All about rice – how to cook rice, rice varieties, tips & hints

RICE – As heard on ABC NSW radio  (

There are so many varieties of rice available now, it can be hard to know which rice to use for what dish. Different types have different tastes and textures.

White rice

What is rice?

  • Rice is a grass related to wheat, oats, barley that can be traced back about 130 million years ago. There are approximately 25 species and a large number of sub species.

  • The rice grain is made up of 3 main layers – the hull or husk, the bran and germ layer, and the inside kernel or endosperm.

  • The hull which is a protective outer layer is inedible and is removed when paddy rice is dehulled.

  • The bran and germ layer under the hull is highly nutritious.

  • The endosperm is the starchy underside of the rice.

  • Brown rice has the bran layer still intact.

  • White rice is the result of harvested rice having the husk removed and the grain being milled to remove the outer bran layer.

  • Australian rice is harvested once a year around March/April.

Do we know where rice originally came from?

  • The cultivation of rice is believed to have originated in the Indo-China region about 2000BC with countries such as Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Africa, and the Philippines following soon after.

  • Rice has been grown in Australia since 1924. The Australian Rice Growers Cooperative (commercially SunRice) formed in July 1950.

Frequently asked questions:

There are so many rice varieties on the market now, which rice is used for which style of cooking?

  • Long grain – eg Jasmine (Thai cuisine) and Basmati (Middle Eastern cuisine), for stir fries and curries

  • Medium grain – eg. Arborio and Calrose (it’s soft and slightly clingy), for Mediterranean dishes, risottos,soups, casseroles

  • Short grain – eg. Japanese or sushi style (it sticks together so can be eaten with chopsticks), for sushi and Japanese dishes, creamed rice


What is the best way to store rice?

  • In airtight containers

  • In a cool, dark cupboard or pantry, free from dust, moisture, insects and pests

  • Rice can also be refrigerated or frozen

What’s the shelf life of rice?

  • White rice has a shelf life of 12 months

  • Brown rice has a shelf life of 8 months, lower because of the oil in the bran layer

What’s the difference between brown & white rice?

Is one better than the other?

  • Brown rice still has the bran layer on, white rice has this layer removed during the milling process

  • All rice is good for you and contains resistant starch

  • White rice is 99% fat free, and brown rice is 97% fat free

  • Rice is an excellent food to help keep your body healthy. It contains carbohydrates for energy, is suitable for people with food allergies and wheat intolerance, and is also low in fat.

  • Rice has the following nutritional benefits:

  1. Low fat

  2. Low salt

  3. No cholesterol

  4. Low sugar

  5. No gluten

  6. No additives or preservatives

Is rice fattening?

No. Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, B-Group vitamins and resistant starch with a low GI so makes you feel full for longer, great if you’re dieting. Rice is free of salt, cholesterol, gluten, additives or preservatives.

What is the best way to cook rice?

  • Absorption method

  • Rapid boil

In a:

  • Rice cooker

  • Microwave

  • Saucepan

Cooking Rice by Absorption Method

  • Absorption method, whether by rice cooker, saucepan or microwave, allows the grains to gently swell, evenly absorbing moisture to produce separate, plump and more importantly, unsplit grains. (If cooking by rapid boil method, reduce the heat slightly so the grains to not split, which allows the starch to leach into the cooking liquid.)

  • Rice cookers are relatively inexpensive, are simple to use and are therefore highly recommended to produce uniformly good textured rice.

  • When cooking by absorption method always cook rice and then stand, covered, a further 5-10 minutes to allow the cooking process to complete.

  • The amount of water recommended to cook the rice is a guide only as there are a number of variables that can affect the final result. The water required to cook rice can vary depending on the variety of rice, the age and storage conditions of the rice and personal preference for a firmer or softer textured rice. Even cooking the same rice the same way each time may have slightly different results due to some of these variables. It is recommended to soak some rices, especially basmati and Koshihikari, before cooking. If no time for this step, the water and cooking or standing time can be increased, although the texture of the rice may not be quite the same.


Amount of Water to Rice

  • Chinese method: Put rice in pot and add enough water to come up the first joint of your index finger, with the fingertip resting on the top of the rice.

  • If only cooking one cup of rice the amount of water may need to be increased slightly for the short and medium grain rice, especially if a larger saucepan is used. So, as a general guide:

– Long grain rice = 1 1/2 to 2 cups cold water to 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 cups for each additional cup of rice

– Medium grain rice = 1 1/2 cups cold water to 1 cup rice, 1 cup water for each additional cup of rice

– Short grain rice = 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups cold water to one cup rice, 1 cup for each additional cup of rice

  • For firmer rice add less water, softer slightly more.

  • When cooking large quantities of rice the amount of water should be reduced.

  • If the rice is not to the preferred texture once cooked, add a small amount of extra water and leave covered for a further 5-10 minutes until absorbed and rice is softer.

