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