  • Fluff cooked, hot rice with a fork or spoon before serving to separate the grains.

Rice Cookers

  • Rice cookers are simple and easy to use, and produce uniformly good textured rice.

  • Rice cookers have a suggested minimum and maximum quantity to be cooked. It is not recommended to cook less than the minimum amount suggested as the rice may not cook properly. It is also recommended to cook one cup less than the recommended maximum as the rice swells and can reach the lid, not allowing efficient circulation of steam to cook the rice adequately.

  • Rice cookers usually come with their own 170/180ml measuring cup. This is used to measure the rice, correlating to the water levels marked on the inside of the rice cooker.

  • If the rice cup is lost measure out the equivalent amount in another measuring cup and use that as a guide. Then the water levels on the rice cooker can still be used. Otherwise, any cup can be used to measure the rice as long as the same cup is used to measure the water.

  • Never rinse the rice in the rice cooker bowl as the grains may scratch the surface, especially if it is non-stick.

  • Put the rice in the rice cooker before adding the water.

Cooking Rice by Rapid Boil Method

  • Bring 6-8 cups water to the boil, add 1 cup rice and gently boil until rice is tender.  Drain well before serving.

  • If rice is rinsed before cooking there is no need to rinse after cooking.

Cooking Rice in the Microwave

  • As microwaves vary enormously it is advisable to check with the instruction manual, but as a general guide the proportions of water to rice should be much the same as for the absorption method.

  • Cook on high to bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to moderate to complete cooking.

  • After the liquid is absorbed, always stand rice, covered, for a further 5-10 minutes to allow the cooking process to complete.


Cooking Rice by Ancient Chinese “Finger” Method

How much water to rice?  This tried-but-true method is all that is used by many experts to cook rice by absorption method.  Put rice in pot and add enough water to come up the first joint of your index finger, with the fingertip resting on the top of the rice.

Should rice be cooked with salt?

Cooking rice with salt is a matter of personal taste and preference.  Traditionally Basmati  is cooked with salt,  Jasmine and Japanese style rice traditionally without, as it is believed to mask the natural and delicate flavour of the rice.


Should rice be rinsed before and/or after cooking?

It is recommended to rinse all rices, except Arborio, to remove any starch granules left on the surface of the grains after the milling process.  The starch granules add to the creaminess of Arborio when making traditional Mediterranean dishes like risotto.  If rice is rinsed before cooking there is no need to rinse after cooking.

How long can I keep leftover cooked rice?

If not being used immediately, cooked rice should be cooled quickly (in shallow containers so it cools faster) and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Refrigerated Rice

Cooked rice can be refrigerated for up to 2 days in an airtight container or frozen.

Frozen Rice

Cooked rice can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month.  Defrost in the microwave on the defrost cycle or thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

What’s the best way to reheat cooked rice?

Cooked rice can easily be reheated:

Microwave– Put cooked rice in microwave container with 1-2 tablespoons water,

cover and cook on high until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Steam – put rice in a colander or steaming basket and place over a pot of gently boiling water, cover and allow to heat through, stirring occasionally.

Oven – Spread rice in a shallow, oven-proof dish, sprinkle with a little water, cover and heat in a moderate oven.

Cook extra

Why not cook extra rice and refrigerate or freeze for quick and easy use another time.

Don’t forget to mix’n’match cooked rices (eg. cooked brown & white rice) for added colour, texture and flavour.


For more information on Australian rice varieties, nutrition or recipes, take a look at  Sunrice or phone them on 1800 255 999.

For rice recipes see The Rice Cooker Book by Brigid Treloar

Posted on June 2, 2009 at 9:21 am by Brigid · Permalink
In: Cooking Tips & Hints, Radio, Rice & grains · Tagged with: , ,

3 Responses to “All about rice – how to cook rice, rice varieties, tips & hints”

  1. Intermediate Industrial Design - August 26, 2009

    […] at searching for ancient rice cooking techniques, but I stumbled upon this article “Cooking Rice” by Brigid Treloar. Thorough resource for facts about […]

  2. Sandy Dorse - June 3, 2010

    Hi Brigid, wondering if you have some advice on sushi cooking please. I can’t believe I reached the age of 50 a few months ago without trying sushi…….. I am now absolutely addicted and would probably pick it over chocolate! My husband and I have tried to make it at home but sadly it’s nowhere as nice as the professionally made stuff. Would love to know if there are any tricks to making good sushi……. Sandy

  3. Brigid - June 9, 2010

    Hi Sandy,
    So glad you were able to tune in to the program. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t have more time to cover the rice preparation. The main thing is to make sure you have the right rice (short or medium grain) and if you’re not sure about the rice cooking, use a rice cooker. They are so easy and pretty well full proof (Carol can testify to that!).

    I will try and put a few points together and put them on the website. Hope it helps and if you get a chance let me know how it goes. B

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